What do we hear when someone says deserts - for me it is a scene of barren arid land, a vast expanse of thirsty sand, scorching sun drying the world and thorny cactus driving any sane being out of their reaches. Deserts have for long been considered as the most unproductive geographic terrain and civilizations have avoided these since the dawn of humankind. As tourism grew, some local habitats started offering camel rides for travelers but these were limited and never became a glamorous sought after activity. But that is the usual view but the city we were in is not known to follow the trend - they are known to attempt unthought feats and often achieve those. We were in Dubai - the city which has the tallest building, largest man-made island, the world's only seven-star hotel, largest fountain - in short, a city that does not like to do anything that is not out of ordinary!
|Dunes of Sand - The Playground|
Given the characteristic of the city in wanting things out of ordinary, it was only logical that while the world runs away from its desert lands, this Arab Emirate embraced its geography. The city has marketed its desert as a package of tourist activity and has created a complete experience altogether. The packaging and marketing has been so effective that today, this is one of the activity on every itinerary that one can come up with while visiting Dubai. We are talking about the Desert Safari - an adventure ride on the unstable dunes of sand. The Safari gives a unique excitement and is a perfect adrenaline rush for those tempted to high and fast rides.What are the options available and how to choose between them?
The desert safari is undertaken at various times of a day - morning, afternoon and evening. The morning safari picks you early in wee hours and you are back for breakfast while afternoon one picks you early around noon and gets you back in a couple of hours. However, the most popular one is the evening one which includes a package of an overall experience - and we recommend the same too. The evening safari is perfect in terms of timelines as the temperatures cool down to moderate levels while the sun is still in the sky so you have ample light to enjoy the deserts. Further, the ride is generally followed by a basic dinner buffet and a dance performance so overall it is a good option to enjoy a complete evening while covering this exciting activity.
|We Booked our Safari on - www.DubaiEveningSafari.com|
Your hotel concierge would be more than happy to help you out with booking a desert safari but we would advise you to explore your options online - at least if you are not searching for a ride the same day. The hotel concierge would have a premium pricing along with many inclusions which you may not actually need. What you need to be cautious about is the quality though and hence check out the reviews in detail. Also, if you are located around one of those big malls - Dubai, Marina or Mall of Emirates, chances are that the service provides offers free pick up from them and you can ditch out the hotel pickup. We did the same and all we had to do was a 5-minute walk from the hotel and give up a private ride in a Land Cruizer for a shuttle minibus - we saved closer to 50 dirhams per head on the hotel pick up option.
The gushing adrenaline - onboard Toyota Land Cruizer
Based on the option you choose, you may board the 4X4 big ride right from your hotel or at the desert safari location. We had opted for a free pickup from a designated place and hence had a 1-hour ride on a shuttle bus. It is an interesting journey if you like to meet fellow travelers and everyone in their excitement for the experience was chirpy and happy. The bus took up to the deserts and parked by the side of the expressway off northwards from Dubai. As we disembarked on the yellow sands, the tour operator quickly divided us into groups of seven - each one would be accommodated in one of the SUVs. Soon after, the dusty yet imposing Toyota's workhorse - Land Cruizer 4 X 4s started zipping in to pick its passengers and then disappear is the sand-clouds spread all around.
|At Least One Pose is Allowed - Isn't It?|
|Playground in Action - Zipping SUVs|
As you settle into the car, belt yourself up - and yeah try if you can get on the front seat as that is where the best view is. The car takes you on a ride of the lifetime and the bumps and humps of the dunes are there to feel below your seat. If your driver chooses his dunes correctly, this would become one of the fastest adrenaline rushes you may have had - even better than the roller coaster of the Ferrari World in the neighboring city! The half-hour ride is worth all that you have given to it and you get down from the SUV drained and disoriented at a camp well within the desert land.
More than a ride - dinner, drinks, and dancing
If you are on an evening safari, chances are that your package includes a bit more than the dune bashing ride. Most operators have camps deep in deserts where they provide an evening of entertainment to keep visitors engaged even after the safari. As soon as you are back from the ride, you are dropped at the entrance of a hut-shaped camp. To start with you have options to opt for a camel or a horse ride or take pictures with costumes. Generally, a smaller camel ride is free and you are required to pay for a longer ride. Always be sure to negotiate the price of activity before taking it up.
|Your Hosts for the Evening - The Camp in Backdrop|
As the sun sets, the activities take the pace and it is time to move inside the camp. The inside of the camps look like a traditional village gathering - a stage in the center and mattresses spread all around for spectators to take seats. You would find those tall people balancing on wooden sticks entertaining people as everyone picks their drinks and settle in for the show. The dust gradually settles and the show begins. The show consists of three belly dancing performances and a fire dance - all enthralling and good. The number of performances and order may obviously vary across the tour operators but I've heard that broad composition remains same.
|The Scene is Set and Seating Arranged - Show is About to Begin!|
|One of the Performances - Mesmering Fire Dance|
A dinner buffet is generally also on offer during the performances. Breaks between the performances are when you get your starters and main course. The spread is usually decent but one must set their expectations right - do not look for anything fancy out there in the open desert. Also, for a small fee you may be able to have the food served on your seat. Watch out for people offering a "VIP" seat - which basically means on-table service and a seat with a better view. These services are negotiable and do not pay anything more than around 30 bucks.What should you remember?
- Book your safari at least a day before your trip - a week in advance if you are visiting during a peak season
- Negotiate your deal as hard as you can - tickets are never sold at face value even at hotel concierge
- Be careful to know the price you would pay for an activity before you take it up - you are at disadvantage if you haggle post activity
- Stay hydrated - carry a bottle with you as the desert could be draining - their service does not start until after the ride
- Avoid summers - that is harsh time to get into sand dunes - it is near to equator and hence plan your visits in winters
- Comment your views on the article - that is what would tell us if what we write is of any value to you - criticism is a sort of appreciation too
Know More about other things to do in Dubai
Dubai, UAE - Top 10 Attractions of Touristy Emirate