Tag Archives: Video

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Dubai Dune Bashing & Desert Safari 🐪

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Dubai is a city that needs no introduction – it’s a glittering metropolis that exudes luxury and opulence, from its towering skyscrapers and designer shopping malls to its world-class dining scene and vibrant nightlife. But there’s more to Dubai than just glitz and glamour – this fascinating city is also steeped in rich cultural heritage and offers a wealth of experiences for travelers of all interests.

From exploring ancient souks and mosques to embarking on thrilling desert safaris and enjoying the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf, Dubai is a destination that truly has it all. Join us as we dive deeper into this captivating city and discover all that it has to offer.

Our short 3-day layover in Dubai included visits to the largest shopping mall in the world as well as to Burj Khalifa – the tallest building. But for our final full day in the United Arab Emirates, we were off on the obligatory Dubai Desert Safari.

Booking in Advance

A month earlier we had sent an email requesting rates and itinerary for an Evening Desert Safari. There are a number of different companies that provide this service.

They advise you to make a prior reservation before arrival in Dubai in order to avoid any over-booking problems on your chosen date. You simply send them your name, direct contact number, pick up location and the exact date you want to do the tour. They then send you the booking details. Payment can be made in cash/credit card directly to their English-speaking drivers on the first day of the safari excursion .

We agreed to pay AED 195 ($53) per person to share a Land Cruiser, including a complimentary pick-up and drop-off service from our hotel in Dubai. For a bit extra, you can take a private Land Cruiser or even a private Hummer.

Hotel Pickup

The guide arrived in the lobby of our hotel – The Winchester Hotel Apartments – right on time between 3.00 and 3.30 pm, and we mounted a comfortable air-conditioned 4×4 Land Cruiser. We then drove around the suburbs of Dubai while the driver picked up another 3 people (5 in all, plus the driver). For us, even this part of the trip was interesting as we hadn’t had time to discover the less touristy areas of the city.

We were quite impressed with the quality, style and cleanliness of the suburban estates we passed through. Everywhere seemed to be very calm and organized (this may also have been just a natural reaction immediately following 3 weeks hectic travelling around Sri Lanka).

Before long, we were heading out of the city and into the desert via a modern well-maintained highway. Along the way, we noticed various tented camps by the roadside. Apparently, local families often camp out in the desert at weekends to take a break from the city (and to let the camel stretch it’s legs 😎 ).

Getting into the Mood

After around 40 minutes we stopped at what looked like a final frontier town before starting the desert safari proper. There were a lot of coaches and Land Cruisers like our own. There were also large groups of foreigners milling around the souvenir shops and coke stands. This was obviously the usual tourist drop-off and assembly area.

We were divided into little convoys of vehicles (almost like the old “caravans”). Each group would travel separately over the dunes to the main desert safari campsite several kilometers away.

Before setting out into the sand dunes, we took a look around the little shops. I couldn’t resist buying a keffiyeh, the traditional Middle Eastern cotton headdress fashioned from a square scarf and typically worn by Arabs and Kurds. The keffiyeh came to prominence during the 1960s with the beginning of the Palestinian Liberation movement and its adoption by Palestinian politician Yasser Arafat.

Dune Bashing Desert Safari & Arab Campsite in Dubai United Arab Emirates

Dubai Desert Safari – Keffiyeh Krazy!

With a little help from the vendors, I learned how to tie the scarf and was surprised how light and comfortable it was. I kept it on for the rest of the evening.

Dune Bashing Brilliance

After a quick potty break, it was time to head out into the desert for the really active part of the evening. We drove out slowly over the dunes in a convoy of around 5 or 6 Land Cruisers. When we were a good way into the desert, well clear of any signs of civilization, the driver stopped the vehicle. By this time, we also seemed to have lost the other vehicles in our convoy. We all got out while he deflated the tyres to around 50%.

Now is about the time you might start to regret having that last serving of curry and rice for lunch.

When we got back in, the driver started slowly to test the suspension. One of the 2 young girls in the back yelled out:

 “Go for it! Real Animal-Style!”

Without any further encouragement, the driver put the pedal to the metal.

So this was Dune Bashing. A race up the incline of successively higher dune formations, then frantic skidding around on the crests, punctuated by some truly stomach-churning drops and jarring twists. Visibility periodically disappears in torrential sprays of displaced red sand.

Encouraged by the cries and squeals of his captive audience, our driver kept going for it, and I could see the face of the young woman in the front seat of the vehicle steadily going green.

After around 15 minutes the driver stopped, at the request of the green lady. She was given about 3 minutes to recover, and then we were off again. This time we were all both shaken and stirred.

Though doubtless the driver had done this hundreds of times, I was impressed at how he managed to keep the vehicle upright.

Sunset in the Desert

Another 15 minutes and we’d all just about had enough. We parked up in a nice secluded area of the desert and took some refreshment.

They time these safari events perfectly. It was about 30 minutes before sunset, and we were rewarded with some breathtaking vistas of the (by now) peaceful desert. The color and even the texture of the sand is really something special.

We all separated on foot and found our own little spots in the dunes to enjoy the sunset. As far as we were concerned, this little safari trip had already been well worth the effort.

Dune Bashing Desert Safari & Arab Campsite in Dubai United Arab Emirates

Dubai Desert Safari – Sunset in the desert

As the day was drawing to a close, we headed on further into the desert to the North Tours ‘Desert Safari Campsite’. This area is set up like a traditional enclosed circular Bedouin camp.

Before the evening festivities start, you have an hour or so of free time to try out a number of interesting activities. For AED 100/-pp, you can try your hand (or should I say feet) at Sand boarding. If you’re not feeling so energetic, you can hire a Quad Bike instead AED 125/-pp. For the kids (or the young at heart) you can take a short camel ride through the desert.

Inside the Dubai Desert Safari Campsite

Inside the camp, there is a tent stocked with traditional Arab clothing. There you’ll find some smiling assistants who will help the gentlemen don a dishdasha (long white robe) and headscarf (keffiyeh).

For the ladies, you can try the abaya, a long black robe with a hijab (the head-scarf which covers the neck and part of the head). You can even add a niqab which covers the mouth and nose and only leaves the eyes exposed. You can then take photos using some of the traditional Bedouin backdrops that are built in and around the campsite.

Dune Bashing Desert Safari & Arab Campsite in Dubai United Arab Emirates

“Fetch me water for tea, woman!”

If you have time, you can even get an intricate henna tattoo to really put you in the mood. All of these little extras are complimentary.

It’s around this time that you pay the Dubai Desert Safari company for your tickets. It’s probably better to do this with a credit card, since you’ll be needing your cash for the bar. By now you’ll be ready for some alcohol (there is a fully stocked bar – pay per consumption – cash only).

Soft drinks are complimentary.

Dune Bashing Desert Safari & Arab Campsite in Dubai United Arab Emirates

Red Wine and Henna

The campsite has a large central podium around which Arabic seating is arranged (floor furnished with carpets, low tables and cushions). Behind the seating area they had set up two kitchen areas – one on each side. Here you can take a plate and choose from a good selection of meats and veggies (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options are available).

The campsite is big – catering to perhaps 500 or 600 people – but it is well organized, and queueing isn’t a problem. There are also separate restroom facilities for men and women.

There is entertainment during dinner, with music, fire dancers and finally the long-awaited belly dancer (our belly dancer turned out to be Russian!). All top-notch fun, and not in the least tacky. There is even an exquisitely well-dressed guy walking around the site with a falcon.

Dune Bashing Desert Safari & Arab Campsite in Dubai United Arab Emirates

Dubai Desert Safari – Belly Dancer Grand Finale

Back to the City

As soon as the belly dancer finishes her act it’s time to find your guide, locate your transport and head back to the city. The whole safari experience takes around 6 hours, but seems much less, and at $53 per person is unbeatable value.

Our driver dropped us off just after 9.00 pm. He was taking us back to our hotel, but we asked him to instead drop us off at the Dubai Mall (for a last shop-around before our departure the following day). This he did with no problem.

We had not been expecting much, but our day turned out to be great fun with Dune Bashing, an Arab campsite way out in the desert, sunset photos, getting dressed up in the traditional gear, henna tattooing, camels, shishas, tea, barbecue, birds of prey and belly dancing!

What more could you want?

Our Dubai Desert Safari experience made a fitting end to this short stopover in the city. After our final trip to the Mall, all that remained was to sleep for 3 hours before yet again getting up at 5 am for our final flights back home.

If you enjoyed our Dune Bashing Desert Safari, check out our other Short Breaks & City Stops. You may also like:

Dubai Desert Safari Pin

Dubai Desert Safari

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Maldives Under the Reef 🐠

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The Maldives is renowned for its pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, but what lies beneath the surface is equally as impressive. We spent 3 days exploring the vibrant coral reefs that make the Maldives a top destination for scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.

