Dubai Desert Safari and Dune Bashing

“Travelling to Dubai? You must go on a desert safari!”

A gleaming white Toyota Land Cruiser pulls up in front of the hotel. It is 3.00 pm, the pick up time for the Dubai Desert Safari and Dune Bashing, one of the top things to do in the Emirati city.

I strike a conversation with our young Yemeni driver and in true Arabic hospitality, he adopts me as his cousin. He explains in detail the itinerary for this six hour tour and informs me that he normally takes six passengers but today, there are only four of us.

After picking up the other couple from their hotel, we navigate dense traffic out of the city. With approximately forty five minutes to the desert, there is nothing to do but discover parts of the city not often seen by visitors.

Dubai Desert Safari

By now, Dubai has taken on a golden hue, a mixture of oblique sunlight, dust and mild pollution. Cars, trucks and 4 wheel drives sit impatiently in traffic. We veer past Burj Khalifa and pass low rise housing, a mega Dragon Mart and head in the direction of Hatta/Oman. Massive power lines rise towards the sky with rubble and life-size Tonka trucks at their feet.

Dubai Desert Safari

Al Sahra, the desert is getting closer.

The Land Cruisers from Planet Tours and Safaris assemble at a remote Emarat petrol station. We have a brief comfort stop while the drivers release a little pressure from the wheels of the vehicles to give better grip over the sand.

Dubai Desert Safari

We buckle our seatbelts and hold on to the hand railing for the start of a bumpy ride over the dunes.

Dubai Desert Safari

Dubai Desert Safari

Here in the desert, the air-conditioned 4WDs follow one another like a caravan. I have the song Desert Rose by Sting and Cheb Mami play in my mind. I can only imagine what it would have been like to ride in a caravan of camels in the heat of the desert.

Dubai Desert Safari

Our driver takes it slow at first, almost flirting with the sand dunes. Then he drives the vehicle to a peak, stops for two seconds as we hold our breath then plunges steep into the sand below.

Dubai Desert Safari

Dubai Desert Safari

With one hand holding the rail the other attempting to capture the experience on camera, my small frame bounces in the front seat of the car. I am having so much fun that I switch the camera to video mode and enjoy the hair-raising ride.

The vehicles converge at a location with a vantage point. We descend onto the sand for a photo opportunity. I go bare feet and find the sand incredibly fine to the touch. Dune buggies pierce the quietude flying over the sandy dunes.

Dubai Desert Safari Dubai Desert Safari

Dubai Desert Safari Dubai Desert Safari

The second part of the dune bashing is a longer and more daring experience.

Dubai Desert Safari

I can hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘whoas’ from Mr G behind me and the other couple in the back each time the 4WD twists and drops from a height. Sitting in the front passenger seat, I hold on to the ceiling for support. Our skilled driver, my adopted cousin, gives me a cheeky smile and asks,

“Are you scared?”

“Oh no!” I assure him. “Just trying to take good photos.” I can hear him muffle his laughter. He seems to be having as much fun as we are.

The Land Cruisers assemble in one line again and open their bonnets. We disembark for a while to enjoy a much anticipated highlight of the safari tour. The sun is about to set over the desert.

Dubai Desert Safari

Dubai Desert Safari

What follows is best left for photographs.

Dubai Desert Safari

Dubai Desert Safari

Dubai Desert Safari

After bidding farewell to the sun over the dunes, the light and temperature begin to drop and we head in the direction of the camp. Darkness descends quickly in the desert and after a fifteen minute drive, we arrive at the Bedouin campsite.

Dubai Desert Safari

Dubai Desert Safari Dubai Desert Safari

Dubai Desert Safari Dubai Desert Safari

Or a Bedouin campsite replica.

There are so many activities in which to partake but our driver tells us to grab a good spot near the central stage so we can watch the performance later in the evening.

We are welcomed with a cup of Arabic coffee and the sweetest of dates.

Dubai Desert Safari

The bar serves alcoholic drinks at a cost but soft drinks are complimentary. I ask the barman if he has any Arak, the aniseed flavoured drink and the perfect accompaniment to Middle Eastern food. He offers me wine and other spirits such as Vodka, Whiskey and Gin which I politely decline.

Dubai Desert Safari

I get a henna tattoo on my hand.

Dubai Desert Safari Dubai Desert Safari

While it takes half an hour to set, we sit under a tent listening to Arabic music and smoking an apple shisha.

Dubai Desert Safari

Soon, we are accosted to buy souvenirs. The sales guy puts a guthra (headscarf) and egal (black rope), the traditional male black and white checked headscarf on Mr G, and he looks fabulous in it. I have my eye on a sheer black belly dance coin hip scarf. In the desert, cash or credit are no object. They can swipe your credit card and even take American Express.

