This is a fun activity for sure. Most such tours offer quite a lot, starting with picking you up from your hotel, taking you out towards the desert, when they deflate the tyres to offer greater surface area to grip the sand before entering the sand dunes. After this, the wild sand dune bashing begins.
A convoy of 4-wheel drives tackles the sand dunes, with the drivers manoeuvering the vehicles with such skill, whilst throwing the passengers about the place. You will be holding onto the roll-bars so you won't literally be thrown about, but I'm sure you can picture the scene.
Some of the vehicles around you even end up on 2 wheels momentarily. That is just such fun to see.. it all happens so fast, before the vehicle returns on all 4 wheels.
The dunes are of varying heights, and descending them is even more fun as you see how steep the descent is! Then the driver works his magic by negotiating the drop with a great deal of agility & quick thinking in terms of the route to take to prevent an outright tumble!!
Such excursions end with a stop at a 'traditional' camp which is set up such that it blends with it's sandy surroundings. Here you get to pose with camels & ride them, sample Arabic coffe & dates, then look around the various stalls like henna painting, sand art in bottles, etc.
There would be a large central square where a man will perform a traditional Egyptian dance, followed by a woman doing a belly dance. A buffet is set up for which you queue up, and bring your plate to your tables surrounding the central square, so you can admire the dancing while eating & drinking.
Amongst the stalls is also a hookah-smoking place to experiment with this. Further up there are also open wood-fires to warm to whilst admiring the scenes & activity all around you.
After some time relaxing, the drivers call you to return to the vehicles so that you can be dropped off at your hotel.
This brings your half-day safari to an end :-)
With not much to do for nature lovers in the UAE desert safaris are cool. But check in advance how the camp will be. I have been twice for desert safari, the dune bashing is same but the camp was pathetic in the second time I went. Its better to check the reputaion of the tour operator in advance, especially if you have kids with u
Having returned from Dubai just a day ago, I must say it was a fantabulous experience!
While we concetrated mainly on shopping at the Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and Deira City Center, we did some 'touristy stuff' as well.
The Desert Safari, is ok. It's extremely hyped up as it is one of the few tourist attractions the city offers. Usually one can make bookings through your hotel. They have something called Dune Bashing (totally stomach churning), and then they drive you out to a camp where you can dress up like an Arab man/woman, get a free henna tatoo, watch some questionable belly dancing and digest some average food. Totally worth missing, unless you want to take some exotic pictures to post on your facebook page.;-) (It costs up to AED160 per person)
The Ski World at the Mall of the Emirates is okay too. They have some rides and it's better than the one in Malaysia, but not worth going to unless you want to click some attractive family pictures or ski. It costs upto 100 AED just to look at and avail of the rides, and 200 AED if you want to use the ski slopes.
The Jumeirah Beach Residence Area is wonderful. We took a cab there and spent half a day. They have some quaint roadside cafes, the crowd is upmarket and multi-cultural and it's worth going to in order to deepen your tan and just lounge on the beach.
The Meena Bazaar Area is worth going to if you wish to purchase Gold or fake Rolexes and fake Chanel bags. It's completely populated my Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and a few Afghanistani people. So you can pick up some gorgeous fabrics and saris from there ranging from 35-500 AED per suit piece. Ask some one for the Sindhi Community Center, and you will find all the shops around it. However, I suggest you stick to buying perfumes at the Duty Free, for mere authenticity.
One can visit the Underwater World at the Atlantis Hotel or at Dubai Mall (100 AED Per Head). But it isn't out of this world.
Other options include the Dhow Cruise (very average) or a visit to the Burj-Al-Arab 7 Star Hotel, again only if you have 250 AED to spend per person for mere viewing of the concrete 'wonder'.
One can also take a cruise/day trip to neighbouring cities such as Abu Dhabi (the less developed capital), Shrajah or Al Ain.
We basically stuck to shopping but I've heard that there is some exquisite 'belly dancing' at the La Meridien. Restaraunts to visit include Karam Cafe and Buddha Bar, for some more expensive fun. :-)
You are picked up in a 4WD vehicle and transported to the sand dunes where you are taken on a hair raising jeep ride complete with wheel spins and turns! There are photo stops to admire the sunset before you are driven to the desert camp for a buffet meal (soft drinks are free, but alcohol is usually charged for) complete with belly dancer, camel rides, dressing up in traditional outfits, quad-biking (extra charge), falcon interaction, sand-boarding and henna tattoo painting. Activities do vary between companies.
Companies that I have used are Arabian Adventures - www.arabian-adventures.com
and Arabian Nights - www.arabiannightstours.com - both of which were very good.
Tours run daily and you can be picked up at your hotel or any known landmark here in Dubai. We were picked up around 2.30pm and were back at our hotel around 9.30pm. The desert safari is probably my favourite touristy thing to do here in Dubai and I highly recommend it.
My mother is a tour guide and whe usually gives me some "insider information". Understandibly, with the recent boom in tourism there's a lot of work for her!
Most tour operators organize an pretty exciting variety of excursions & tours around the Emirates & Oman, for large groups & invididuals, sight-seeing tours in the cities & even ocean cruises. Check with your tour operator to assist you with your choice of hotel, and also in case you need to apply for a visit visa.
Most agencies run the "standard tourist programs", but prices tend to vary by quite a bit, so it pays to "shop around" & compare.
