Here is where you can make the most of your desert safari experience in Dubai
21 August 2019| Last updated on 26 August 2019
One of the most thrilling and popular activities in Dubai...
The vast stretches of the golden deserts are within reach from all sides of Dubai, so those seeking a trip among the sands have plenty of options. Whatever your thrill-seeking level may be, there are a variety of activities and cultural experiences to explore, from a relaxing camel ride to more heart-thumping dune bash sessions.
Along with the thrill of adventure, a desert safari offers a fascinating new perspective on Dubai. We know the city for its futuristic architecture and world-record breaking sights, but a desert safari reveals the city's beautiful, cultural origins.
You'll also find that there is arguably no other place on the planet where a desert safari trip carries an energising charm that sweeps along the tourists.
What is a desert safari in Dubai?
Desert safaris are off-road driving, typically with a 4x4 vehicle, in order to explore the sand dunes of the desert. Desert safaris in Dubai usually consists of a drive along the prolonged stretches of the sand dunes, giving passengers a gorgeous view of the desert landscapes.
The average Dubai desert safari also packs heaps of other activities rooted in Emirati culture, with delicious food and entertainment after. It's an exciting, must-do experience to enjoy at least once whether you're a UAE tourist or long-term resident.
Best time for a desert safari in Dubai
Best time to go on a desert safari in Dubai is from November until March, as the weather is pleasant and cool. Best time to do a desert safari is from 4 PM onwards. You'll want to catch the stunning sight of the sun setting over the dunes - not only is it a beautiful view but for the social media savvy it's also a great backdrop for your Instagram feed.
What to pack for a desert safari in Dubai
For a desert safari trip, we recommend you wear loose comfortable clothes, preferably light-coloured linen or cotton; men are advised to wear t-shirts, shorts, or cotton pants, and for women to wear t-shirts and pants. This is will make you more comfortable while walking around in the sand. It's also recommended to wear sensible sandals rather than closed shoes, as sand often gets into closed shoes and may irritate you.
If you'll wear closed shoes, avoid picking low top shoes and shoes with an open front.
Try to avoid wearing semi to formal clothes, as you can expect that your attire will be covered in dust and sand at the end of the day. Comfort is key.
How much does a desert safari in Dubai usually cost?
Starts from an average of AED 100 per person and can go up to AED 300.
Desert safari activities in Dubai
There is an abundance of adventurous activities in a Dubai desert safari, in addition to giving an insight to UAE visitors on Emirati traditions, food, and live entertainment.
Here are the activities that are typically included in a desert safari:
- Dune Bashing - driving through the enormous sand dunes at thrilling speeds, much like a roller coaster in the desert
- Quad biking - effortless move through the sand with a large bike under your hands
- Skiing and sandboarding on the dunes
- Camel rides through the desert - often with innumerable stories about the camels, "the ship of the desert"
- Desert camp - an insight on the life of local Bedouins, the arabs who lived in the desert in the olden days (however not all Arabs had lived in the desert - most lived in towns)
- Live music
- Belly dancing performances
- Henna painting
- Rounds of shisha
- Arabian falcon - up close encounters with the avian (UAE's national bird) and an example of falconry
- An Arabian buffet
Which Dubai desert safari package to choose
Morning desert safari
The trip to a desert camp for a cultural experience, live entertainment, and dinner happens in the evening. If you have a packed schedule or you're not interested in the desert camp and dinner, then the morning desert safari is for you. It usually kicks off at 8 AM, and features all the fun things to do such as dune bashing, sandboarding, sand skiing, quad biking, and camel riding.
Evening desert safari
The complete and most popular option for a desert safari trip, with a duration of 6-7 hours.
You'll be picked up by a driver from your hotel/home location or from a designated spot where the driver will pick up everyone in the trip. The trip usually begins between 4-5 in the late afternoon.
