Dubai desert safari: Experience the desert in Dubai

A Dubai desert safari is one of the glamorous emirate’s most popular excursions. But what can you expect from a desert safari in Dubai? Imagine exploring the vast the sandscape that lies in between Dubai and the Omani border, driving the scenic dunes in a 4×4 vehicle, participating an exhilarating dune bashing activity, taking an enchanting camel ride, experiencing a sand boarding session or watching a falconry demonstration before spending the evening in a magically torch-lit desert camp while indulging in the most mouth-watering Emirati food and watching some local dance or music performances. And to top it off, pick-up and drop-off are included, no matter where you stay in Dubai centre. That’s a typical Dubai desert safari in a nutshell but of course, there are many variations when it comes to activities and time of day.

Whichever Dubai desert safari version you choose to go with, you’re in for an unforgettable experience. This truly is a quintessential activity that you just have to include in your Dubai itinerary. But which Dubai desert safari is right for you? That’s where we come in. In this article, we share our personal desert safari experience with Dubai’s most renowned operator and in addition, we give an overview of the different desert safaris in Dubai by interest. Finally, we also list some shorter versions of this exciting Dubai activity that are more activity-focused. So, are you ready to discover the best desert safari tours in Dubai? Let’s dive in!

Family camel riding in the Dubai desert at sunset
Vintage Land Rover wildlife desert safari in Dubai at sunset


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Best desert safari in Dubai: Platinum Heritage Dubai

About the tour provider

When checking out various safari operators, there was one that stood us and that was Platinum Heritage. The company is known to offer some of the most luxurious desert safaris in Dubai. We agreed that, if there was one Dubai activity that was really worth the splurge, it was this one. Okay, we ended splurging on many more activities such as a visit to the Burj Al Arab (we took the Inside tour), the Ain Dubai ferris wheel, the Aquaventure waterpark, the Burj Khalifa At the Top sunrise experience, an Abu Dhabi city tour and just about every Dubai souk, but no regrets since we had the time of our life. The Platinum Heritage desert safaris consistently get glowing reviews and their impressive list of celebrity clients (Will Smith, Selena Gomez, Kylie Minogue to name a few) speaks for itself.

Platinum Heritage’s offer consists of the wonderful and exclusive Heritage collection, the bespoke and gastronomic Platinum collection and the adventurous Overland Collection.

The Heritage Collection is the most popular desert safari and includes an adventure pack,either an hour-long nature safari by Vintage Land Rover or a camel caravan, a falconry demonstration, a 4-course buffet dinner and cultural entertainment. You have the option to add an overnight stay with breakfast and a morning sunrise balloon experience.

Arabian carpet and cushion on the sand at sunset during a desert safari Dubai

An exclusive location

This Dubai desert safari takes place inside a private, Royal desert retreat in the heart of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR). Only a small number of select concessionaires have the privilege of operating in this fragile desert ecosystem. It’s the same area where the fancy Al Maha Desert Resort is located. With this privilege comes the obligation to respect the desert landscapes and bio-diversity. The reserve is home to hundreds of Arabian oryx as well as Arabian and sand gazelles.

A responsible travel company

Platinum Heritage prides itself on its sustainable mission. All their desert safaris are entertaining yet educational and supervised by licensed conservation guides. Examples of their sustainable approach include the solar power operated Bedouin camp, the Land Rovers that were rebuilt in an effort to reduce their carbon emissions, the use of stainless steel water bottles, the wildlife drives as an environmentally friendly alternative to dune bashing, the attention for the wellbeing of the camels and falcons as well as the focus on true Emirati heritage with local dance performances instead of imported dances such as belly dancing and Tanura dancing.

