Dubai conjures up visions of glitz, glamour and OTT extravagance. Local wildlife usually includes bright herds of Lamborghini’s, Mustang’s and Ferrari’s. However the experience I was most excited about was riding into a desert sunset in a 1950’s Land Rover that left the hustle and bustle behind for a Dubai desert safari I wouldn’t forget!
If you are new to Dubai or have a few days planned as a stopover, a desert safari is a must! Choosing a desert safari company is a daunting task, as Dubai isn’t shy of an operator or 30. However luxury safari company, Platinum Heritage stood out for me the second I laid eyes on their gorgeous retro Land Rovers that let you ride with the wind in your hair #muchglamour #manysand. I figured why go out into the desert just to be in an enclosed air conditioned car, you’ll soon discover Dubai is built on air con. This experience gives you a more authentic connection to the beautiful Dubai desert and traditional Bedouin people.
Your Journey Into the Desert
It all starts with a transfer from your hotel. Our host Paulo was the perfect mix of funny and factual, giving us a great history of the region as we departed the city to our desert adventure. There was only 5 people for our transfer and cruise through the dunes, then at the end you are united with other groups whilst still maintaining your own personal guide throughout the experience.
I was so excited to hit the desert, it almost seemed surreal when we finally got there and were escorted to our Land Rovers. Now, anyone that knows me also knows I have an unhealthy penchant for the colour aqua, so it seemed as if the desert stars had aligned when we arrived and my small group was assigned the only aqua Land Rover (no one could out-life me at that point, I think I heard some doves cry).
After receiving our traditional head attire and posing with the vehicles, we departed for the start of our desert drive in our trusty aqua stead. The sun started to slowly descend, filling the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve with a stunning glow. Platinum Heritage are the only desert safari operator to have access to the reserve, which is owned by the Dubai Royal Family. On the way through the rolling sand dunes we searched for gazelles and deers, getting giddy when we spotted them on the horizon. Paulo told us about the local plants and animals, stopping along the way for any chance to get us familiar with our surroundings.
You can’t beat rolling through the desert, with the wind on your face and the amazing sandy scene that lays before you whilst cruising in retro Land Rovers. These vintage vehicles were once the car of choice for the Sheiks and Royal Family in the 1950’s (they’ve since taking a shine to Mercedes G Wagons #becausemoney).
There’s something very peaceful about riding through the desert that makes you forget about the city, or the rest of the world for that matter, not smiling is impossible. Arriving at the Bedouin camp is a treat that beckons you to a real Arabian night’s experience.
At The Camp
Upon entering the camp you are greeted with soft flicking lamps, Arabian rugs with Shisha pipes (also known as Hookah) and pillows. There are stations set up with locals offering Arabian Coffee, henna tattoo’s, refreshments and cooking areas with traditional Arabic food preparation, using techniques passed down through generations.
After our orientation we were treated to a falcon show, demonstrating how the Bedouin people use these birds of prey to hunt for them. You also could pose for a #FalconSelfie to commemorate the experience, I decided to name the Falcon Petal.
The Foodie Spread
Upon arriving back to the camp site we were seated and met with a mouth-watering spread of Arabic breads, dips, salads and delicacies as our starters. Note, you could easily eat this as your whole dinner, however to make it to mains I had to show some restraint. There are options for vegetarians, or those with any specific dietary requirements. I had also ordered grilled salmon for an extra 70 AED (about $20 USD), which also came out served with a giant prawn. The food did not disappoint! Make sure you wear your roomy pants or relaxed playsuit for this experience to make the most of the delicious dinner, which you pick and choose from each cooking station.
Dinner was followed by a traditional male sword dance performance, then camel rides and the chance to mingle with other guests, relaxing over Shisha (traditional flavoured water tobacco pipes), getting glam with some henna or if you had room, tucking into some Arabic sweets and fresh fruit for desert. I swore I’d hit up the gym the next day and instead made it as far as the hotel pool, damn your fabulous-ness Dubai! To top off the memorable night under the open skies, we were invited to star gazing with a professional astronomer.
I was in love. I don’t know if that was the Shisha talking but I felt life didn’t get much better at that moment in time, as I chatted to new friends under the Dubai desert sky. I didn’t even realise it was 11pm and time to head back to the bright lights and 5 star hotels of Dubai City (or 7 stars if you stay at the Burj Al Arab!).
Details, Options & Pricing
The tour I went on was called the Heritage Desert Safari starting at AED $545 (approximately $150 USD). If air con is actually more your thing you can also take a Platinum Tour to satisfy your Dubai desert safari thirst that takes you out in the comfort of Range Rovers for full luxury tour suited to couples and groups.
What to Wear
Needing somewhere to crash your head after a day of desert safari action? Read our review of the Movenpick in Dubai.
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