When PackThePJs fly long haul we always make time to explore the cities we fly through. On our recent Maldives adventure, we flew via Abu Dhabi. On our return journey we scheduled in a two-night stopover. This gave us one full day to explore this exciting, though very hot, city and surrounding desert!
Because the visit was short, we wanted to book ourselves on to a tour. This is by far the best way to see the highlights. Desert Rose Tourism offer a whole-day Abu Dhabi City Tour. This would have been perfect had it not been for our very late arrival in Abu Dhabi the night before … no way could we be up and ready to leave the hotel at 9am! Instead we chose their half-day Desert Safari. With this tour you are collected from your hotel just after lunchtime. This was perfect for us as it gave us time to have a lazy start to the day. We even managed a quick walk around a large shopping mall close by.
Abu Dhabi Desert Safari
We were picked up from our hotel by our driver for the experience. Our transport was a Toyota Landcruiser 4×4, complete with padded roll bars on the inside (eek). Huw sat at the front, the children in the two rear seats and I was joined on the central row by two Portuguese girls. We then went on a 45-minute drive through the city and out into the desert landscape.
With the city far behind us, we stopped at a service station (for a rest stop), and were joined by 10-15 other jeeps. We then drove in convoy straight to the dunes. After a quick stop to deflate the jeep tyres and check we were all strapped in, the real adventure began. I don’t know exactly how long it went on for, but it was at least 40-45 minutes. Our highly skilled (and clearly a tiny bit mad) driver threw us over the tops of sand dunes, then rode along the edge to the point you are convinced you’ll tip over. I was SO scared! Everyone was screaming and laughing – it was rather adrenaline fuelled! Apparently, this is called ‘Dune Bashing’. Wow. There are no other words than just Wow. Makes rollercoasters look tame! I think this video illustrates this part of our Desert Safari!
In the middle of the desert we did stop and had an opportunity to walk out onto the sand for some photos. It was HOT! We were told it was a constant 45 degrees …
The Jeeps drove us to a camel farm, where we got up close to them. They were lovely, but very smelly (sorry, Mr Camel!)
A little further on we had an opportunity to ride a camel; I didn’t want to subject the poor thing to my weight, but I made sure the children had a go. They loved it!
There was an opportunity here to do some quad biking, but this was an ‘optional extra’ (and we didn’t really have time).
We reached an area – let’s call it an oasis, as it was in the middle of nowhere – that had been set up for us to experience Arabian entertainment. And there was a lot on offer here. Most importantly unlimited free ice-cold soft drinks … and we did drink quite a lot of cans!
Toby carried a snowboard up a dune and rode it down, ‘sand skiing’…
Millie-Mae took my camera and climbed a dune to photograph the amazing sunset…
Toby dressed up in Arabian clothing and had a quick falconry lesson …
There were cushions and low tables around a main square stage, so we sat there to watch some traditional Arabian dancing, which consisted of a man spinning round and round yet not get dizzy …
For those who wanted to, a row of sheesha ‘hubbly bubbly’ pipes were set up so guests could experience traditional smoking. We were also told that there was an opportunity to get a henna tattoo – both myself and Millie were keen to do this, but we didn’t see it L
We then enjoyed a desert BBQ and relaxed under the dark skies, staring at the stars.
End of the Tour
We were dropped off back at our hotel just before 10pm. It had been a truly amazing experience. The desert, the camels, the wild and crazy drive over the dunes, the sunset, entertainment … so much had happened in such a short time! Just feeling the heat when we got out the Jeep in the desert is an experience in itself – and one we’ll never forget and constantly talk about!
Given that we literally only had 24 hours in Abu Dhabi I think this tour left us with life-long memories. In hindsight we should perhaps have factored in a second full day: but it’s left us wanting to return. On that visit we’ll definitely do the full day tour of the City, and the children want to visit Ferrari World. We’ll definitely be back! Maybe Abu Dhabi will be the destination rather than the stopover!
For more information on booking a Desert Rose Tourism tour, please visit their website here.