In Dubai, a very popular tourist attraction (I believe is a tourist trap though), is their desert safari excursions. I mean, I still signed up excitedly no less. We chose ours with Arabian Nights because we found a BOGO discount for it.
The itinerary said it included:
- Sand dune bashing
- Sand boarding
- Camel Riding
- Henna Tattoo
- Meal / Shisha
The main attraction is the dune bashing inside a Land Cruiser and the add on’s that I was especially interested in were sand boarding and camel riding.
I was expecting us to be bashing in a sort of open cover 4×4 Jeep, like Jurassic Park style, but we were just in a Toyota Land Cruiser – which probably was better due to the wind and sand. There was one pit stop in the middle of dune bashing where we could walk up a tall sand dune; I could barely make it up due to all the gust of sand that flew into my face. I hurried back to the car when I reached the top because I was unable to even open my eyes without them stinging. No idea how others were able to pose for pictures because as I got in the car, I noticed my whole face was covered in sand.
Unfortunately for me, I also get motion sickness. So for the last third or so of the dune bashing I was mostly hoping it would be over soon… The view also has got nothing on Wadi Rum, Jordan.
The activity basically is 10-20 cars in a line going down a pre-determined path within the sand dunes and the driver would purposely drive the car in a way that each up/down on the dunes is felt by the passenger, and sometimes they would purposely swerve to get more action. It was pretty enjoyable until I started feeling sick. It was also pretty cool to see other cars and even some guys in ATVs in action up close.
The rest of the activities were pretty unimpressive I have to sadly admit.
- sand boarding really should require boots and none were available. Out of the 3 boards available 2 of them looked like the straps were broken. It was basically impossible for us to even attempt to board without boots because the straps were far too large for even regular running shoes.
- camel riding was literally just a small circle – which made me just feel sorry for the hard work the camel had to do as it would frequently have to go up and down on their knees for each passenger…..poor camel.
- the henna tattoo was a very simple non-personalized one that was completed in about 3 seconds. If you pay extra, you were able to get something more intricate, but I mean this activity was sold as part of our package so i wasn’t expecting this.
- Meal was buffet style, the free shisha was flavourless and very smokey. To get better quality you had to (again) pay more – and you can tell it is definitely different as the paid shisha had a very strong fruity fragrance.
The only redeeming part of the tour was the dancing entertainment that accompanied our meal (and they fact that they provide pick up and drop off service at your hotel). There was a female belly dancer and a male dancer (don’t remember the style of dance) but he would spin around in circles continuously while wearing many layers of skirts (with pants under too) and the colourful, and at times lit up skirt would look very fantastical as he spun so fast.
Overall I was a bit disappointed in how the activities panned out given that I had been looking forward greatly to this excursion, and not to mention the price as these excursions do not run cheap. I think the downside of this tour group is possibly the large size which led to the slide in quality. Possibly with another tour group with smaller sizes and the more luxurious types would provide higher quality of activities.