Many tour operators offer Desert Safaris (only camera shots!) eiter for 1/2 days, full days or overnight stays with dinner & entertainment in their respective desert camps. If you get sick easily, bring travel-sickness tablets... it gets rough & bouncy! :-)
A typical Desert Safari will start in the afternoon with some driving through the dunes & end at the respective organizer's desert camp where you will be treated to a buffet dinner, sand boarding, camel riding, music, drinks & belly dancing. For example: We have spent New Year's Eve and various other events at the SNTTA Camp & had a great time! (Don't worry: there are fully functional toilets with tiled floors & wash basins.)
Here's a list of reputable tour operators:
SNTTA Emir Tours:
Tel +971-4-282 9000
Arabian Adventures: (part of Emirates Airlines)
Tel +971-4-303 4888
Tel +971-4-224 2800
Tel +971-4-266 6655
Do you want to take the wheel into your own hands?
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My most memorable activity in Dubai is - sorry you're wrong it's not shopping but - desert safari. I booked the tour through the hotel and in order not to favour any company in here, I will not provide any telephone number nor a Website because I've been to various hotels in Dubai and there's absolutely no problem in booking a desert safari. The hotels offer this tour!
The tour includes a hotel pick-up drop off. Don't be dismayed if the vehicle is a van or maybe a car. Tour agencies dealing in desert safari have been in the business for ages so nothing to worry, everything will turn out fine.
The right number of guests - as to location of the hotel or as to grouping (families or friends) - will be assigned to this type of vehicle which will remind you of Ferrari's speed and the temperament of the Arab drivers. Well the driver may not be an Arab but just the same, the desert itself will remind you of UAE's beauty.
The travel agent has a program that will make the desert safari spectacular - at least to many. After seeing some beautiful Flamingos along the highway, you and a couple of other groups will travel to the desert and will comprise the Fearless Convoy of the Moment. You will not believe how fast and how high those vehicles can go, stopping abruptly at the edge of the hill when you least expect them, making the vehicles hang like a weighing scale trying to find its equilibrium. There will be a number of stops where you will catch your breath and when you think you're about to die, the drivers bring you to a height where everything around you is orange - the sand, the sky and their faces too. Sunset in the UAE, truly awesome - you have to see it. And when you think you want to pay the Travel Agents more because of the highs you've just had, they bring the entire group to another place where some camels and tents await you. Those who just threw up during the trip may decide to look for the bathroom or to just have photos taken with camels or in Arab clothes. Others, specially the women, will have their hands painted with henna for free, the men will most likely grab the water pipe and those who could not care less about the things I mentioned will follow their noses to the great-smelling buffet that has been carefully set for them.
And when everybody's almost tired of chatting while watching the stars and the sky - comes the music and lo - a beautiful bellydancer! I was totally happy during this experience but now when I look back - I am wondering why there was no male bellydancer? Well, at least there was tea, coffee and Baklava before we started our way back to the city.
What I regret about the desert safari is that I did not have a digital camera at that time. And if I do the tour again, I'll make sure I won't eat anything one hour before.
Cost of the tour per person is around US$ 55 (all-inclusive). Pick-up is around 3:30 p.m. and drop-off is around 9:30 p.m.
It's very touristy, but fun! You pay around 150 - 200Dirhams for this:
- pick up at your hotel, or location between 3 - 4pm
- you drive out to the desert and go Dune Bashing
- watch the sunset from the dunes, get stuck in the sand sometimes...
- drive to a traditional bedouin desert camp with carpets and cushions on the floor
- camel ride, shisha, henna and pioctures with traditional costumes included
- bellydancing show...you should be part of it if she calls you..it's great fun!
- fantastic bbq under the starts
- drop you off at home at around 9pm
It's a great experience!
There are some agencies which organize half day desert safaries with 4x4's. You only call them them at least one day before and tell them the hotel they stay. They appear at about 3 pm and take you with the 4x4 jeeps.
The whole tour takes about 6 hours. Dinner with the belly dance show is included which happens in a sort of bedouin settlement in the middle of the desert.
In our case the organization was Planet tours. We paid 250 UAE dirhems which is about 70 US $'s. The jeeps were Toyota Land cruisers. It was worth and fun but the organization had problems like the people who were in our jeep wanted the whole jeep for theimselves for a reason which only god knows why. so we were transferred to another one and on the way back also we were a victim of our jeep drivers courtesy to our share mates. He wanted to drop them first to their beloved shopping mall and we had an unvoluntary Dubai tour for about 1 hour.
A trip to Dubai is not complete without exploring the sand dunes of the Arabian desert. A thrilling dive in the sand dunes followed by a great BBQ Dinner and live belly dance ensures you an experience of a life time in Dubai.
An alternative to a desert safari is sunset camel trekking. Costing AED400 it includes pick up from your hotel or residence, cold water, the 1 1/2 hour trek on the camels, and then a BBQ dinner at a Bedouin camp with a belly dancer, shisha pipes, and henna painting all thrown in. Alcohol is also available for purchase at the camp.
Although I enjoyed the camels, I prefer dune bashing! It's a good alternative for those who don't like to be thrown around in a 4WD but who still want the desert experience. It is of course a completely touristy thing to do but hey, we all need a little bit of that every now and again!
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