Last November in Abu Dhabi, my family and I booked a half-day (6-hour) desert safari tour with Emirates Tours. We chose the afternoon tour (it’s actually considered the “evening desert safari tour”, which will end after sunset and dinner at the desert.
I went without much expectations, other than knowing that I’m definitely taking soooooooOooOo many photos. Being at the desert has always been a dream of mine, especially having read The Alchemist book so many times.
The desert safari tour in Abu Dhabi turned out to the most fun activity I had in UAE!
(Specifically, the dune-bashing!)
As there were 6 of us excluding the driver, the vehicle we have will all be ours. Initially, we’d intended to skip the dune-bashing part because some of us don’t fancy rides. But since we’ve already flown so far from Singapore, we might as well try it.
Aris, our allocated driver from the tour company, arrived to pick us up at our apartment’s lobby. It was a white Toyota Land Cruiser, a 4×4 aka 4WD aka 4-Wheel Drive, and we all climbed up into the SUV. With that, Aris drove to the desert.
In good time, at 4pm, just before entering the desert, Aris stopped the 4WD and got off the car, to release some pressure from all the tyres. The tyres will work better in this way in the desert.
After having made sure we’d buckled our seatbelts, he stepped on the accelerator and we began the bumpy ride into the desert! It was like a preview of what’s to come!
… But only for 5 minutes, because we stopped and got off the car again, in front of some small dunes.
I was enthralled by the gorgeous views. Over here, people were just sitting or rolling about on the sand, taking photos. We’re actually here to wait for more Land Cruisers to arrive (groups from the same tour company). Of course, I had to take photos for Instagram and my blog =D
Dune-bashing – Land Cruisers in Teams
When all the cars arrived, the actual dune-bashing began! The cars move in a trail, one after another. Ours was the third, which gave us great views. I’m sure these sand-dunes change according to the wind, so I have no idea how the lead car’s driver recognize the way! Anyway,
Dune-bashing was super fun!
I was actually squealing in a mix of fear+excitement when the slopes were really steep and slanted. Sand was flying up over my side of the window as our car slid over the sand! We went up and down over many dunes, awesome! Aris was a wonderful driver.
Stopping for camels at the camel farm
The Land Cruisers stopped at a camel farm. Truth was, this safari tour had been booked by our expat friend, so the rest of us had no idea about the actual safari itinerary. In fact, I still don’t know which desert we were at. I also had no idea why all these camels were here and why they’re all standing in a circle! All I knew was, the ground was full of camel poop. 😂
Check out this dune-bashing video I shared on Instagram!
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Last stop for our desert safari trip – Bedouin camp
Sunset, sand-boarding & camel rides
After more dune-bashing, the final stop was the bedouin camp, where more activities await and where we’ll have our Arabic dinner. When we reached, I looked back and the sun was on its way to setting. The eggyolk sunset at the desert was a sight to behold, quietly going down with its last light, even when people around were too occupied to notice it. It was over within minutes. Very glad I caught it!
Right outside the camp, you can try sand-boarding at the slopes. Simply grab a sand-board that no one’s using, walk up the dune, and try to slide down. It seemed pretty hard from the attempts I witnessed, unless you go really high up the dune.
There were also 2 camels that customers can ride. A man will lead the camels to walk a small circle. Each camel will carry 1-2 persons, and the ride will be over within minutes. I don’t know who had it tougher – the camels, or the man walking repeated rounds. Before coming, I had looked forward to sitting on a camel in a desert, but these camels were kneeling up and down for so many times, and they looked kind of sad, with what looked like tear streak stains from their eyes 😭, so I dismissed the idea, merely taking photos instead. o_O
Traditional activities, Arabian dinner & belly-dancing!
Inside the camp, you can put on traditional costumes and take photos, or have your hands painted by the henna artist, or have a real falcon stand on your arm for a photo. All these activities are included in your package, you don’t have to pay extra.
For dinner, it’s buffet style, so simply take what you wish to eat. The food was alright – not fantastic but not horrible either. Chilled soft drinks in cans are also available, free flow.
The last highlight was the belly-dancing performance! According to our driver, this lady is the best in the region and she was definitely very good! Very graceful and danced very well. Towards the end, she invited dinner guests to join her on platform and they looked like they had fun!
After the performance ended, they’ll switch off some of the floodlights at the camp. I laid down on the cushions and gazed up into a sky full of stars. It really felt like life couldn’t get any better. We thought that’s the end of the desert safari and soon, got up to walk to our car. Just before we reached the exit, they announced over the system that they’ll switch off ALL the lights so you can see all the stars in the sky!
It was magical! Wished we’d stayed longer.
What to know before going for your desert safari in Abu Dhabi:
- If you tend to get carsick, take motion sickness pills (I took Blackmores ginger pills) before the desert safari tour.
- The best seat to have is definitely the front seat, next to the driver, but the rest are not too bad too, so don’t worry.
- You might be sharing your 4×4 with strangers. There were 6 of us excluding the driver, so it was the maximum capacity and the whole Land Cruiser was a private car for us.
- There are toilets at the bedouin camp and they’re surprisingly modern, clean toilets.
- Safety of dune-bashing: The interior of the Land Cruisers are reinforced for accidents. I might be over-generalizing, but we never felt our lives were in danger, as our driver was skilled and professional. However, I don’t think kids that are too young should join the dune-bashing. Our youngest passenger was 6 years old in the SUV. See end of post for the tour operator we went with.
What to wear at the desert safari:
Attire: At the desert, it is very likely all tourists. The tour drivers will also likely be South Asians, as of ours. There is none of the usual dress code required as compared to visiting the malls in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, which means, technically, you can wear shorts. And sleeveless tops. However, if you ask me what I’ll recommend, I’ll say loose, comfortable tops will be your best bet, and loose pants. I wore a long skirt, which is pretty useless except it looks nice in photos for my Instagram, because I can’t really try sand-boarding in that skirt!
Although you can’t tell from the photos, it, in fact, gets windy at the desert. After sunset, the temperature will drop significantly and you will even feel cold if you were wearing sleeveless. I had a cardigan with me which I promptly wrapped myself up with during dinner as it was getting too cold.
Footwear: Sandals instead of shoes ‘cos the sand’s going to get into your shoes anyway.
Take off your shoes and feel the soft sand beneath your toes! Just wanna warn you that scorpions and snakes do live in UAE’s deserts…
Will I recommend this desert safari at Abu Dhabi?
Yes! Our tour operator was very professional, you can book with the desert safari with them if you’re heading to Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
Visited: End-Nov 2016
Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Tour operator: Emirates Tours & Safari
We did this tour as paying customers. All opinions are my own, regardless.
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