Our experience

Our desert safari started with a timely pick-up at 14.30 p.m. in our Jumeirah hotel by Jafar, our friendly guide for the day. Another couple, who also stayed in our hotel, joined us for the ride in the Toyota Land Cruiser. After about an hour, and after a quick stop at the Al Marmoom Camel Race Track, we reached the meeting point in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

Safari morning desert tour by Heritage Land Rover in the United Arab Emirates

There, a few dozen of participants were guided to the tour of their choice: the Vintage Land Rover tour or the camel riding tour. We had opted for the last one and the camels, attached in groups or three, were eagerly awaiting us. We were given an adventure pack with a stainless steel water bottle and a staff member kindly tied our bedouin-styled headscarf.

Camel desert safari in Dubai
Short camel ride Dubai desert
Silhouette of our camel caravan during the Dubai desert safari tour

The girls could sit together on one camel and hubby and myself each had our own so-called ship of the desert. We climbed over the hump of our camel and leaned back just in time for the fun part when the camel pushes up. We handled ourselves pretty well, if I can say so myself. Then off we were, into the Arabian desert, just as the sun was starting to set. It was such a peaceful experience. Picture-perfect too, since no sunset is as specular as one in the desert.

People and camels in the Dubai desert red sand dunes at sunset
Platinum Heritage offers the best desert safari Dubai
Falconry demonstration in the desert during a safari at Dubai
Father and daughter in the Dubai desert at sunset
Falcon in the desert sky at sunset

After about 45 minutes, we reached the next stop where we received a wet towel to clean our hands. We were greeted with vimto and karak chai and invited to take place on the soft carpets and cozy cushions. As the last rays of sun casted a warm glow over the rolling sand dunes, we were treated to an interesting falconry demonstration. The falcon only performs once every evening and spends the rest of his day in an air conditioned residence. This one is male but did you know that the female peregrine falcon is actually the fastest animal on the planet and can reach speeds of over 300 km (186 miles) per hour? The falconry show concluded with a photo opportunity.

Magical atmosphere at the Platinum Heritage desert camp

Our tour guide Jafar then took us to our final destination: the Bedouin camp. The torch-lit setting at twilight seemed to come straight out of a story book. We received a splash of rose water to refresh our hands and were greeted with karak chai and dates. It was the start of a magical evening under the stars.

Little girl getting a henna tattoo
Little girl attending a coffee roasting demonstration
Dubai desert safari entry of jarjeer and fatoush salads, lamb kibbeh, hummus and rigag served in wooden bowls on a wooden table

While the girls were getting a henna tattoo, we checked out the rigag bread making and Arabic coffee roasting demonstrations. A bit later, our entries were served: jarjeer and fatoush salads, lamb kibbeh, hummus and rigag. We were also treated to a delicious lentil soup.
(We’ll be writing an entire blog post about Dubai food soon so stay tuned.)

Yola dance demonstration during the Platinum Heritage desert safari in Dubai
Drumming demonstration at a desert camp

As Arabic music started to fill the air, two yola dancers took the stage. It’s a traditional weapon dance that Bedouins used to perform after a hunting expedition. Next up was a drumming demonstration in which the audience was invited to participate.

Dinner buffet at a desert camp
Desert safari Dubai a delicious barbecue dinner plate of ouzi cooked the traditional way in an underground pit, grilled veggies, rice, chicken tajine, harees and camel meat

After working up an appetite drumming, it was time for the main course. A buffet of ouzi cooked the traditional way in an underground pit, grilled veggies, rice, chicken tajine, harees and camel meat. Yep, you read that right. 😉 We loved the food. While we finished our plate to the last crumb, the girls snook off to the camels and enjoyed a final ride. They got back just in time for dessert, luqaimat and a selection of fresh fruit, while my hubby smoked shisha.

Stone dwelling part of the Platinum Heritage Dubai desert camp

We really didn’t want this enchanting evening to end. And it doesn’t have to either, since you can also spend the night at this cozy camp in one of the stone dwelling rooms.

Why we believe this to be the best Dubai desert safari

It’s a carefree experience with a hint of luxury, just how we like it. And, while Dubai desert safaris may have the reputation to be very touristic, the unique setting and impeccable service of Platinum Heritage safaris actually make it feel like a genuine and intimate experience rather than a touristy one. The staff are highly attentive and every little details is being thought of. The colorful collection of vintage Series I and II Land Rovers adds a wonderful make it very photogenic.

