No trip to Dubai could be complete without a desert safari but as rapidly as the city grows, so too does the number of safari trip providers in the area. With more than 300 different tour operators in Dubai that offer desert safari options, it almost seems like a daunting task to try and choose one desert safari in Dubai over the other. In reality, though, most of the tour operators throughout the area provide the same service with no matter what name they operate under dune bashing and a dinner afterwards.
For those unaware, dune bashing is the type of tour where you and your fellow travellers sit inside of a 4×4 and—almost recklessly—traverse through the desert hills, complete with all of the jostling, sharp turns, bumps, bruises, and worse. With the growing number of tragedies related to dune bashing, it may be best to avoid using any of these smaller desert safari operators that are out to make a quick dollar from tourists.
By removing that low-quality (and even dangerous) tour operators you are left with a surprisingly sparse list of tour companies in the city that provide trips through the desert. To ensure that anyone who is taking a trip to the UAE is able to get the best experience from their safari, we decided to compare some of the top brands and operators to see who actually provides the best desert tours in Dubai.
Arabian Adventures is one of the most popular choices when it comes to a desert safari in Dubai because they are one of only two companies that are allowed to conduct wildlife tours inside the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Right out of the gate this gives tours with Arabian Adventures a distinct advantage over most tour operators because the reserve guarantees you will be able to see local wildlife in their natural habitat.
Arabian adventures offers a wide range of tours to choose from, including camel safaris, falconry exhibits, wildlife tours, dinner and even stargazing tours in the desert which is great for those who want to truly pin down exactly what type of experience they wish to have and be part of a tour that only covers those aspects. They also offer online booking so the entire reservation process is extremely simple.
Unfortunately, the sheer size of Arabian Adventures is likely its biggest drawback. It is a subsidiary of Emirates Group Holding and conducts most of its tours in a way that removes the personal aspect of being on a tour and is focused on churning out as many customers as possible. Ultimately this has a direct correlation with customer service and looking through reviews on Trip Advisor there have even been an alarming number of times that people were simply forgotten about and never picked up for the tour.
When you do something better than everyone else, people start to take notice and that seems to be the case with Platinum Heritage. Platinum Heritage is one of the newest tour operators in the area and they are focused on strictly dealing with those who are looking for a desert safari in Dubai. Unlike other tour companies, they do not offer city tours, cruises around Dubai, or anything else. They simply focus on providing a wide range of desert tour experiences in Dubai.
Despite only having been in business for a few years, they have quickly risen to the top 5 must-experience activities in Dubai according to Trip Advisor and were awarded a certificate of excellence by the site in 2014 and for good reason—they have never received a single 1-star review.
Like Arabian Adventures, Platinum Heritage is the only other company that is allowed to operate tours in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, but this company goes beyond that. The tours that Platinum Heritage provide are actually conducted in a private retreat owned by a Royal Family (and they are the only company to do so), giving exclusive access to regions of the desert that no one else gets to see.
What really sets Platinum Heritage apart, though, is that everything they do is about discovering what the desert has to offer, and that is how any desert safari in Dubai should be. Instead of focusing on cheap thrills with dune bashing, Platinum Heritage offers a wide range of tours that include:
- Falconry Safaris
- Night Stargazing Safaris
- Camel Treks
- Dinner Safaris
- Wildlife Safaris
- Conservation Drives
To make the experience truly unique, Platinum Heritage tours are all conducted in luxury Mercedes G-Wagons or vintage 1950s Land Rovers to give you the exact experience that you could have expected 50 years ago. All of the guides are hired and trained in-house, as well, so you can always count on a level of consistency with your tour that other companies don’t have. Tours can be booked and paid online.
North Tours are one of the other popular tour operators to choose from if you are looking for a desert safari in Dubai but one of the first things you are going to notice is that you cannot book or pay for your trip online. That may not be a complete deal breaker, but it does make the process seem like more a hassle than other companies.
North Tours operate standard tour services and provide a few different tour options for the desert, mostly dependent on the time of day; they have a morning tour, evening tour, night tour, and a camel tour. What they really focus on, though, is for people who are looking for the adrenaline rush. They provide a typical dune bashing experience but their impersonal tour service can leave them severely lacking in customer service.
The main problem with North Tours, though, is that it appears they do not only use in-house staff for their tours. Instead, they hire out freelancers for each tour which means that if a friend had a great experience with a tour guide when they used North Tours, your experience may be completely different. Without knowing what type of guide you will get, it is impossible to know if you will be one of the few lucky ones with a great experience, or end up with an inexperienced or even rude guide.
As far as run-of-the-mill tours go, Funtours is on top of that list. If you want a mediocre experience, this might be for you. Funtours does not offer online booking or reservations through a simple booking system but they have still managed to position themselves as a popular choice for the average desert safari in Dubai.
With Funtours you can expect to have a 20-minute dune bashing experience, a dinner, and local entertainment, but there are some important catches with all of these things. The dinner that they serve at Funtours consists of an international buffet. When you visit the Dubai desert, do you really want to end the experience with a bowl of pasta? The local entertainment is a typical belly dance show that you might expect to see anywhere in the world.
None of these things is particularly bad, but they are not what you would hope for when looking for a memorable vacation experience. They do offer a few different options as well; instead of a traditional dinner experience you can opt for a morning desert trip which is slightly cooler but it is basically the same experience.
The problem with tour groups like these is that they focus on providing a lot of other services (city tours, water adventures, skydiving, etc.) so there is nothing particularly memorable about their desert safari in Dubai.
Out of the hundreds of tour agencies in the city, the reality is that there are really two groups that go above and beyond what the rest provide: Arabian Adventures and Platinum Heritage. Both of these agencies are allowed to do tours through the conservation reserve, but in the end, the best desert safari in Dubai has to belong to Platinum Heritage.
With traditional Bedouin cuisine, a wide array of different safaris to choose from, fully trained in-house staff (they never hire freelance guides) and a luxurious experience on the private grounds of a Royal Family member, Platinum Heritage does everything you would hope for in a safari tour, and it does them extremely well. If you prefer to have a memorable time experiencing the beauty that the desert has to offer instead of being thrown around for 20 minutes dune bashing, Platinum Heritage is the obvious choice.