Last updated on September 18th, 2023
Dubai is built on its record-shattering landmarks, incredible luxury experiences, dining and thrilling activities. Manmade islands shaped like palm trees, the world’s tallest building and largest mall, an aquarium you can scuba dive in as well as be your hotel room window view are all incredible feats. When in Dubai, it’s pretty much a must to see these manmade structures for yourself. But there’s more to this desert oasis than what meets the eye. Dubai reveals a natural wonder in its red sand dunes and there’s truly no better way to experience Dubai than by taking an evening desert safari!
From Palm Jumeirah to Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Lost Chambers Aquarium to Ski Dubai – the largest indoor ski slope in the world – it’s no wonder Dubai has become such a popular vacation destination. For couples and families alike, there’s really never a dull moment in the city that has pushed all the boundaries for what mankind can engineer. But these experiences can get old fast and you might start to crave something real and authentic, true to the Arabian landscape that has stood the test of time.
UAE is so much more than opulence and architectural feats. While the cityscapes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are unbeatable, so are the plains of sand that make up most of the country. Just a 40-minute drive outside of Dubai in the Lahbab Desert lie thrilling activities, a delicious feast and wowing performances.
Hotel Pickup & Drive to Lahbab Desert
For the evening desert safari, your tour guide and driver will be able to pick you up at any hotel located with Dubai city limits. You don’t have to worry about where in the city you’re located, but that might change the pickup time a smidge. During the winter months (November to April), you’ll likely be picked up between 2 and 3 pm. During the summer months (May to October), pickup time is usually between 2:30 and 4pm.
After booking your tour – which we’ll get into later in this post -, you’ll be put in contact with a designated tour rep. On the day of your Dubai safari, the rep will contact you with a more detailed time for pickup, most likely via WhatsApp. Your dedicated guide/driver will also call or message you if need be once he/she arrives at your hotel.
Throughout the tour, you’ll be driven in the same vehicle: an air-conditioned 4×4 that fits, give or take, six passengers. If you’re travelling with a group of six, then great! You’ll likely have a private tour for the duration of the night. Make yourself comfortable, grab your complimentary water and settle in for the 40-minute drive to your first destination.
Depending on which tour you book, quad biking or ATV riding will be an option to have on the itinerary. We personally really enjoyed quad biking and had our own single quad bikes for about 30 minutes or so.
The quad bike park is the very first stop in the desert safari tour. When you get here, your tour guide will take care of your quad bike tickets and you can head straight to the gate that your guide will lead you to. Then, a quad bike attendant will help you select a bike that is ready for use and will walk you through the ins and outs of how to ride it. It’s super simple! Honestly, I found it much less daunting than riding an e-scooter.
We rode on our own individual quad bikes and filmed each other riding for a good 30 minutes before we were satisfied. It was crazy fun riding up and down the hills, cruising along the ridges of the short sand dunes and dodging other riders in the park. We tried to do some tricks like gain some height by going super fast on a steep hill before dropping down from the ridge. Definitely had some good laughs during our time here!
With the sand constantly blowing in your direction as you and others zoom through the dunes, it’s important to protect yourself from it. Wearing wider sunglasses for eye protection and a scarf to wrap around your face will do the trick. Dressing in long pants and a long sleeve shirt will also help guard you from the sand sticking to your skin – an uncomfortable feeling to have for the rest of the night. There are vendors here who sell the face accessories if you forget to bring your own!
It’s important to be covered to protect yourself from the desert sun, sand and wind. But it’s even more important to be covered with travel and medical insurance! Taking part in any range of excursions when travelling can put yourself at risk for injury or loss. From a car accident to food borne sickness, anything can happen. But when you’re in a foreign country, it’s important to make sure you’ve got a good coverage travel insurance to back you.
If it weren’t for our Nomad Insurance with SafetyWing, we’d be looking our shoulder every waking moment. Travel delays and lost baggage have become so commonplace nowadays that we’re grateful we don’t have to worry about the expenses if anything were to happen. And emergency medical bills in foreign countries are seriously no joke!
For just $45/4 weeks of travel, we never have to worry about the bulk of out-of-pocket expenses from travel mishaps. If you’re travelling for about 4 weeks like we did in the Middle East, this small fee is worth every penny to keep you covered!
Next up on the desert safari itinerary is dune bashing! Hop back in your 4×4 vehicle that your guide picked you up in for this wild ride. If you’re prone to getting motion sick, make sure to pack some Gravol with you for this one. Just like the quad biking, you can find Dubai desert safari tours that don’t include dune bashing. So if this isn’t for you, go ahead and select a tour option that doesn’t include it.
Even I, who loves rollercoasters and who’s been in her fair share of crazy boat rides during storms, made sure I was buckled in and holding any handle near me for dear life. It was 30-40 minutes of pure joy and fear intertwined together! The views were amazing from our window as we rode the waves of the sand dune ridges.
We moved in a group of about 6-10 cars. Sometimes we followed the line of our whole group, other times our driver deviated where the sand gave way for some more excitement.
There was one vehicle that got stuck in the sand! It happens, and the nearby drivers got out to help push the car out of the pit. That’s the great thing about going together in one large group. Our driver and sturdy LandRover did amazing. It was a heck of a bumpy ride that had us laughing and bracing for survival at the same time!