For our part, we were mesmerized by the colorful marine life and amphibious landscapes that greeted us under the surface of the reefs.

The House Reefs

Your first underwater experience of the Maldives is likely to be your local house reef. All the islands have their own unique house reefs, and Makunudu is no exception. For many people, this is all you actually need. Just put on a mask and step into the shallows. You don’t have to go further than a few yards to enjoy this other world under water.

Immediately you are greeted with colorful corals and an abundance of small vibrant tropical fish. Typical are the ubiquitous Powder Blue SurgeonSaddleback Butterfly fish and Oriental Reeftips, lazily feeding on the coral polyps.

under the reef 1a
under the reef 3
under the reef 2
under the reef 6
under the reef 7
under the reef 9
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Slip on some fins in the shallows, then head out a little further. As the water gradually deepens, you get to see larger, more graceful coral formations and shoals of small fish.

Of course you need to avoid touching the coral. Apart from everything else, the coral is the natural habitat for many small fish. You’ll see how defensive the little fish become when you get too close (see video below). You can also get some nasty cuts, especially from some types of fire coral.

Shallow <em><strong>Coral Formations</strong></em>

Shallow Coral Formations

Towards the Reef Edge

As you gently paddle out to the reef edge, normally 20 or 30 meters from the beach, the colors start to change. Instead of the brightly-lit tones of the shallows, you begin to see the darker blue shades of the deep, stretching down to the much darker depths of the reef wall.

<em><strong>Blue Surgeon</strong></em> Fish

Blue Surgeon Fish

The reef edge is usually a great place for spotting the larger species. With a little patience, you can encounter Turtles and some of the smaller Blacktip or Whitetip Reef Sharks.

At Makunudu, they actually feed their community of sharks in the evenings from the end of the jetty.

Maldives Under the Reef

Maldives Under the Reef – Saddleback Butterfly Fish

If you’re spending several days or longer on your island, you will quickly become familiar with the layout and landmarks of your underwater environment. You can then quickly navigate to places of interest.

We found that the same hideouts were regularly inhabited by different species at different times of the day/evening.

Maldives Under the Reef

Some useful underwater landmarks

Manta Point

From the Makunudu Island Resort there are organized snorkeling trips each week. These are morning trips by dhoni to nearby ‘thilas’ (underwater reefs). We were told there was a good chance of spotting Manta Rays, so we didn’t need any encouragement to join the trip.

We boarded the dhoni with about a dozen other keen snorkelers, and headed off into the blue. We were accompanied by 2 Maldivian divers who knew exactly where to moor the boat and lead our group. Even before we got into the water, we could see 2 Manta Rays passing by close to our dhoni, occasionally breaking the surface.

Maldives Under the Reef

Snorkeler’s Day Out

The reef we were visiting wasn’t visible from the surface – from the boat we just appeared to be somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Once we got into the water, however, we could see clearly the undulating forms of the coral. In some areas it was quite shallow, and the visibility was very good.

I had my camera ready, and was hoping for some decent footage.

Maldives Under the Reef

Maldives Under the Reef – Parrot fish

With such a large group of people, we wanted to maintain a distance from the others while keeping an eye on the Maldivian group leader. The excitement level rose a few degrees when the first manta ray came into sight. It seemed curious, almost playful, as it gracefully glided in close to take a good look at us.

Then, like a stealth bomber, it drifted past only to turn again for a second pass.


Around the same time I noticed some commotion out of the corner of my eye, and turned to see our Maldivian Guide in determined pursuit of a large turtle. When he actually tried to touch it, the startled turtle suddenly switched gear, deftly evading his pursuer and the other snorkelers.

Lucky for us, he headed in our direction. We managed to get some decent images before the turtle decided enough was enough, and slipped away through the rocks.

Maldives Under the Reef

Post-snorkel: Wet and Happy

All the excitement attracted a White tip shark, but he didn’t hang around for the photo shoot. In all, we spent an hour or so in the water, though it felt more like 10 minutes. It was a great way to start the day. On the boat trip back we drank water and dried off in the sun.

This kind of experience is really what the Maldives is all about.

If you enjoyed Maldives Under the Reef, check out our other Asian Short Breaks. You may also like:

Maldives Under the Reef
Maldives: Under the Reef


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