If you’re visiting Dubai, you will want to do a lot more than just shop and eat in the malls. Going out into the desert is a very culturally enriching experience. That’s why you should experience one of these Dubai desert safari tours.
You’ll be reminded of what Dubai once was before it became a world-famous city. Before all these elegant buildings, designer shops, and posh restaurants, there was nothing but sand for as far as the eye can see.
Step back in time for a day and feel the thrill of the expansive desert landscape. Why listen to me? I’ve taken a Dubai desert tour 25 times! I think you can call me a dune bashing expert.
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Best Desert Safari Tours in Dubai
1. Premium Red Dunes & Camel Safari with BBQ at Al Khayma Camp $$
This is the most standard and popular Dubai safari that all the tourists love going on.
Your day will start around 3-4pm when a 4WD Land Cruiser will pick you up from your hotel.
This will be a very comfortable drive as you go on the highway and watch the skyline in the distance grow smaller and smaller.
On the way, you will notice how the color of the sand becomes redder the further away from the city you are.
You’ll also see some small shrubs and maybe a camel grazing on them.
If you are traveling solo, this is a great chance to meet and chat with the other people. Most of the participants are friendly and the socializing helps if you’re nervous about the experience.
The driver might also put on some English radio for everyone, but you really don’t want to listen to Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off during this cultural journey.
So, don’t be afraid to ask him for different tunes. He’ll put on some Arabic music instead which will set the mood nicely.
Before you reach the safari starting point, you will stop at a service station for a few minutes so the driver can remove some air from the tires.
This is a small rest stop, so you’ll get the chance to use the bathroom in any of the small souvenir shops.
Staff members from these shops will use this opportunity to pitch their products to you.
Their bestselling souvenir is an Arabic headscarf called “Ghutrah,” which they expertly tie around your head to protect you from the harsh desert heat.
Then it’s finally time to dive into the Dubai safari tour and the first activity is dune bashing.
Dune bashing is where the Land Cruiser speeds up and down the tall sand dunes. It’s a very bumpy and wild ride.
The driver will warn you right before it starts, for good reason. They have to make sure that everyone is buckled up safely in their seats.
Dune bashing lasts for around 45 minutes, and it’s the most thrilling way to see the desert. There are little stops the driver makes on top of the tallest dunes for you to get the best sunset photo op.
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If you suffer from motion sickness or any discomfort while being inside a car for too long, avoid booking a safari tour that has dune bashing. See below for more options.
One member of our group felt sick during the ride and was hyperventilating. We quickly told the driver that they were in trouble and needed to get out of the car.
Our driver was very kind and immediately pulled over to let them step out for some air.
This was also because we went out on a very hot day, and the sun was blazing through the car the entire time. My friend had motion sickness and was overwhelmed by the heat as well.
At this point, we thought that the safari was over because if someone isn’t feeling well, we can’t keep dune bashing and leave them behind in the desert.
Our driver was extremely helpful despite not being a medical professional, he offered my sick friend some cold water to drink. He also dipped a towel in the cold water and wrapped it on my friend’s forehead to cool him down.
After a few minutes, my friend started feeling better but didn’t want to go through such a bumpy ride again. The driver called one of the other cars to come to our location to help us out. The other car didn’t have any passengers at the time.
My driver told us that there is another route to the camp that is a straight and easy drive. He had taken us a different way purposely for dune bashing.
The other car that joined us offered to drive my friend straight to the camp on the calm road, while the rest of us continued to enjoy the adrenaline pumping ride.
Both drivers handled the situation very well and kept making sure that we were all okay. They really go the extra mile for their guests.
Luckily, my friend’s condition wasn’t serious, and he recovered within a short time. We were able to reunite with him at the camp after our ride.
That was a rare case, but it does happen to some people. Safari drivers have seen all kinds of situations, as they’ve been driving people through the desert every day for years. They are able to handle situations in case of an emergency.
Before you are taken to the camp for dinner, it’s very relaxing to sit on top of a giant sand dune while taking some sunset photos.
