A desert safari is a popular activity in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that takes visitors out to the desert for a taste of Bedouin culture. You can choose between a morning or evening desert safari, both of which have pros and cons depending on your interests. This article compares the two to help you decide when is the best time to experience the desert.
Morning Desert Safari Activities
A morning desert safari begins early when temperatures are cooler. Activities include:
- Dune bashing – An exciting ride over sand dunes in a 4×4 vehicle. Less crowded than evening tours.
- Camel riding – Slow ride to enjoy the desert scenery. Less crowded than evenings.
- Sandboarding – Slide down enormous sand dunes. Conditions best in the morning.
- Sunrise views – Marvel at incredible desert sunrise colors. Coolest temperatures of the day.
Advantages: Less crowded activities, better wildlife sightings, cooler temperatures of about 30°C.
Disadvantages: No dinner under the stars, no evening entertainment.
Evening Desert Safari Activities
Evening desert safaris begin in late afternoon. Activities include:
- Dune bashing – Same exhilarating dune bashing as the mornings but more crowded.
- Quad biking – Ride your own quad bike over dunes at fast speeds.
- Camel riding – Short camel rides as sun sets over dunes. Very crowded.
- Entertainment – Traditional dancing, singing, even belly dancing shows.
- Dinner – Barbecue dinner included under the stars at a desert campsite. Great ambiance.
Advantages: Dinner under the stars, evening shows for entertainment. Temperatures more pleasant than day at about 25°C.
Disadvantages: Extremely crowded especially for photographs. Late return back to city around 9 pm.
Comparing Morning vs Evening Desert Safari
|Morning Desert Safari
|Evening Desert Safari
|Less crowded, better experience
|Extremely crowded, especially around sunset
|Can get very hot in afternoons, around 30°C
|Cooler in evenings, around 25°C
|Approx. $50 per person
|Approx. $60 per person
|Dune bashing, camel riding, sandboarding
|Dune bashing, camel riding, quad biking
|Incredible sunrise over desert
|Sunset over desert also beautiful
|No dinner or entertainment
|Barbecue dinner and shows included
Consider these factors when deciding between a morning or evening desert safari:
- How well do you handle heat? Early morning safaris avoid the afternoon sun.
- Do you want more crowd-free photographs or don’t mind crowds?
- Is experiencing sunset views a priority over sunrise when touring the desert?
- Are you interested in evening entertainment and barbecue dinner?
When to Book
For morning desert safaris, book 24 hours in advance. Last minute bookings are usually available too.
For evening desert safaris, book 3-4 days in advance during peak seasons as they sell out very fast. Off-season, you may get last minute bookings.
Look for deals online or packaged with other activities to save money. Hotels also offer desert safari packages.
Some reputable operators include:
- Arabian Adventures
- Alpha Tours Dubai
- Lama Desert Tours
- Desert Safari Dubai
- Platinum Heritage
Check online reviews before booking. Avoid very budget tours as they may rush you.
- Morning desert safaris take place when temperatures are cooler while evening safaris have pleasant temperatures around sunset time.
- Activities are similar but evenings include entertainment and dinner. Mornings have fewer crowds.
- Book evening desert safaris 3-4 days in advance to avoid missing out during peak seasons.
- Reputable tour operators have excellent reviews and safety standards for vehicles.
While both morning and evening desert safaris have unique advantages, evening tours are more popular for their sunset views, entertainment and barbecue dinners. But morning tours provide a better experience for activities because of fewer crowds. Choose based on how you handle heat, desire for sunset views, and interest in evening shows. Reputable operators ensure you enjoy safety standards and quality guides too.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I customize my itinerary or activities for the desert safari?
Yes, many operators allow you to customize add-ons like overnight desert camping, falconry, longer camel treks, dune buggy rides etc. This may change pricing so check with them on options.
- How long do morning and evening desert safaris last?
Most morning desert safaris run for 4-5 hours starting very early. Evening desert safaris run for 6-8 hours in total including hotel transfers. Timings vary by season and tour company.
- Which is better for families – morning or evening?
Both are great for families. But evenings have more entertainment and excitement for kids with shows and food. While mornings are less crowded, easier to manage kids before heat rises. Decide as per your family’s interests.
- Is it very hot during summer mornings in the desert?
Yes, temperatures can easily exceed 40 degree Celsius in summer mornings from June to September. Not ideal for activity packed tours unless you start very early and return before afternoon peak heat.
- What kind of shows can I see in the evening desert safaris?
Most camps have live Tanoura dancing, traditional Emirati Ayala dance performances, belly dancing, Arabic singing (& sometimes international DJs). Some allow optional upgrades to private shows too.
- Do I need an international driving license for dune bashing or quad biking?
No, almost all desert safari activities including dune bashing and quad biking make use of vehicles and bikes belonging to the tour operator itself. So visitors do not have to drive. Sit back and enjoy the thrill ride!
- Should I tip the desert safari guides?
Tipping is not mandatory but appreciated if you had a good experience. Usually $5-10 per traveler is fine as a token of thanks to guides, drivers and servers. Give it discretely in cash at the end.
- Can I upgrade my evening desert safari to a private or luxury tour?
Yes, many companies offer private VIP tours with premium dining and seating away from crowds. Luxury camps have upgraded amenities and five-star hospitality too. Rates depend on customization.
- Do I need desert safari clothing or can I wear regular clothes?
Casual clothing like t-shirts, shorts, dresses and slippers are fine as most camps are open spaces. Just ensure its lightweight, modest and washable for the activities involved. Use common sense.
- Can senior citizens go for desert safaris in Dubai?
Yes, many healthy seniors actively enjoy both morning and evening desert safaris. Dune bashing can be too bumpy so avoid that ride or ask for special vehicle. Other than that, tours cater well to all age groups.
- Is alcohol allowed on desert safaris for tourists?
In Dubai, some camps serve alcohol with dinner or dances to tourists with licensed bars. Abu Dhabi has restrictions on alcohol in desert conservation areas – most tours are dry with no alcohol there.
- Can I do a desert safari during pregnancy?
Not advisable to go dune bashing when pregnant as bumpy ride is risky. But pregnant ladies can still enjoy camels, shows etc. Check with your doctor, take precautions and inform tour operator too.
- Do I need a COVID vaccination certificate for desert safari?
No COVID vaccination proof is needed as tours happen outdoors and vehicles seat only confirmed groups together. But do wear a mask when close to others as precaution. Check latest Dubai entry rules too.
- What kind of camels are used for desert safaris?
Mainly the highly adaptable, single-humped Arabian camels are used. Much calmer temperament than Bactrian. Some camps also have exotic camels from Australia like Walter that has long shaggy fur.
- Can we do desert safari if observing Ramadan fasting?
Yes but not advisable for evening tours as tempting dinner spreads could disrupt fasting. Possible for morning/afternoon tours ending before Iftar. Request tour operator to avoid serving food in vehicle enroute too.
- Is desert safari allowed during Eid holidays in UAE?
Yes, desert safaris operate through Eid holidays which is peak season. But expect huge crowds everywhere – on roads, camps, for activities etc. Book well in advance for availability. You may enjoy Eid discounts too!