Desert fun in Abu Dhabi

Dune bashing, desert safari, hot-air balloon rides, sand golf and more Comments

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What springs to mind on hearing the word ‘desert’? Crazy temperatures, camels, endless sand dunes? Well, what we think of at TOAD is an oasis of fun under the sun. Road trips, sporting activities, dune bashing, hot air ballooning – you’ll find it all here waiting in the sand.

Did you know that the Rub’ al Khali, or the Empty Quarter, covers 650,000 square kilometers of land, which makes it the largest sand desert in the world? Or that some of the archaeological sites in the desert date back to the third millennium BC? Or that Fossil Rock near Sharjah is full of fossils of sea creatures because the desert was an ocean millions of years ago? It is the unmistakable air of mystery about the desert that makes it all the more exciting to explore.

With the prospect of adventure to be found in every nook and cranny – if ever there was fun to be had in the desert, it is here in the UAE. And in true TOAD style, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of everything that you can get up to in and around the largest sand pit in the world.

Desert safari

If you think the sand dunes are a sight to behold during the day, imagine how magical they can be under the stars. Even more in a specially created Bedouin tent with modern amenities for your comfort, but giving you a great feel of old Emirati culture and lifestyle. Start the adventure with activities including sandboarding, dune bashing, camel and horse riding, watching a falcon show or getting a henna tattoo. A word of advice though, whatever you do, do not venture into the desert alone. Always get in touch with a tour operator – and there are many offering all sorts of packages.

Al Badeyah Eyes Tourism offers an overnight safari at Dhs350 per person for adults and Dhs300 for children between four and 12. The adventure kicks off at 2pm and lasts until 9.30am the following day. There’s even a separate play area for kids and the chance to be photographed in traditional garb. Enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner before retiring for the night in a private tent. They also have a pick-up and drop-off service for the Abu Dhabi city area. (02 445 2644).

Abu Dhabi Adventure Tours provide a range of packages for intrepid explorers. The overnight Abu Dhabi night safari involves a ride in a 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser for a bit of dune bashing, a camel ride, an evening barbecue with a belly dancer and shisha once camp has been made for the night. A bit more for the grown-ups this one. There is an initial cost of Dhs850 for the hire of a car and driver, then the cost is per person based on the number of people sharing the car.
www (055 357 0011).

Dune bashing

Take a course in off-road driving with some experienced advanced driving trainers to get that adrenaline pumping. The best place to do it is in the sprawling dunes of the Empty Quarter conveniently situated on Abu Dhabi’s border with Saudi Arabia, a 200km drive away from the city. As with everything in the desert, do not drive alone. It is safer and more fun to do it in a group.

Emirates Driving Institute in Dubai has a one-day long desert driving course for Dhs1,100. You will end up with a desert driving course kit, a comprehensive manual of desert driving and a certificate of attendance.
To register contact Rukaya at (04 263 1100).

Nomad 4x4 L.L.C Dubai is another off road academy that boasts a modern fleet of 4x4s fitted for maximum safety. They offer a comprehensive course which includes survival techniques in the desert, information about the topography of the desert and all the likely situations you can expect to find yourself in while off-roading. (04 450 2429).

Tel Moreeb is a must-do if you’re a motorsport enthusiast. At over 300 metres high, this is considered by many to be the tallest sand dune in the world. While there is a well-established motorsport event here in February, if you’re not in a hurry to compete, get out that quad bike and get a taste of what it’s like. Head out to Al Gharbia, the western region of Abu Dhabi, if motorsport is your thing. At the base of the dune there is a camp for competitors and spectators with a great atmosphere and loud music to counter the din of the engines. The best way to organise a trip to Tel Moreeb is to get in touch with a tour operator, such as Net Tours Abu Dhabi, and ask them to create a special package for you consisting of motorsport activities on the hill. (02 679 4658).

By Time Out Abu Dhabi staff
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

User reviews:

Posted by: Norman Kaplan on 06 Apr ' 15 at 22:16

PLEASE HELP ME. I am coming to Abu Dhabi 24-30 May. I want to hire a couple of camels and hire a guide to go into the desert about 15-20 miles or 5-6 hours, camp overnight and return the next day. I can sleep in a sleeping bag in a little tent and I can eat whatever we pack in. If other clients want to go, that’s fine too. I’ve been to the Sahara before during the summer and it was 55 C so I know what desert heat is and I live in New York so I know cold. Can you please help me find someone who has the camels and guides? I’ve ridden camels before and I’m an experienced horseman and camper. I just want to experience and enjoy the desert the way it was 100 years ago without cars and buildings.

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