If you want to play a game where you run down a sand dune as fast as you can, prepare for the walk back to seem like you’re climbing Mount Everest.
These games should only be played on smaller dunes, and not the big ones that the driver stops at for the sunset photo op.
It also becomes harder if you don’t wear the right shoes. If you wear sandals, make sure they can be secured to your feet properly. There have been situations where many people lost their sandals in the sand.
→ Never wear closed shoes or trainers. Your feet will become very sweaty from the heat, and your shoes will collect a mountain of sand that’s difficult to get rid of.
You’ll spend the rest of the evening walking around camp feeling very uncomfortable because of uneven sand stuck in your shoes.
After all this adventure, when you’re finally feeling hungry after the sunset photo op, it will be time to go to the camp for a Dubai desert dinner.
The campsite will take you by surprise because it is designed to look like an oasis in the middle of the desert.
In this large camp, there’s a stage in the center so you can watch a belly dancer perform. You’ll also get to see another dance called the “Tanoura Dance.” This is an Egyptian folk dance, where a man wears a colorful weighted skirt and spins endlessly. It’s beautiful to see the LED lights from his costume glow.
Some Tanoura dancers also invite guests up on stage to teach you how to do the dance. It’s quite funny watching tourists become very lightheaded from all the hardcore spinning.
You’ll spend about 2-3 hours at the camp. This is enough time to have some great Arabic food as there will be a buffet dinner for everyone. The staff will ask everybody to form two different lines for the buffet, one for men and another for women.
The salad options are usually potato salad, hummus, tabouli, baba ghanoush, and a fruit salad. For the main courses, you’ll get a few choices of Arabic meats such as Shish Tawook, which is grilled chicken with some mild spices.
There will be some beef and fish options as well. Make sure to try Lebanese bread. It’s called “Khuboos” and is freshly mad. Delicious when you dip it in some hummus.
For dessert, there will be some Arabic sweets, and the best one to try is “Luqaimat.”
It’s like a warm and soft deep-fried marshmallow that just melts in your mouth. You’ll want 50 of them for sure!
You’ll also get unlimited coffee, tea, water, juices, and soft drinks. Alcoholic drinks aren’t free but it’s still worth splurging a little on a cold beer in the desert.
During this time, you’ll get to ride a camel and try sand-boarding.
The camel ride is very short, but it’s still a lot of fun. A guide will have around 2-3 double-humped camels where two people can sit on each one.
Then the camels go for a short walk so you can experience what it’s like to ride them.
There’s usually a big line of tourists while waiting to ride a camel. The best time to go is right after dinner.
It might be a little bit darker by that time, but the line is shorter since everybody else has already finished riding them.
Sandboarding is another great activity. Your guide will give you a sandboard to go sliding down the sand dunes. You can either stand on them like a surfer or sit and roll down.
The dunes near the camp are not very big, so it’s an easy ride even if you’re a beginner.
Sand in that area is extremely soft. Even if you do fall off the board, you won’t get hurt at all.
I’ve fallen off a sandboard too many times, and the only part of me that was hurt was my ego. I also had to come home after the safari with half of the Dubai desert sand trapped in my hair.
After riding camels and sand-boarding, you can go back into camp and try some shisha. The free shisha only comes in one flavor, and if you want to try some different ones, you’ll have to pay extra for it.
You’ll also see a henna tattoo artist, who can draw a design on your hands. This is a great souvenir because henna lasts for a few days and looks very beautiful.
Just make sure that you don’t get the henna tattoo before dinner. It takes time to dry and you won’t be able to eat comfortably.
The best way to eat Arabic food is with your hands like a true local, so make sure those hands are henna free, until after your meal.
There is a section where you’ll see some traditional Arabic clothes such as the Khandoura for men, and the Abaya for women. It’s a lot of fun to try these on and take some photos.
If you don’t want to pay the high price for a professional photo, you’re allowed to take some with your own camera as well.
Then it will be time to go back into the city. Everyone will hop back into their respective 4WDs and enjoy the drive through the desert when it’s dark.
The ride back is very calm because the drivers don’t go through the dune bashing route. You’ll be able to relax in the car and flick through all the photos you’ve taken.
There’s barely any phone or internet signal in the desert, so when you get closer to the city, then you can start uploading everything on Instagram.
→ Local tip: Make sure to use the hashtag #MYDUBAI. This is the hashtag that everybody in Dubai uses.
If your photo is one of the best ones, it could get reposted by the My Dubai page, and then it will get showcased on the Burj Al Arab!
- Duration: 5-7 hours.
- Pros: This is the safari where you can try a little bit of everything.
- Cons: Camel ride is very short and in an area that’s not very well lit.
- Choose a time and reserve your spot here.
» Unsure what to wear on a safari tour? Read our packing list guide for Dubai
2. Red Dune Safari with Sandboarding, Camel Ride & BBQ Options $-$$
This evening desert safari in Dubai is one of the cheaper Dubai desert safari tours because it’s slightly shorter than the standard safari.
Instead of Al Khayma camp, you’ll be taken to Lahbab. Both camps will have the same facilities and almost look identical too.
If you choose the 7-hour option, you’ll be provided with a full Arabic buffet dinner. With the shorter 4-hour trip, they’ll give you small plates and snacks instead.
The only difference is that the dunes near Lahbab are much taller and you’ll get to do a lot of sandboarding.
You’ll also do less Dune bashing compared to the standard evening desert safari. The previous one lasts around 45 minutes to an hour. This time you’ll do it for only 30-40 minutes.
Then your driver will stop for you to take sunset photos, and there you’ll begin sandboarding.
The camel ride is a short one during this safari as well. If you need a longer ride, there are other packages that have camel safaris instead of dune bashing.
- Duration: 4-7 hours.
- Pros: This is a shorter trip for those who want to hurry back to the city. Sandboarding on better dunes for longer. It’s also less crowded because most people prefer going for the longer 7-hour safari.
- Cons: The buffet dinner doesn’t have as many food options for the shorter trip. Unless you choose the 7-hour option, there’s not enough time to experience everything at the camp. Very short camel ride.
- Book your Dubai safari ticket here.
3. Bike the Red Dunes, Ride Camel, Sandboard and BBQ with Shows $$
If you’re a Mad Max fan and want to experience quad biking in the desert, this is the best dune buggy tour in Dubai.
You’ll get picked up from your hotel and driven to the desert in a Land Cruiser, around the same time as the standard Dubai evening desert safari.
When everybody else is about to start dune bashing, you’ll be taken to a different part of the desert to hop on your individual quad bike.
This part of the desert has smaller dunes so that it’s safer to ride dune buggies.
Even if you’re a beginner, you’ll be given a safety briefing and all the gear. The only thing you need to bring is your sense of adventure.
When you’re choosing a safari, make sure to pick the best desert safari operator in Dubai who has a lot of great reviews.
Some of them can be expensive, but at least they won’t cut corners when it comes to your experience and safety.
I had gone for one of the cheapest desert safaris in Dubai, with an operator I’d found on Groupon. They didn’t separate our group even though we had booked dune bashing and not a dune buggy safari.
We had to wait for an hour until the other people from our car finished riding their dune buggies, so we can go dune bashing next.
While we were waiting, my friend tried to pay the operator to ride one of the buggies instead of sitting around for an hour doing nothing. But he couldn’t rent one since he didn’t have any cash, and they don’t accept electronic payments.
This was a lucky break for him because a little while later, one of the other men had some hot oil from the dune buggy splash onto his leg. If he wasn’t wearing jeans, it could have been a very serious burn.
The operator used scissors to cut off a part of his jeans and splashed cold water on the wound.
He seemed alright and felt relieved, that the burn was very small because it didn’t get past the thickness of his jeans much. But we still had a bad experience for the rest of the safari as we were worried about his leg and kept wondering what could’ve been if he’d worn light pants instead.