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Family ready to embark on a vintage Land Rover desert safari tour in Dubai

You can optionally purchase a video and professional photos of your experience at the end of the tour. The video is a combination of personal shots taken during the nature safari, drone shots and impressions of the Bedouin camp. It captures the atmosphere perfectly.

Another important aspect that makes this the best Dubai desert safari, is the ethical approach. The animals are treated with respect and are well taken care of. Both the camels and falcon only do one tour every evening at dusk and that’s it.

This is a premium desert safari and you pay for that but, in our opinion, it was so worth it. The experience was truly phenomenal. If you’re looking for a unique, luxurious and memorable desert safari in Dubai, we would warmly recommend Platinum Heritage.

Here’s how to book the best desert safari in Dubai

Other Dubai desert safari favorites

Wondering which Dubai desert safari is best for you? It really all depends on your expectations, budget and interests. Desert safaris in Dubai come in all kinds of variations, from classic to exclusive, from romantic to thrilling and everything in between. Enough to make your head spin. But don’t despair! We did plenty of research, resulting in a curated list of favorites.

Number one most popular desert safari in Dubai

  • Premium Red Dunes, Camel Safari & BBQ at Al Khayma Camp. Operated by OceanAir Travels.
    This classic evening desert safari consistently gets glowing reviews. You’ll be in for an amazing desert exploration that includes sand boarding, dune bashing, camel rides, camel feeding and a falcon interaction as well as sunset photo opportunities. The evening concludes with a convivial bbq buffet dinner, henna and dance performances at the Al Khayma Desert Camp. Pick-up and drop-off are included, an ATV experience is optional.
    GetYourGuide booking pageViator booking pageTripAdvisor booking page

Best affordable Dubai desert safaris

  • Dubai Desert Safari Red Dune: BBQ, Camel Ride & Sandboarding. Operated by Ammar Tours.
    This evening desert safari offers the complete experience at a very affordable rate. It includes pick-up and drop-off, red dune bashing, sand boarding, camel riding as well as a sunset photography session. It comes in an activity-only version or a dinner-included version with a Tanoura and belly dancing show as well as a fire show.
    GetYourGuide booking pageViator booking pageTripAdvisor booking page
  • Morning Safari, Sandsurf & Camels at Al Khayma. Operated by OceanAir Travels.
    The standard version of this morning desert safari includes pick-up and drop-off, dune bashing, sand boarding, camel riding at a camel farm and drinks. For a supplement, you can add an authentic Arabian brunch at the Al Khayma Heritage House in the Al Fahidi Historical District in Dubai. We enjoyed dinner there during our trip (not related to the desert safari) and really liked the setting and food.
    GetYourGuide booking pageViator booking pageTripAdvisor booking page
  • Dubai Red Dune Desert Safari: Camel Ride, Sandboarding & BBQ Options. Operated by Dream Journey Tourism.
    Another affordable evening desert safari tour that comes in two versions. The activity-focused standard 4-hour program comes with pickup and drop-off, dune bashing, camel riding, sand boarding, a sunset photo stop and drinks. The longer 7-hour program concludes at the torch-lit Bedouin camp where you can enjoy a traditional dinner, dance performances, henna and shisha. Both version offer optional quad bike riding.
    GetYourGuide booking pageViator booking pageTripAdvisor booking page
Safari dune bashing Dubai desert

