Once I knew we were going to Dubai for a few days on our overseas trip, I decided to try and find a tour of some sort that would include a trip into the desert. After googling for a bit I found Arabian Adventures did this type of tour. I already knew I was going to book our Ferrari World trip with them, so why not a trip into the desert?
The tour we booked onto is called the Sundowner. It runs everyday of the year and is one of their most popular tours. I was super excited to do it, once I’d read what was included. The best part about it was they pick you up and drop off at your hotel, so no trying to get to a meeting point before or finding your way back to the hotel afterwards.
We were picked up from our hotel at 4pm by our tour guide, in a Toyota Landcruiser, which was reinforced with a padded roll cage! Since each car holds 6 guests plus the driver and hubby and I were the last people to be picked up, we scored the fold down seats in the boot (they are proper seats, but fold away when not in use and they were actually really comfortable). I think we had the best seats, as we weren’t cramped like the 3 in the normal back seats in front of us.
We headed out towards a place called the Empty Quarter. It is the largest sand desert in the world and covers parts of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. The particular place in the desert which we were going to was the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. The Reserve is there to preserve the flora and fauna that lives in the desert environment. It is also where a few approved tour operators conduct the desert tours.
When we arrived we had to stop and our tour driver had to let the tyres down to drive on the sand. Once done, we headed into the reserve. It didn’t take long before we were pulling up at an area with several trees and a small grandstand type seating arrangement. Soft drinks and water were provided and we had photos taken with camels. We moved into the seating area where the falcon demonstration was going to take place.
Both hubby and I had been very interested to see this, as we’ve seen the different types of birds of prey at demonstrations here in Australia and were keen to find out how these were different. First of all the falcon was a lot smaller than I was expecting. We also found out that the bird is not loyal at all.
The Bedouin people who used to live in the desert would capture a falcon at the start of autumn. They would teach it to locate food for them and then they would feed the bird in return. However because the birds are not loyal, they had to know that you were going to feed them every time, otherwise they just wouldn’t come back to you. The birds don’t cope well in the high summer temperatures, so they would set the falcon’s free near the end of spring and the birds would migrate. Come the following autumn, the process would start again.
The falcon which was used in the demonstration had a GPS locator. The handler said that once he’d teased the bird once too often and not let him have the food he was using to exercise him with and the falcon just flew away and didn’t come back. It took the handler 2 hours to find the bird using the GPS locator. The handler also told us that they keep these birds year round, but once they finish the demonstration the bird is taken back to it’s AIR-CONDITIONED habitat! Since they still don’t cope with the heat.
After the falcon presentation came the extremely fun part….4 wheel driving over the sand dunes! Now I had never been off-road 4 wheel driving, so wasn’t really sure what to expect, but hubby and I both loved it! We went up and down the steepest dunes I’ve ever seen, then sideways nearly at one point. We were speaking with our driver during the trip and he said that the drivers get put through a specific driving course before they can do it.
After about 45 minutes of traversing the dunes we arrived at a place in the middle of nowhere, where there was a lot of cars already parked and people were climbing the dune. It was time for our sunset photos. But first I had to get up to the top of the dune, talk about an unexpected workout! Watching the sun set over the desert was an amazing experience. Being there with my hubby, doing something that we’d never even thought would be possible for us to do, was just such a great feeling. The professional photographers sucked us in, so we got several professional ones done, which look great.
Once we were back in the cars we headed off on a flat stretch of sand to our dinner venue. We arrived at a permanent desert camp. There were about 150 people at the desert camp and it was a great set up. There were camels ride when we first arrived, which hubby and I didn’t do, as we’d previously done it at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast in Australia. We did get to have the falcon sit on our arm, which was cool. You couldn’t see his eyes, as he had a little hood on to keep him calm.
The camp had toilets, displays of little arabian knick nacks, the place to pick up and pay for photos (quite expensive, but worth getting one or two), and an outdoor fire pit where the arabic coffee and dates were waiting. The other areas were tables and seating with cushions on the floor and under tents, a lounge like area for smoking shisha, a vendor who did wonderful art in vases with sand and some local ladies who did henna tattoos.
Camel rides, henna tattoos, shisha, 3 course dinner, light beer, wine, soft drinks and a belly dance show were all included activities we could partake in at the desert camp. The food was excellent, although I can’t remember what all the different entree items were called, one was like a naan bread parcel with paneer cheese in it, well I had several of those. Yummy! Main course was a sample of kebab, curry, rice and lamb chop. There were salads as well, but they didn’t make it onto my plate.
Unfortunately we didn’t have dessert, as still too full from the entree and main, but we did have some apple shisha. It was an interesting taste, as you couldn’t taste the tobacco at all, only apple flavour. I wasn’t very good at doing it, as I’m prone to asthma, (I know, I know I probably shouldn’t have done it, but the saying goes “when in rome”), so I’d end up coughing after a couple of tries. However it’s something I’ve now done once in my life (well actually twice, but that’s for another post).
Hubby and I spent a while watching the sand artist create a special vase for us (about $50 AUD). We had asked him to write our names in arabic along with 2015. It only took about 5 minutes for him to create it and it looked so colourful and bright. He then gave it to the other guy who did something to “set” it into the vase, this meant we didn’t need a lid on it, the sand just stayed where it was. The only sad part, was that by the time we got back home, it had obviously been knocked around a tiny bit too much in our luggage and some of the sand had shifted, it looks good, but not as good as it did when it was first made, as evident by the below photos.
Above: When it was first made. Below: When we opened the box after we arrived home.
I saw a few of the other ladies getting henna done and finally decided to get something small. It was cold going onto my skin, and I had to hold my hand and arm flat for along as possibly after it was done so that I didn’t smudge it. The only thing I didn’t like about it, was that it had a very strong herbal smell, but it went away after about an hour.
For 5 minutes just before we left the desert camp ALL of the lights in the amp were turned off. At the time we were in the shisha lounge which was just magical. We were lounging in these arm chair shaped cushions, gazing up into sky at the millions of stars. It was a great way to finish the night.
We loaded back up into our car with our driver and 4 other guests then headed back to the entrance of the reserve. Our driver had to re-pump the tyres to drive on the road again, then we were back on the highway heading back towards the light of the Dubai city centre. We were dropped off back at our hotel at about 10.30pm and we couldn’t believe how much fun and how much we’d learnt about on our 6 hour trip.
Our driver had told us that there is a tour where you can stay at a desert camp overnight, which both hubby and I said that if we ever get the opportunity to go back to Dubai, we would definitely to do that.
So with everything that was included in our tour, I would have expected to pay about $200 AUD per person. Well it was 335 AED, which converted to AUD is only $118! It was the same cost as going to Draculas Cabaret on the Gold Coast, except so much better and so much more was included in the price.
If you do only one thing while in Dubai, DO THIS TOUR! I highly recommend it. Hubby and I would definitely do it again and we are still talking about this tour to any of our friends and family who will listen (pretty sure they have all heard about at least twice each now).
We have already agreed that if we go back to Dubai, we would defintiely be booking more tours with Arabian Adventures. They were very professional, their staff were polite and very helpful and answered all our questions we had for them. They were all very enthusiastic about their work and making sure we enjoyed our time, so that to me is a great thing to see.
For more information about the tour and to book, click here.
Have your ever been on a tour that you loved 110% and would do again? What was it? and where was it?
NOTE: this is not a sponsored post, I’m just saying what I think.