A highly reputable company wouldn’t have had this situation because they upgrade and maintain their dune buggies regularly. Make sure to choose one of them instead because they take better care of their customers out in the desert.
After the 45-minute dune buggy ride, you’ll go to the same camp as the standard Dubai evening safari for the buffet dinner.
Then you’ll get to ride a camel and go sandboarding as well.
- Duration: 6 hours.
- Pros: All the safety gear and instructions will be provided, so you can be a complete beginner and still get to ride a dune buggy.
- Cons: No dune bashing.
- Book here.
4. Dubai Safari: Dune Drive, Bikes, Camels & Meal at Al Khayma $-$$
For this Dubai desert safari tour, there are two options. You can either choose a 5-hour tour or a 7-hour tour.
This safari includes Dune bashing, quad bikes, sandboarding, and camel riding.
The 5-hour safari takes places earlier in the afternoon, and instead of a buffet, you’ll get a light brunch. This option is perfect for those who don’t want to spend a very long time in the desert if they have other tours to do back in the city.
The 7-hour safari is identical to the standard evening desert safari in Dubai. The sandboarding and camel ride will be short, but you’ll also get to experience dune bashing and riding a dune buggy.
This longer safari then takes you to Al Khayma camp in the evening for a full buffet dinner. You’ll reach back to your hotel around 10-11pm at night.
- Duration: 5 or 7 hours.
- Pros: Option to choose two timings if you want to return to the city sooner. Includes both dune bashing and a dune buggy ride.
- Cons: The Tanoura show and belly dancing at Al Khayma camp only come on later in the evening. People who book the 5-hour safari won’t get to see any live entertainment.
- Find out more and choose your prefered duration here.
5. Morning Safari with Quad Bikes, Sandboarding & Camel Ride $
This is a morning desert safari tour in Dubai, for those who have other plans in the evening and don’t want to spend an entire day in the desert.
It’s also one of the cheapest desert safaris in Dubai if you’d like to experience all the activities, for half the price.
You’ll get to experience riding quad bikes, dune bashing, sandboarding, and a camel ride.
The camel ride is only a 2-3-minute lap around a small area, but you’re allowed to do it as many times as you want. The morning safaris aren’t crowded compared to the evening ones, so you can have unlimited camel rides without having to keep lining up for a long time.
- Duration: 4-5 hours.
- Pros: Less crowded and it’s cheaper compared to evening safaris. You can be back in the city by late afternoon.
- Cons: No buffet or entertainment shows. You’ll have to book a picnic basket lunch to have at Jumeirah Beach after the safari.
- Reserve your morning tour here.
6. Overnight Dubai Desert Safari Trip $$
This is one of the best Dubai desert safari tours for those who want to experience camping under the stars.
You’ll get to take photos during sunset and sunrise.
An overnight desert safari in Dubai is a special intimate experience. After everybody from the evening safari leaves the camp, it becomes very quiet and peaceful.
Then everybody huddles around a snug fireplace, and you’ll hear a lot of interesting stories about the history of Dubai.
The campsite will have clean and spacious bathrooms for both men and women. Individual tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, and cushions will be provided. You don’t have to bring your own camping gear.
This experience is an extension of the standard evening desert safari. You’ll get to do all the same activities such as dune bashing, sandboarding, camel riding, etc. It also includes the Arabic buffet dinner and evening entertainment shows.
When everyone else has left the camp, you’ll get to stay behind and spend the night.
It’s very safe to spend the night in the desert because you’re at a very secure campsite. All the staff members will make sure that everybody is taken care of throughout the night.
If you feel like going for a walk, you can leave your belongings in your tent and nobody will steal anything.
After a good night’s sleep, you’ll get a delicious hot Arabic breakfast in the morning before the drive back to the city. This will also give you the chance to take some great photos of the sun, rising across the sand dunes.
- Duration: 16 Hours
- Pros: Getting to see both the desert sunset and the sunrise. You’ll get some snacks and drinks through the night, so you don’t have to worry about packing your own. All tents and sleeping gear are also provided.
