UAE is one of the countries within the Arabian Desert, so of course a visit there wouldn’t be complete without a desert safari. I’m typically a do-it-yourself traveler that avoids tour groups. Probably because when I think of them, I picture giant buses and a crowd of overzealous buzzing tourist. So when it came to deciding which company to do the safari with, I made sure to do my research. I can’t have just a good safari, I want the best one out there, ya know?
In doing my research, I primarily relied on TripAdvisor reviews. I also made sure to check on Instagram for tagged photos and stories to see what the experiences looked like. I definitely found a lot of big buses and overcrowded looking safaris, but there’s one company stood out from the rest: Platinum Heritage. What I love about them is not just the premium-ness (is that a word?) of the tour — although I freely admit, the bougie part of my brain loved that they have private options. But what I’m most impressed with is their huge focus on education and sustainability. Not that I had dune bashing as one of my safari requirement, but I had no idea that it could be so damaging to the environment.
Another thing I loved about Platinum Heritage is their use of the vintage land rovers, which made for some for great photo opps. I was mega sad when my doctor told me absolutely no camel ride. I kinda already suspected she would say that, as I imagine falling off of a camel would not be good for anyone let alone pregnant ladies. The vintage land rovers definitely took the sting off of the disappointment. To say they’re cool is a major understatement. Special thanks to my guide Mohammed for taking care in driving on the bumpier parts so I’m more comfortable during the ride.
You can check out a full description of the tour on the Platinum Heritage website, but here are some additional pro-tips from my experience:
- Sunglasses and sunscreen is a must. So are closed toed shoes. The people I observed who wore sandals inevitably gave up and took them off when walking on the desert. It’s probably also a good idea to avoid shoes with perforations. Hubs had on some Nike Frees and he might as well have worn sandals, because he there was so much sand inside his shoes by the end of the tour.
- Bring a jacket. The heritage desert safari tour ends at night, which means you will be driving back in a convertible with the cold desert air whipping about you. Not a fun activity to do while wearing a light t-shirt.
- They will be giving you a shemagh and your guide will help you put them on. Girls get an all black one and guys get a red/white one.
Plan accordingly if you want to match it to your outifit for photos.
- Be warned: if you take your shemagh scarf off during the drive, you will get sand in your hair and face since you’re riding a convertible jeep. Not fun.
- Don’t bother bringing water bottles. They will provide you with an eco-friendly reusable tin bottle, which you can fill up at the beginning of your trip.
- If you’re taking the desert heritage tour and want a daytime photo with the camels, do it right when you arrive. You won’t have another opportunity to hang with the camels until after the sun sets (I learned this the hard way).
- Ask your guide aalllll the questions. They are super knowledgeable about the country, the flora and fauna, and more. Don’t be shy!
- Although the falcon show and dinner is not private, you do have the option of getting a private car. It’s totally your choice but I do think its worth the extra cost. The car seats up to 8, so be prepared to share with that many people if you’re not doing the private option.
- You’ll be served sparkling date juice during the dusk falcon show. Don’t all mob the bar. Designate a person from the group to be the to be the drink butler while someone saves a seat up front. Trust me it’s worth it: not only do you get the best view but you’ll also be first in line for the falcon photo-opp.
- Periodically check the site as they post discount codes sometime. When I booked, they had a special for free video (see below). BONUS!
- There are only two opportunities I can remember of to go to the restroom: once before we left and again during dinner. Plan your restroom breaks accordingly!
- If you’re really really into privacy, they do have another line of premium tours. It comes with newer, smoother riding, Land Rovers and also includes private dining as well as dining option inside the exclusive Al-Maha resort. I was really tempted but then decided against it since I really wanted to ride on the vintage Land Rovers. Sorry new Land Rovers, you’re just not as cool as the vintage ones.
- Lastly, please don’t be that jerk tourist that leaves trash in the desert (I found a lone cigarette butt while I was posing for a photo).
You will be riding one of these very cool 1950’s land rover.
My guide, Mohammed helping me put on my shemagh.
The drive passes by a salt lick that’s frequented by the resident oryxes so you’ll be sure to see them during the safari.
There of course will be desert photo-opp galore during the safari.
Falcon show is a must, it’s a national symbol after all.
I’m not one to ever turn down a photo-opp with a falcon.
Believe it or not, this is just the appetizer.
My favorite item from the buffet? The camel meat stew (sorry camel).
Post dinner activities are getting henna and smoking hookah while watching an Emirati performance. Obviously, this preggo lady picked the latter.
Nighttime camel ride that I sadly couldn’t participate in (womp womp).
Looking for more UAE trip guides? Check out my other posts: