Desert safari from Dubai

This resort is a true oasis in the middle of the desert: undoubtedly one of the best getaways from the city.

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

9 min read

Desert safari from Dubai

All-terrain vehicle crossing the dunes | ©Zafeerah Heesambee

How many times are you going to have the opportunity to go on a desert excursion and experience an adventure with camels, quad bikes, ATVs and falconry shows?

1. The best desert tours from Dubai

The desert of Dubai| ©Toa Heftiba
The desert of Dubai| ©Toa Heftiba

There are many, many companies offering desert tours and not all of them are what they seem, so I'm going to help you choose the best one to make sure you have an experience you will remember forever.

2. Desert excursion with safari, camel ride and other activities

Camels resting| ©Fernando Jorge
Camels resting| ©Fernando Jorge

I like this excursion to the desert of Dubai with camel ride because in addition to including a basic activity in desert visits, which is the camel ride (then I tell you a little more), it offers the possibility of doing a series of extra experiences: you can choose between sandboarding (similar to snowboarding but on the desert sand), dune bashing, which consists of sliding on the dunes aboard an SUV.

In addition, it also includes the possibility of enjoying some falconry or belly dancing shows, henna workshops, etc., and all accompanied by a traditional dinner, and all accompanied by a traditional barbecue dinner.

What does this excursion consist of?

The tour starts with a pick up from any of the main hotels in Dubai in a 4x4 Jeep, vehicle in which you will leave the skyscrapers behind and head to the heart of the desert where you can enjoy a variety of activities. This is the only way to enjoy this activity, as doing it on your own without an organized excursion is forbidden. And rightly so: driving over the shifting dunes is quite dangerous for an inexperienced driver.

Upon arrival in the desert you will spend the afternoon doing a series of activities of your choice from all those available, while resting for tea or coffee and traditional snacks. Afterwards, you will enjoy a dinner of barbecued meats at a camp in the middle of the desert, followed by mint tea and typical sweets while watching the fire and dance show.

Book your excursion to the desert with camel ride

Camel trekking

Camel riding is one of the most typical activities you will find in Dubai and you will have a thousand opportunities to do it. In the case of desert experiences, it is still a fun activity but you might want to make better use of the time and take a camel ride through an oasis or an alternative route.

As a word of warning, the camel ride is usually one of the most popular activities and depending on the size of the group on your tour you will sometimes have to wait in a bit of a queue.

Alex's Traveller Tip

The camel ride is the most popular activity on the Dubai desert tour, so if you want to save the queue, try to take the ride after dinner.

3. Desert excursion with safari, barbecue and sandboarding

Sunset over the red dunes
Sunset over the red dunes

For me, the big attraction of doing a desert excursion like Red Dunes is the experience of watching the sun set over the horizon from the top of a dune after having experienced the adrenaline rush of some unique experiences like Sandboarding or Dune bashing. It will give a beautiful contrast to your trip to Dubai to see how life is both between opulent skyscrapers and shopping malls and in the simplicity of the desert.

I tell you a little more about the modalities of Sandboarding or Dune Bashing that you can do in this tour so you know what each one consists of and you can decide if this is the plan that you most want when you are there.


If you like snowboarding, you have to try sandboarding. Although there are some differences between the two sports, such as the lightness of the sandboard and the texture of the sand that will be softer when you fall off the board, both activities are very similar. In my opinion it is one of the most fun things you can do in the desert, even though you might get a couple of bruises!

If you are a bit scared but still want to try it, don't worry because you will see many people using the board as a sled and just sliding down the sand, which is also a very fun option.

Dune bashing

In this activity the dunes of the Dubai desert become a roller coaster. A priori it may seem that this is going to be much ado about nothing, but when you are inside the 4x4 descending at full speed down a dune vertigo imposes quite a lot. If you get dizzy easily, this may not be the best activity for you, but it is certainly worth a try. To give you an idea, it usually lasts around 45 minutes.

4. Excursion to the desert with barbecue and live show

Sandboarding| ©whatleydude
Sandboarding| ©whatleydude

This excursion combines the best of the previous excursions: the barbecue dinner and the live show in the desert of Dubai, so that your desert experience is much more complete. Besides, you don't have to give up the most typical desert activities: once there you will be offered the possibility to go sandboarding or take a camel ride while you make time for dinner.

Book your desert excursion with dinner

5. Half day desert safari in Dubai with quads

Quad biking in the dunes| ©Maxi am Brunnen
Quad biking in the dunes| ©Maxi am Brunnen

This activity is only included in some Dubai desert quad tours and consists of racing with other travelers in your tour group in one of these all-terrain vehicles. Don't worry, because you will be given a driving lesson and tips on how to handle yourself in the dunes as well as all the equipment. If driving a quad is on your bucket list, what better way to do it than on the desert dunes!

Book your quad excursion to the desert

Organize your excursion to the desert of Dubai

The Dubai desert| ©Toa Heftiba
The Dubai desert| ©Toa Heftiba

Unless you choose a morning tour, Dubai desert tours usually leave the city in the early afternoon, around 3pm, to take advantage of the afternoon in the desert, enjoy the sunset and dine outdoors as the duration of the activity is usually about 6 hours.