Best romantic Dubai desert safari

  • Platinum Desert Safari. Operated by Platinum Heritage.
    This desert tour is part of this tour company’s exclusive Platinum collection. It includes an environmentally friendly wildlife drive in a luxury Range Rover on Royal grounds, a visit to a bird sanctuary by a desert lake, a falconry demonstration and a sunset camel ride. After this private desert exploration, you can enjoy a mouth-watering culinary experience in your private oasis cabana under the starlit sky. Pick-up and drop-off in a private vehicle included.
    GetYourGuide booking pageViator booking pageTripAdvisor booking page
  • Overnight desert dinner and glamping. Operated by Sonara.
    Okay so, technically, this is not a desert safari but rather a lavish dinner on the same royal grounds where Platinum Heritage operates. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t add some adventure to your Sonara experience. The list of optional desert activities is pretty much endless. Do note, however, that pick-up and drop-off are not included.
    TripAdvisor booking page

Best overnight desert safaris in Dubai

  • Overnight Heritage Desert Safari. Operated by Platinum Heritage.
    This is the one we described in detail above and includes an adventure pack, either an hour-long nature safari by Vintage Land Rover or a camel caravan, a falconry demonstration, a 4-course dinner and cultural entertainment. In addition, you’ll get to spend a night in a stone dwelling room (not a Bedouin tent) and enjoy breakfast in the morning. Note that the camp is not equipped with showers but that running water as well as clean bathroom facilities are available. The focus is on responsible travel and authentic Emirati culture. Activities take place in small groups and the overnight experience is limited to 24 persons.
    GetYourGuide booking linkViator booking linkTripAdvisor booking link
  • Dubai Overnight Safari, Camels & BBQ at Al Khayma Camp. Operated by Ocean Air Travels.
    This desert tour includes an afternoon program of thrilling dune bashing, sand boarding, a camel ride. In the evening, you get to enjoy dinner and live evening shows before spending the night in a Bedouin tent. You’ll wake up at sunrise, when you can indulge in Arabian breakfast and take a sunrise camel ride. Showers are available. The focus is more on entertainment and includes elements from other Arabian cultures than just the Emirati. Activities take place in larger groups and the overnight experience is limited to 200 persons.
    GetYourGuide booking linkViator booking linkTripAdvisor booking link

Best one-of-a-kind Dubai desert safaris

  • Overnight Heritage Desert Safari with Hot Air Balloon Flight at Sunrise. Operated by Balloon Adventures Dubai in partnership with Platinum Heritage.
    This program is essentially the same as the Platinum Heritage Overnight Heritage Desert Safari float as described in the aforementioned paragraph. In addition, you get to experience a unique hot air balloon flight. Imagine seeing the sun rise over the mesmerizing desert and the Hajar Mountains. A gourmet Arabian breakfast awaits after the flight.
    GetYourGuide booking linkViator booking linkTripAdvisor booking link
  • Dubai Falconry Safari. Operated by Royal Shaheen Events.
    Falconry is deeply rooted in Bedouin culture. This unique desert safari gives you the opportunity to learn all about this hunting tradition and to it yourself. That’s right, you actually get a falcon to try from your gloved hand… and back! This experience takes place in the renowned Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
    GetYourGuide booking linkViator booking linkTripAdvisor booking link
  • Private Night Safari with Astronomy Session. Operated by Platinum Heritage.
    Morning and evening desert safaris may be most popular but did you know that you can also explore the desert after dart? During this private tour, your driver will help you spot the desert’s nocturnal animals by means of night-vision binoculars, all from the comfort of your vintage Land Rover. After a delicious 2-course dinner, an astronomer will take you on a stargazing session. No better place to watch the stars than a glorious stretch of pristine desert far away from the Dubai city lights.
    GetYourGuide booking linkViator booking linkTripAdvisor booking link

Even more options

Our curated list contains the best of the best when it comes to Dubai desert safaris. But there are many more tour operators that provide similar safaris in the Dubai desert. Some of those adventures are included with the GoCity Dubai All-inclusive city pass and are optional with the GoCity Dubai Explorer city pass.

GoCity Dubai All-inclusive city pass includes several Dubai desert safaris
GoCity Dubai Explorer city pass includes several Dubai desert safaris
Camels resting on the sand during a desert safari Dubai

Frequently asked questions

What to wear on a desert safari in Dubai?

