Sports to try in the desert

Get out into the sand and try dune-bashing, hot-air balloons and more

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Embrace the more sandier side of life in Dubai with Time Out’s pick of the city’s best dune-loving days out.

While Dubai may constantly be striving to add extravagant and new attractions to pull in the visitors and keep residents entertained, sometimes the best days out for traffic-weary Dubaians can be found by heading back to where it all began – in the red dunes of the UAE’s desert. Here, we share our top desert adventures for every visitor to the city, however long or short your stay.

Learn dune-bashing
Take a course in off-road driving with some experienced advanced trainers in order to get that adrenaline pumping. 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@edi-uae.com; www.edi-uae.com (04 263 1100).

Nomad 4x4 is another off-road academy that boasts a modern fleet of 4x4s fitted for maximum safety. It offers 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; www.nomad4x4.com (04 450 2429).

Action days out
There are plenty of companies offering thrilling days out in the UAE’s desert areas. Arabian Adventures gives perhaps the most comprehensive range of activities. The rides and slides package includes camel riding and sandboarding (Dhs275 per person), while the more relaxed but fascinating nature trails package features a visit to the private Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, where you can spot Arabian oryx and gazelles (Dhs295 per person). For real adrenaline junkies, the sand riders package offers the chance to zoom across the red desert in fully-automatic two-seater off-road dune buggies (Dhs495 per person);
www.arabian-adventures.com (04 214 4888).

Hot-air ballooning
Wouldn’t riding a flying carpet be the ultimate desert adventure? A hot-air balloon is not quite the same, but it is certainly magical. The view from 900m above the sands is breathtaking to say the least, and if you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a trail of wandering camels, then your flight has been all the more worth it. The best time to go on a hot-air balloon is at dawn. It is the coolest time of the day and the light is great for photography. This magical adventure comes at a price however. Be prepared to shell out at least Dhs950 per person for one hour. Balloon Adventures, Dubai, www.ballooning.ae (04 285 4949).

Desert retreats
Bab Al Shams Resort is a beautiful resort in the middle of the desert. What is unique here is its low lying architecture, much like that of an Arabian fort, and its soft sand dunes. Approximately 30-40 minutes from most places in Dubai, the hotel has a stunning pool and a great outdoor roof terrace, for which the weather is now just about right. Rooms cost upwards of Dhs950 a night, www.meydanhotels.com/babalshams
(04 381 3231).


Essential survival kit

We live in one of the most difficult to negotiate geographical terrains. And seeking adventure or not, a desert survival kit is something you should take on every trip, as having one could be the difference between life and death. Here’s a check-list of must-haves:

• Plenty of liquids – water, juice or anything else you might want to carry.

• Enough food supplies for the journey.

• Insect repellent – either spray or lotion.

• A tube or two of high SPF sunscreen.

• A wide-brimmed hat and, of course, a pair of sunglasses.

• A windbreaker/rain jacket.

• A whistle to identify your location at night.

• A couple of sets of extra clothes.

• A full first aid kit including anti-analgesics, plasters and anti-inflammatory balms/gels.

• Toolbox of essentials – hammer, screw-driver, pliers, flashlight with extra batteries, a box of matches, and a pocket knife.

• A strong rope in case you need to pull your car out of the sand.

• Make sure your mobile has a fully charged battery and sufficient credit.

• Bags to collect waste.

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