You will return to Dubai at night on a very quiet and peaceful route, to relax after the desert tour.

Best day of the week to go to the desert

During your visit to Dubai, you will notice that Friday is usually the day of rest and many of the stores close on this day. Therefore, that may be the day of choice for tourists to escape from the city to the desert. Even so, the excursions are well organized so that you will not find crowds or huge groups. Overall, it is quite a relaxing excursion.

Best time of the year to make the excursion to the desert

When preparing for a trip to Dubai, you've probably noticed that when it comes to weather and temperatures the city is invariable: it's always going to be hot. However, it is from June to September when the desert temperatures and aridity become really unbearable, so it is no surprise that Dubai's peak season is between October and April.

Therefore, my recommendation is that if you have a choice, visit Dubai and take a desert excursion in the "cooler" season, from November to February. Although you will find a greater influx of tourists than at other times of the year, the weather will be moderately bearable and therefore your trip will be more pleasant.

Eating on your excursion to the Dubai desert

After an afternoon of desert activities, the tour concludes at a camp where you will be served a buffet of typical food such as potato salad, hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, and fruit salad, and all kinds of grilled meats such as chicken, lamb and fish. Whatever you do, if you have the option, try the khuboos, the bread they give you to dip the hummus in. It's another roll!

For dessert, they will give you a taste of typical Arab sweets (eat as many luqaimat as you can!) and you will have an open bar of coffee, tea and drinks. Alcohol is not included, but you can pay extra if you feel like a cold beer in the desert after an afternoon of climbing up and down dunes.

After dinner, you will also be given a traditional water pipe or shisha, which usually comes with only one flavor. If you want to try other flavors, you have to pay separately.

What to take with you on the Dubai desert tour

You will spend a whole day in the desert on this experience: take your own water bottle, comfortable and as cool as possible clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses and a cap or hat. I also advise you to bring sandals in your backpack, as it is very uncomfortable to get sand in your shoes all the time, especially while sandboarding!

I recommend you to bring a camera, as you will surely come back from your trip with several anecdotes and some postcard pictures at sunset among the dunes, but remember to bring a bag for electronic devices to keep your camera and your cell phone and protect them from the sand.

If you get dizzy easily, sandboarding and dune bashing activities can be a bit of an ordeal for you, so I recommend taking some motion sickness medication before doing this experience. For the same reason, avoid trying to take pictures of the desert during the dune bashing experience.

Practical tips for visiting the Dubai desert

Walking on the dunes
Walking on the dunes

Booking in advance

Once you are clear about the dates you are going to travel to Dubai, book this experience as soon as possible, especially if you are going in high season (December and January). It tends to be quite popular and you run the risk of having to find another similar activity with a tour operator that doesn't live up to expectations.

About photography

Keep in mind that there is hardly any signal or coverage in this activity, since you will be in the middle of the desert. And since the fine desert sand is not the best for electronic devices you might want to leave your cell phone at the hotel, although my advice is to take it with you to take some pictures when you are back in Dubai.

If you have an Instagram account or are an Instagram user, you should know that there is a hashtag that most locals use in Dubai: #mydubai. The fun of using this hashtag is that if you've taken an awesome photo, you might get reposted on the official My Dubai Instagram and it will appear on some of the screens of the Burj Khalifa.

To keep in mind

Finally, remember that an excursion to the Dubai desert is not without some risks, especially if you don't drink enough water, but you don't have to worry about anything, as the guides are very professional and will remind you at all times what are the most common recommendations if it's too hot or if you are going to participate in any quad biking or sandboarding activities.

Book your quad excursion to the desert

Other interesting activities in Dubai

Burj Khalifa getting lost in the clouds| ©Marco Biasibetti
Burj Khalifa getting lost in the clouds| ©Marco Biasibetti

If you are exploring the option of doing some other excursion, visiting Abu Dhabi is easy and can be done with round trip in the same day. I have written a handy guide on Abu Dhabi Day Trips from Dubai for you to read all the details if you want to organize the visit.

And finally, you can't leave Dubai without climbing the Burj Khalifa. Whether you like heights or not, the view from up here is breathtaking, the feeling of going up in the elevator is unique and to be honest, it doesn't give you vertigo at all, as the viewpoint looks quite protected. I leave here the details for you to prepare your ascent: Burj Khalifa Tickets: how to buy, prices and schedules.

Frequently asked questions

  • Does this visit include an experience at Al Maha Desert Resort?

    No, none of the day trips allow you to experience the resort and spa, you will simply enjoy an aperitif in their restaurant.

  • How can I customize my experience at Al Maha Desert Resort?

    You can choose between two different experiences: a full desert adventure with camel rides, sandboarding, a henna tattoo and a shisha, or an expedition to a nature reserve where you will see rare species of Arabian oryx, gazelles and native flora.

  • What is included in a day trip to Al Maha Desert Resort?

    Some experiences include a water pipe (shisha), Arabic coffee, henna tattoos, bottled water, and a transfer from your hotel and back. In any case, be sure to read the details of each experience for complete information.