What a Dubai Desert Safari is Really Like

Of all the attractions in Dubai, one of the best is heading outside of the city on a Dubai desert safari for a fun-filled evening of adventures, dancing and food. There are dozens of companies offering this activity, but they’re all pretty similar. Here’s a general idea of what to expect on your safari.


Bus to the Desert and 4×4 Ride

Your safari will start somewhere in Dubai, depending on which company you book with. A large tour bus or a smaller van will take you out to the desert – only about 20 miles away. There are about two or three dozen safari camps set up, many of which are used by multiple tour companies. Thankfully, the desert sand dunes will prevent you from seeing neighboring camps, so it will feel like a truly unique and isolated experience.

When the bus drops you off on the side of the highway, a squad of 4x4s will be waiting to take you on your next adventure. These aren’t ordinary 4x4s – they’ve had tens of thousands of dollars of upgrades to make them capable of flying across the sand dunes at high speed. They’ll take you on a wild ride across the dunes to your camp…with a few jumps, slides and possibly even a roll. I saw more than one 4×4 on its side or with a wheel blown out – don’t worry, everyone was safe.


Camel Rides and Quad Bikes

When you get to the camp, a host of activities will be waiting for you before you even make it through the entrance. Most of the camps have camel rides and quad bikes – both of which aren’t exactly cheap. The quad bike tracks aren’t that big, but they’re a lot of fun, sliding around on the sand. The camel rides might be questionable as eco-friendly activities, but I personally look at them as a horseback ride, using the local livestock. There will probably also be a falcon or two you can hold onto for a photo opportunity and a request for more cash.


Buffet Dinner

Once you make it into the walls of the camp, they’ll probably already have the buffet set up, although this course will just be snacks – savory pastries, sweet potato fries, etc. The full course usually comes between the second and third dances. What’s served for dinner varies by camp, and so does the quality. You can probably expect a couple of meat dishes, some pasta dishes, various types of salads, bread, etc. Drinks aren’t usually included. Depending on the day you visit, you might be able to get alcoholic drinks (they’re not served on holidays).


An Evening of Dancing

By far the best part of the evening is the dances. I don’t know if all the Dubai desert safaris are the same, so I’ll just describe the one I went to. The first dance was a belly dancer. She wasn’t as provocative as the ones I saw in Morocco or other locations, but she was still impressive. The second dance was my favorite. It’s called a tanoura dance and basically has a dancer spinning around for 10 minutes straight while he changes his costume, opens up umbrellas, spins his skirts around, and many other movements, each of which blew my mind. The final dance was a fire dancer and while I’ve seen better ones on the beaches of Thailand, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t great too.

Booking a Dubai Desert Safari

Dubai desert safaris start around $40 and last for at least 4-5 hours, unless you book an overnight safari. I still prefer my Moroccan desert safari, but if you’re visiting Dubai, the safari is definitely an activity you should have on your itinerary.


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