If you are headed to Dubai, you have to experience the desert safari. It is a great experience to try with or without your kids. It’s like a huge carnival on the soft, brown sand, complete with thrills, henna painting, camel rides, exotic birds, enthralling performances, photo booths and, of course, incredible food. With all that, what ’s not to like? Plus, there’s sand everywhere, like a beach without the ocean. What kid doesn’t love that?
There are three basic types of safari: morning, evening, and overnight. We opted for an evening safari, which was during the coolest part of the day from 4 pm to 9 pm. The tour company picked up us from the hotel around 3:15 pm. After a 45-minute drive, we reached the desert.
First on the agenda? We changed from our tour vehicle to a Land Rover for some dune bashing.
The highly skilled driver drives the SUV up, down, and all around the dunes. Just like a roller coaster without the rails, this thrilling activity was scary at times! I was worried about taking our young kids out and hoping the whole time the SUV didn’t tip over. In the end, no one got hurt, and the kids had a blast. The only thing worse for the wear was my nerves!
Tip: If you are not comfortable with dune bashing or get motion sick, then please tell your tour operator in advance. Dune bashing is not recommended for kids under 3 years old.
After the dune bashing, we went to a Bedouin-style camp. The Bedouins are nomadic Arab peoples whose unique and beautiful culture has been recognized for thousands of years.
Right outside the camp, there was a free camel ride. Though the ride was very short, the kids had fun.
Inside the camp, there were many activities to keep everyone entertained for hours.
Henna is the traditional act of painting hands, arms, feet, and legs. It frequently marks holidays or marriage ceremonies in Middle Eastern culture. My kids stood in a line to get Henna tattooed on the backs of their hands. I was impressed by their patience — not every four-year-old can wait like that! When they got to the front, they decided to get cat tattoos instead of traditional designs. Who can blame them?
The tour company provided authentic, traditional Arab garments for fun photo-ops. My kids had a blast trying on the different clothes and scarves.
As if photo-ops in traditional clothing weren’t enough, you could also have your picture taken with a live hunting falcon. These birds are surprisingly large and majestic.
Watch the Sunset:
My husband and I loved watching the sunset over the dunes while the kids played in the sand. The desert is a landscape like no other, and the sight is not something I’ll forget anytime soon.
After sunset, the entertainment continued. My kids were mesmerized by the dance performances on stage. There were variety of acts, including belly dancers; dancers in electric costumes; dancers with spinning, brightly colored cloaks; dancers with fire; and a dancer in a horse costume. I’m pretty sure that my kids were so focused that they forgot to blink during the show. The performers were all great and kept the kids, and their parents, entertained. My kids even got a chance to dance on stage, too.
If you’re feeling adventurous, there is hookah for the grown-ups to try. The colorful hookahs are all locally-made, and the shisha comes in a variety of different flavors.
The buffet had a good selection of BBQ items including salads, vegetables, bread, meat on a skewer, chicken, and fish. The buffet lines can get long but, if you opt for a high-end safari, private tent and table service is included.
We all had a fantastic time during the desert safari, and my kids enjoyed everything about it. The highlight of their trip was running in the sand just outside of the campsite. They ran, they rolled, and they had sand all over themselves! Even inside the camp, they sat on the ground and played with the soft, brown desert sand for hours. When you sign your family up for a desert safari, you’re signing them up for a beautiful experience that they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives.
TIP: Please check Trip Advisor for reviews, book from a reputable company, or ask your hotel to make arrangements. Also, know that safari quality can vary a great deal according to price. Please make sure that activities are included in the price or you may end up paying more.