By the time we decide whether or not to ride a camel, we find the animals resting and no one in sight to take us on a ride. We settle on a few photographs while Mr G admires the camels’ long lashes and almond shaped eyes.

Dubai Desert Safari Dubai Desert Safari

I spot the moon rising from the dunes and I realise than in a matter of hours, I have seen the sun set and the moon rise over the desert; an entrancing experience that I will always carry with me.

Dubai Desert Safari

We line up for food, a barbeque consisting of meat and chicken skewers, hommous, curries, pastas, salads and bread. My appetite has dissipated in the heat and somehow I forget to take photographs of the food.

The entertainment starts with a belly dancer performing her special moves to modern and traditional Arabic tunes. She balances a stick on her head and invites people from the audience to join her in the dance. I end up putting my new coin hip scarf to good use.

Dubai Desert Safari

When the performance ends, the tour is about to come to a close. But there remains one thing I want to do. We rush to one of the tents and dress up in traditional Emirati clothing. Mr G, still in his guthra and egal, puts on a white dishdash and I wear a black abaya and cover my hair with a black scarf. We strike a serious and demure pose.

The photograph becomes the Arabian memento of our wedding anniversary.

Dubai Desert Safari

With our stomachs full and feeling a little weary from the heat and excitement, we return to our 4WD for the ride home. There is to be no more dune bashing in the night as we take the asphalt road towards the city.

The twinkling lights of Dubai beckon in the distance.

Next – Essential Tips to Help Your Plan Your Dubai Desert Safari

Visiting Dubai? Don’t miss our Top 10 Things in To in Dubai.


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Dubai Desert Safari and Dune Bashing was last modified: December 20th, 2015 by Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.


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  2. I did almost an identical sand dune adventure also in Dubai about 2 years ago. The dunes were a lot of fun, but my favorite part was the Arab style barbecue towards the end. Awesome pictures, especially of the amazing desert sunsets!

    • Mark, it’s so much fun, isn’t it! I can understand why people do it more than once. The sunset in the desert is unlike any other. Thank you for the compliment 🙂

  3. Oooo, I did this last year! The camel ride is much more terrifying than it looks! You should be glad it was resting 😉

    • Hi Jen and welcome :). To be honest, we weren’t sure if we wanted to get on. The way people seemed to be yanked when the camel got up looked a little scary. But in the end we though, when in the desert… but the camels knew better by the sounds of it!!

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  8. Hi,

    I did ride a camel here in the UAE a couple of years back… It is a lot of fun 🙂 Hopefully you will get a chance to try it soon!

    Meanwhile, awesome pics and a good description of the safari!

    • Hi Gaia – Thank you 🙂 I’ve ridden a camel a long time ago in Sydney, Australia of all places but it’s not the same as being in the Middle-East and in the middle of the desert. Something for next time, perhaps…

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  11. Hi there, stumbled upon your blog as I’m planning on my trip to Abu Dhabi/Dubai. Dune bashing sounds a bit terrifying. How long does the whole experience last? I get nauseated easily so I need to gauge how many motion sickness pills I need!LOL

    • It starts at 3.00 pm and goes until approximately 10.00 pm, but you’re only dune bashing for a couple of hours with a small break in between. If you’re prone to nausea, you may find the combination with the heat a little uncomfortable but overall, I didn’t find it too bad. I was more queasy on the ride back to the hotel after all the events were over.

  12. This looks amazing, we are going to Dubai in December and desert safari is top on our list of things to do. I was wondering what the overnight accommodation looked like. Did you get a peek? We are seriously considering the overnighter with our 5 and 8 year old. DO you think it would be great?
    PS Have loved looking through your blogs. you have me sold on the Burj Al Arab high tea! Thanks

    • Hi Sarah – I can’t recommend Dubai enough! Had the best time there and would return many times. I don’t remember the accommodation on the desert safari and if we passed some along the way. I’ve been told that some places aren’t as swish as the one we visited so I guess the overnight accommodation would vary. I think it would be a bit of an adventure to stay overnight – not sure how young children would cope 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words – I really appreciate it 🙂 The BAA experience is one I would always remember! Enjoy your trip and feel free to ask any questions if I can be of help.

  13. Desert Safari look so beautiful….here belly dance ,hut camping,arcitech are heart touching point.I like so much.

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  15. please what desert safari tour operator would you recommend??

    • Hi Alexander – We used Planet Tours and Safaris which we booked through the hotel, and we were very happy with them. I suggest you don’t book in advance online but see what is available through your hotel as they come with recommendations.

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