After a session of desert dune bashing, quad biking, sandboarding, sand skiing, and photo opportunities, you'll travel to the Bedouin camp. There, you'll get to enjoy all the camp activities that are steeped in local, Bedouin culture including story-telling, falconry, live entertainment, shisha, and sumptuous barbeque dinner (with vegetarian options).
The camp picks up in energy and enthusiasm after sunset, with the venue lighting up and live performance of Arabic folk dances spark an infectious joy in the air. Then the trip winds down with a lazy, relaxed appreciation for the night vibe of the desert, after which you'll be dropped back at your location.
Overnight desert safari
An overnight package has everything an evening desert safari has but with a night's stay in the desert. It's a unique opportunity to be away from the city and take in the stars of the night sky, unbothered by typical light pollution. The absence of the city lights allows you to see a clear sky with its constellations and gorgeous milky way galaxy.
Private desert safari
If you want to go on a desert safari on your own pace, or with your friends and family, then you should opt for a private desert safari. You'll be paying for the whole car and not per head.
Budget desert safari
If you want to cut costs or you're going with a lot of people, this is a better option. You'll share a desert safari experience with other safari-goers where you all will travel by bus. You'll still be able to enjoy all the activities packed - dune bashing, quad biking, desert camp, food and dance, etc. - in a regular desert safari.
Self-drive desert safari
Rather than someone picking you up to head to the desert, you'll be driving yourself there. This works best if you own a 4x4 vehicle, and if you want to come at your own time and convenience. However, once you reached the same point at other safari-goers, a licensed safari driver will still pick you up by car to enjoy the activities.
Hatta mountain desert safari
Tired of the typical desert safari? Head over to a safari at Hatta mountain where you'll be treated to a visual feast of the tall and formidable mountain landscapes. Dune bashing will involve a ride through the red sand dunes and picturesque valleys.
Best desert safaris in Dubai
Here are the best-rated safari companies in Dubai, which we independently handpicked based on people's reviews, quality of the experience, and price point.
1. OceanAir Travels
Price: Starting from AED 146
OceanAir is a registered desert safari company in the UAE with over 15 years of experience, so you can bet you're in the hands of a great safari package. They offer morning, evening, and overnight desert safaris. Budget safaris are also available for tourists and UAE residents.
2. Raptor Tours And Safari
Price: Starting from AED 216
With an overwhelmingly positive response from trip sites such as TripAdvisor, they offer desert safari packages for the morning, evening, and also extreme adventure safaris (if you really crave an adrenaline rush through an exciting and authentic trip in the desert).
3. Platinum Heritage
Price: Starting from AED 528
Dubai's only ecotourism company, Platinum Heritage strives to offer an authentic desert safari experience that protects the Bedouin tribes' cultural heritage and natural environment. If you're keen on retracing the Bedouin people's steps and immerse yourself in the most traditional and hands-on desert safari tour, this is the one you should opt for.
4. New Horizon Travel and Tours
Price: Starting from AED 242
This well-established desert safari provider packs some of the best morning and evening tours.
5. Arabia Horizons
Price: Starting from AED 200
Arabia Horizons offers the classic multi-activity desert safari featuring dune bashing, sandboarding, camel riding, falconry, Arabic dinner, live shows, and more at Dubai Red Dunes.
What you can do to make your desert safari a pleasant trip
Before you head over to your adventure in the sands, it's worth noting the following tips to make sure you're comfortable and well-prepared:
- Avoid eating a heavy meal before the trip due to the bumpy ride over the dunes
- Always make sure that you follow your guide's safety instructions
- Usually the safari operator will try to fill the space inside the safari vehicle with as many people that can be allowed. It's advised to carry little with you so you're not too squished
- Avoid wearing jewelry and carrying other valuables with you as these may be lost during the activities
- Dune bashing isn't for everyone, which is understandable. Opt-out of the activity if you're pregnant, have a weak stomach, if you have back problems, or you're prone to motion sickness