Desert safari is one of the most popular activities in the UAE, with tourists flocking to the golden dunes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi for an adventurous excursion. But which emirate offers the better desert safari experience? This article compares and contrasts desert safaris in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to help you decide which one is right for you.
Desert safaris typically involve driving through the desert in 4×4 vehicles to experience dune bashing, sandboarding, camel rides, sunset views, and Bedouin-style camps with entertainment and meals. Highlights include:
Dune bashing involves driving up and down steep sand dunes in a 4×4 vehicle. Drivers intentionally swerve on the dunes to thrill passengers.
Many tours offer short camel rides so visitors can experience a taste of traditional desert life.
Some tours provide sandboards so guests can try surfing down the enormous sand dunes.
Watching the sunset over the rolling golden dunes is a highlight of any desert safari.
Most tours include visits to mock Bedouin camps where guests can try local cuisine, dress in traditional clothes, get henna tattoos, smoke shisha, and watch cultural performances.
Desert Safari Options in Dubai
Dubai has a wide variety of desert safari offerings to suit different interests and budgets:
Hummer Desert Safari
This luxurious option uses Hummer vehicles for dune bashing and visits a lavish camp. It’s pricier but offers a premium experience.
Overnight Desert Safari
Multi-day safaris allow more time for activities like camel trekking, falconry, sandboarding and quad biking. Guests spend the night in a comfortable desert camp.
Private Desert Safari
Private tours are customized to your preferences and can be ideal for solo travelers, couples, or families seeking exclusivity.
Desert Safari with BBQ Dinner
Most Dubai desert safaris include a grill dinner with meats, salads, sides and desserts at a Bedouin-style camp.
Desert Safari Options in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi also boasts excellent desert safaris, though the options are generally more limited than Dubai:
Half-Day Morning Desert Safari
Morning safaris allow you to experience the desert during cooler temperatures. Tours generally run 5-6 hours.
Full-Day Desert Safari
Full-day tours provide ample time for activities like dune bashing, camel riding, sandboarding, henna, and quad biking before settling in at a camp for dinner and entertainment.
Overnight Desert Safari
Overnight options include lavish dinners, star-gazing, falconry, wildlife spotting,olkoric activities, and more time at the desert camp.
Private Desert Safari
Like Dubai, private Abu Dhabi desert safari tours can be customized to your preferences.
Comparing Dubai and Abu Dhabi Desert Safaris
So which destination offers the superior desert safari experience? Here’s a comparison of some key factors:
Variety of Offerings
Winner: Dubai. With options like Hummer safaris, private tours, and overnight excursions, Dubai simply has more desert safari variety than Abu Dhabi.
Quality of Dune Bashing
Winner: Draw. Both Emirates offer excellent dune bashing through massive red and golden dunes. Smooth, thrilling rides can be found in both places.
Winner: Draw. Dubai and Abu Dhabi camps both provide quality cultural insights with camel rides, falconry, henna, Arabic costumes, belly dancing and Tanoura shows.
Winner: Dubai. For travelers seeking ultra-luxury desert experiences, Dubai has more elite offerings like helicopter rides and private plane tours.
Winner: Dubai. With more options like overnight safaris, dune buggy rentals and hot air balloon rides, Dubai edges out Abu Dhabi slightly for fun and adventure.
Winner: Abu Dhabi. Safaris are located closer to Abu Dhabi’s downtown hotels and attractions compared to Dubai where longer transit is required.
Winner: Abu Dhabi. On average, Abu Dhabi desert safaris are more economical than Dubai. But Dubai has budget options too.
- Dubai offers far more desert safari variety, but Abu Dhabi tours are more economical.
- Dune bashing and cultural experiences are world-class in both emirates.
- Dubai has more high-end luxury desert tour options.
- Abu Dhabi safaris can be more convenient for stays on Abu Dhabi Island.
- Both destinations offer excellent desert safari experiences – you really can’t go wrong!
While there are advantages to both destinations, Dubai narrowly edges out Abu Dhabi as the emirate with the best desert safari offerings overall. The sheer variety of tour options, extensive dune landscapes, and lavish camps give Dubai the advantage. But truthfully, you’ll have an unforgettable desert safari experience whether you choose Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Both provide immersive cultural experiences and the chance to thrill across desert sands on dune bashers. For convenience and affordability, Abu Dhabi is a great option – but Dubai is tough to beat for desert safari excitement, adventure and luxury.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should I do a morning or evening desert safari?
A: Evening desert safaris are more popular as they showcase the sunset over the dunes. But morning options are a great way to avoid the midday heat.
Q: How much does a desert safari cost?
A: Prices range widely, but average from $50-$150 USD per person for evening group tours. Private and luxury tours cost several hundred dollars.
Q: What should I wear?
A: Casual clothes, closed toe shoes, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are recommended. Some camps will provide traditional Arabic robes.
Q: Is desert safari good for kids?
A: Yes, many kids enjoy dune bashing and activities like camel riding and sandboarding. Just confirm age policies with your tour operator.
Q: Is it better to book in advance or on-site?
A: Advance booking locks in pricing and guarantees availability. But booking on-site via hotel desks or tour kiosks works too.
Q: What should I bring?
A: Insect repellent, cameras, medication if prone to motion sickness, and cash for souvenirs and tipping are recommended.
Q: How strenuous is desert safari?
A: Dune bashing can be very bumpy – not ideal for people with back injuries. But many activities require only light activity. Check with your doctor.
Q: Is it safe for pregnant women?
A: Dune bashing is too risky. But pregnant travelers can enjoy camps and camel rides on milder tours. Ask your doctor first.
Q: Can I do desert safari with kids?
A: Many families enjoy desert safaris, but check age restrictions. Activities like dune bashing may have minimum ages like 5+ years.
Q: What’s the best tour operator?
A: Top rated desert safari companies in Dubai include Platinum Heritage Tours, Desert Safari Experiences, and Arabian Adventures. Rayna Tours and Abu Dhabi Safari are great for Abu Dhabi.
Q: Should I tip my desert safari guide/driver?
A: Yes, it’s customary to tip guides 10-20 AED ($3-$5 USD) if you received good service. Some tours quote prices excluding tips.
Q: Is desert safari available year-round?
A: Desert safari tours run daily year-round, though summer months are very hot. Best times weather-wise are October through April.
Q: What if I get motion sickness?
A: Let your guide know ahead of time. Sit near the front of the vehicle and/or take motion sickness medication before your tour.
Q: What is there to do at the desert camps?
A: Camps offer shows like belly dancing, Tanoura spinning, and camel rides. You can also get temporary henna tattoos, smoke shisha, try on robes, and more.
Q: What is the cancellation or refund policy?
A: Policies vary. Read terms when booking. Desert safaris may charge 50% cancellation fees and non-refundable if cancelled within 24-48 hours.
Q: Can I combine desert safari with other activities?
A: Many companies offer combo deals, like pairing desert safaris with city tours, yoga classes, hot air balloon rides or private jet tours. Shop around for deals.
Q: Is desert safari accessible for seniors or those with limited mobility?
A: Dune bashing may be too rough, but adapted vehicles and camps with level surfaces can accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, etc. Inquire about accessibility options when booking.