Desert safaris come out near the top of most lists of recommended things to do in Dubai. It seems the majority of tourists set to the dunes at least once during a visit, and residents end up out in the sand just about every time they host a guest in Dubai. As such, there are a plethora of companies offering tours, all with pretty much the same line-up. Not ones for following the crowd, desiring a luxe experience, but too wanting something that would comply with our sustainability be-gentle-on-the-earth consciences, we tracked down Platinum Heritage.
Pledging uniqueness, they’re the only company to operate inside the grounds of a Royal family member’s private desert retreat, and also one of only two operators with permission to enter the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Additionally the entire staff is employed directly by Platinum Heritage, meaning there’s no outsourcing of untrained or freelancing guides. Exclusivity – check!
Their authentic heritage style camp was constructed using natural materials including stone, wood and goat hair. Run on 100% solar polar, applying earth-friendly practice, and serving to preserve and respect local culture, Platinum-Heritage receives another tick!
Heritage Dinner Safari
There are a number of itineraries to choose from, and we’ve signed up for the Heritage Dinner Safari. Transported in air-conditioned comfort from our hotel lobby to the desert, our official journey begins at the edge of the wilderness in a museum quality vintage Land Rover. First introduced and widely used in the 1950’s, the four-wheel drive vehicles have gained a firm foothold in tales of the country’s past.
|Cruising Through the Desert|
|From the Front Seat of the Land Rover|
Following in the footsteps of the original gallivanters, the car top is open, inviting us to gain an up-close appreciation of the desert. For protection from the harsh sun and climate, a high quality ghutra is gifted. Worn around the head, this piece of light cotton not only shields us from the elements but too adds another layer of authenticity to the journey.
Our professional guide is clearly knowledgeable and passionate about the environment and way of life he shares with us. He has the ultimate mix of a good sense of humour, warm character and loads of facts to excite our curiosity.
A peaceful drive through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve has us sighting sand gazelles and Arabian oryx. Unlike what we’ve heard about many other companies, there is no spine twisting, nausea-inducing “dune-bashing” in this trip. It seems a much more gracious way to appreciate the locale.
As the sun bids its farewell, we’re handed a glass of sparkling date juice to sip on while we applaud the speed and accuracy of a falcon demonstrating the skills that make it one of wildlife’s most fearsome hunters. Once a fundamental part of desert life used to track down meat to add protein to the Bedouin diet, falconry is now practiced exclusively as sport. The expert trainer enthusiastically answers our questions about this fascinating bird of prey before we move on to the heritage camp.
|Sparkling Date Juice at Sunset|
|The Sun Goes Down|
Traditional lamps softly illuminate our open-roofed stone walled camp. Desert palms stand thick and strong, and the massive night sky twinkles with stars not witnessed by many city dwellers for years. Glancing over at our veteran four wheel drives, noses tickled by the aromatic smoke from shisha pipes, and contemplating the stillness and silence that surrounds the base, fills the air with adventure.
A four-course dinner awaits us in our exclusive Bedouin camp amongst the dunes of a Royal desert retreat. Before it starts however, there are a host of activities we engage in, working up an appetite for our Emirati feast. I send hubby off on a camel ride while I get my arm tattooed with henna. Later, shisha pipes are popular with our fellow travellers, but our gourmet penchants lead our attention to the demonstrations of Arabic coffee preparation and bread making.
|Serving of Coffee|
|Camels for Riding|
Our desert affair is completed with a delicious menu of authentic Emirati cuisine. Lentil soup and crisp thin bread appeases our initial hunger pangs. Hommus, salads, cheese puffs and falafels fill our tummies further, but be warned – save space for the main affair! Lamb, chicken kebabs and rice are all delicious. There’s even a chance to try camel meat, which we find a little fatty but with no distinctive flavour of its own. Fresh fruit is a welcome ending, as are Emirati doughnuts – mini balls of deep fried dough with a sticky date syrup coating.
|Giant Rice Cooker|
|Entertainment During Dinner|
Tummies full, minds awakened and our hearts filled with the warmth of local hospitality, we’re transferred back to our hotel. A sense of adventure lingers in our spirits, and we’re left with fond memories of a sublime desert safari experience.
The Heritage Dinner Safari is priced at AED545 per person. It departs in the afternoon and returns early evening. Complimentary pick-up from most hotels in Dubai in an air-conditioned van is included in the fare.
Highlights: vintage Land Rovers; delicious Emirate cuisine; portion of fee contributed to local conservation; the ultimate tour for an exclusive introduction to Dubai.
Luxury Tours and Safaris
123, 3rd floor, Oasis Centre
Sheikh Zayed Road
United Arab Emirates
+971 (4) 388 4044