- Cons: Even though it’s very hot during the day, it can get cold at night. Make sure you bring a warm hoodie or a sweater.
- Reserve through Viator.
Overnight Desert Camp Experience: Dinner, Emirati Activities, and Vintage Land Rover Transport from Dubai $$$
This is the most luxurious desert safari in Dubai. It’s one of the most expensive tours but worth the money because you’ll be treated like royalty.
When celebrities visit Dubai, this is the tour they go on. It’s the only ecotourism desert safari in Dubai.
Instead of the regular Land Cruisers, you’ll get to ride in an open-roof 1950’s Vintage Land Rover.
There’s no dune bashing in this safari. You’ll be taken to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to spot some local wildlife animals such as Arabian gazelles, and large antelope species called oryxes.
The camp that you’re taken to is a special royal camp with a very luxurious setting. Instead of a buffet where everyone must line up, you’ll get a four-course dinner served right to your table. It’ll have soups, appetizers, main courses, and dessert.
If you’re feeling very adventurous, you can choose camel meat as your main course.
This safari also has “Luqaimat,” for dessert, which is all you need because it’s the most satisfying Arabic sweet. Make sure you ask them to drizzle some extra date syrup on it. They also offer some fresh fruits in case you don’t want to have such a rich dessert.
You’ll also get plenty of drinks such as Arabic tea and coffee, Sparkling date juice, Vimto, and Karak chai. Unleash your adventurous self and try some camel milk too!
It’s good to try camel milk at least once. It’s not thick and creamy like regular milk. It’s frothy and very light. You can either try plain camel milk or a date flavored one.
If that wasn’t enough food, you’ll also get to watch how the locals make bread and try baking your own as well. Or you can learn how to make Arabic coffee instead.
There will be a henna artist at this camp too, and you can have a quick camel ride around a small area just outside the camp.
Instead of the usual Tanoura and Belly Dancing shows, you’ll see a traditional Emirati cultural dance with a drumming performance.
The desert becomes very cold at night so make sure you bring some warm clothes. Tents, beds, and blankets will be provided at the camp. There will also be clean and luxurious bathrooms onsite.
Grab your sweater early morning and catch the beautiful sunrise on top of a tall sand dune. Then enjoy a hot Emirati breakfast before your drive back to the city.
You can ask your driver to stop by the bird sanctuary on the way to see some migrating flamingos. It will be the perfect way to wrap up your night safari in Dubai.
- Duration: 16 hours
- Pros: Luxury campsite with 4-course dinner. You’ll get to try camel meat and camel milk. Learn to bake Arabic bread and watch unique performances in the evening.
- Cons: This campsite is further into the desert than the other safaris, so it gets very cold at night. Make sure to pack some warm clothes. Some clients have complained about the beds being hard for sleeping overnight. Luxury means more expensive naturally!
- Reserve a spot on your luxury tour here.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How much does the desert safari in Dubai cost?
This depends on what tour you go with. The most affordable is the morning safari starting at approximately $90 (4-5 hours).
- Are there overnight safari tours?
There sure are, read the above tours for full details.
- Can I book my tour online?
Of course, just click the link to the tour you are interested in above, choose your date and time slot if applicable and book. You will receive instant confirmation and an online ticket.
- What do I need to pack?
Wear appropriate shoes, bring a water bottle, sunscreen, hat, shades and layers for the day/evening tours. For the overnight tours, you also need appropriate nightwear, toiletries and a torch.
- What not to pack
You need to leave large baggage behind with your accommodation.
Morning, sunset or overnight? Dune bashing, quad biking or staring at the stars? There is a type of desert safari tour for every traveler. Just remember your sunscreen, shades, a layer, and an open mind.
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About the Author
Shipra is a digital marketer who was born and brought up in Dubai and has lived here for over 30 years. Thanks to all her friends who constantly keep visiting from abroad, she has been on a desert safari 25 times!