It’s recommended to wear lightweight and breathable clothing that offers protection from the desert sun. Cotton and linnen clothes are perfect. Winter evenings are a bit cooler and a light sweater or jacket might be comfortable.

Closed shoes such as walking shoes, sneakers or light boots are ideal for desert activities. Sandals feel uncomfortable in the sand and flip flops are not recommended because you can easily loose them during a camel ride… and trying to locate those in the sand will be quite a challenge.

Don’t forget to take sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat or shawl if one should not be provided.

Is a Dubai desert safari recommended for families with kids?

It sure is! Our girls were 12 and 9 and absolutely loved the experience. The camel rides, the henna, the camel rides, the dance performance, the camel rides… 😉

Note that activities such as dune bashing are not allowed for kids under 3 and camel rides not recommended for kids under 5. That’s why most activity providers will only allow kids aged 5 and up. We also noticed some potential dangers at the camp site, open fires for one. So, if you do decide to take your toddler, then keep him or her close.

Always make sure to inform the tour provider of the age of your little ones so that the right child seat can be provided for the transfer.

How much does a Dubai desert safari cost?

Prices range from around 155 AED per person for a short, activity-only desert safari to 13,500 AED for a luxurious and private desert experience with a culinary twist. Check out the booking links that we mentioned in our overview of tour suggestions to find the price of your favorite Dubai desert safari.

Should I opt for a morning, evening or overnight desert safari? 

That entirely depends on your preference. If you’re looking for an activity-packed experience or are short on time, then a morning desert safari is ideal. Most evening desert safaris tend to come with bbq dinner and entertainment, making them perfectly suited for those travelers looking for a more comprehensive experience.

And for those who you can’t choose between the two, there’s the overnight safari allowing you to experience both the sunset and the sunrise in the desert.

Do these tours operate during Ramadan?

Most tours do operate during Ramadan but entertainment such as dance performances will be unavailable then. So, if you’ll be traveling during Ramadan, then do make sure to check the fine print for the tour of your choice.

Are bathrooms available during the safari?

Restrooms are available on the camp sites. And we have to admit that, at least at the Platinum Heritage campsite, the facilities were clean and comfortable. If you booked an activity-only desert safari, then the driver will make a rest stop.

Your Dubai Desert Safari experience awaits…

So, is a Dubai desert safari worth it? Yes, it is! Especially when you choose a tour company that makes it its mission educate as well as entertain, that treats its guests as royalty, that commits itself to protect the fragile ecosystem it operates at and that cares about the welfare of its animals. Our Platinum Heritage experience truly was the highlight of our trip.

Have you been on a desert safari in Dubai? If so, which one did you pick and what was your favorite activity? If not, which one do you consider for your desert adventure and why? We’d love to find out all about your plans. The comment box is all yours!

Dubai camels resting on the sand and a vintage Land Rover doing a sunset desert safari in Dubai
Torch-lit Dubai desert camp at dusk

2 Comments

  1. Nora

    This sounds amazing Sarah! After the 45 min camel ride, did they drive you to the camp in one of the land rovers? I am torn between the camel or land rover safari!

    1. Sarah

      Hi Nora. It was such an amazing experience indeed. The camel ride ends at the location for the falconry show. From there, it’s just a short drive – about 2 minutes – to the Bedouin camp. Those who opted for the camel safari are taken to the Bedouin camp by the same guide who did the hotel pick-up and in the same vehicle (Toyota Land Cruiser). Those who opted for the Vintage Land Rover tour, were taken to the Bedouin camp in their vintage car. So at no point did us camel-cruisers ever get to board the vintage car. There’s just a small photo opp right before the camel tour but that’s it. The vintage-cruisers do get to make a small camel tour in the Bedouin camp but that’s just a quick tour after dark. There’s no Platinum Heritage offer that combines both experiences, I’m afraid. We struggled with the same dilemma but looking back, we’re still happy that we went with the camels. It kind of completed the experience. But whichever option you choose to go with, I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time! Let me know how it went, Nora. I really look forward to reading about your experience too!

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