Once the party in the land cruisers was over, we got out to stretch our legs and orient ourselves before making our way to sand boarding. This one was a less exhilarating ride compared to the two we just experienced. But we made our way to the top of the sand hill regardless. Here, some of the guides were offering a sand board to whomever was next in line and we rode it down seated just like we would tobogganing. Just, instead of snow, we’re riding on sand.
I did a little “wheeee” as I rode down as aerodynamic as I could without toppling over and made my way back to the top to ride it one more time.
It was a little busier here as all of us who were just dune bashing were sand boarding at the same time with limited boards available. After. a couple of rides down, Jason and I went to enjoy the view as the sun was starting to set. We enjoyed the peace of the soft wind and cooled down air as we explored the red sand dunes ourselves for a bit. And yes, we had to bring out the camera for this!
After this, it was time for us to head to our desert camp for the rest of the night. Once our driver got us there, he welcomed us to go on the complimentary camel ride near the entrance of the camp before joining the rest of our small group in the camp. We were very much obliged.
As most of the guests were already in the camp relaxing, there was barely a line for the camel ride. We were next in line as a young family were currently riding.
Truth be told, this camel ride lasted about two minutes! Maybe three. We just did a little loop and we were back down before we knew it. I think as we were one of the last groups to arrive and it was getting dark, the camel caretakers were ready to pack up. It was all good though! We didn’t want to over-exert the gentle giants.
It was fun while it lasted though! My favourite part is getting up and down. We didn’t realize how much we would sway backwards and forwards! So we really had to hold on for that part. And try not bumping into each other as we saddled one camel together!
If you have more time than we did, you could go for another camel ride! You can also take the time to feed the camels which is a fun experience.
All of the desert camps are very similar in the layout and what they offer. This is whole most of the tours don’t both telling you the name of the camp as it’s pretty irrelevant. And it allows for some moving around and sharing of camps if the number of guests aren’t proportional. It seems like we were at the Dream Night Tours and we have no complaints!
Desert Camp Activities
Upon entering, the camp hosts welcomed us with a cup of Arabic coffee (gahwa), sweets (gaymat) and dates, and ushered us to grab any seat we liked. Our group already got a table right in front of the stage and we joined them.
We actually had quite a bit of time before the live show and dinner buffet was about to start so we decided to order a water pipe (shisha) to share, which was about 40 AED ($11 USD). Sometimes shisha is included in your package, depending on the tour you book! With Klook’s premium experience, it’s included with the Quad Bike option.
Some other activities you can do at the camp include henna painting for the ladies, which is part of Klook’s premium desert safari. And if you go with the Dune Bashing option, you can also get yourself dressed up in local Arabic attire if that’s something you’re interested in trying on!
We were a little drained and sticky from all the running around in the summer UAE heat. So instead, we spent time with our new friend Natasha the Falcon while we awaited dinner!
BBQ Buffet Dinner
The dinner spread was surprisingly quite extensive. We didn’t expect much, but there was a variety of cold dishes, salads, starches and meats on the BBQ. It beats most wedding buffets, honestly. From end to end, there was pita bread with hummus and tahini as your dips, fresh salads, beats, a vegetable medley, macaroni, rice pilaf, baked cubed potatoes, and on the grill were meat skewers and donair kebabs which were tasty. For dessert, we had a few treats along with hot Lebanese style doughnut balls and orange slices. We definitely filled our appetite at the camp!
Live Cultural Performances
Before and during our meal, we got to enjoy three different types of live cultural performances. The artists were all so amazingly talented! It started off with belly dancing. Two women took the stage, one at a time. What was most impressive was how they could balance the scimitar swords on their heads while moving! They would slowly lower themselves to the ground and back up while dancing, and the sword would be completely still!
Next was the traditional Tanoura dance which is somewhat of an evolved Sufi Whirling Dervish. The gentleman swirled so elegantly round and around while he looked up the whole time. How they don’t get dizzy, I don’t know! It’s actually so mesmerizing to watch them as their colourful tanoura spins in perfect motion.
Finally, the grand finale, was the epic fire show. One man, one fire, total captivation. This last act is probably the most dangerous. It has one talented man throwing balls of fire on different bars, torches and chains, around himself and near his face. At the very end, he blows fire! Just check out our video at the top.of this post for a few highlight reels of the fire show.
It was a great way to end our night with a bang at the desert camp before heading home!
How to Book Your Dubai Desert Safari
There are quite a few options for booking the evening desert safari from Dubai! We did ours through Viator and this tour split our time evenly between quad biking and dune bashing.
Booking through Klook’s premium tour, you get the option of either a 1-hour quad bike or dune bashing excursion, prolonging each activity but inherently only giving one or the other. With this tour, you have the choice of doing both! From what we’ve seen, Klook has by far the most affordable and well-rated desert safari for the full seven-hour evening tour complete with BBQ dinner.
Prices do vary according to the season and how far out you may be booking. What’s great is that most of the tour options have free cancellation with 24-hour notice. So don’t wait up! Book your tour now and cancel later if need be to lock in your low rates!