Camel rides, sun sets, camps, tents, gypsy dances, I had been through all this in a desert, but dune bashing sounded like a different experience! So here I was, on a December afternoon at Dubai, waiting at my hotel to start this exciting ride.
To start with, you need to make the bookings in advance through a travel agent. Even the hotels can help you do it. My travel agent in India had booked it as part of our holiday. Around 3 p.m the SUV came to pick me up from the hotel. There were around 5-6 people already in the car. I was told that they would be my company throughout this activity. They were all European. I was the only Indian in the car.
The driver told me it would take an hour to get to the desert camp where we would do a pit stop and then start with our ride over the dunes. The drive to the camp was uneventful with the driver giving us some insights about the country and also answering our queries on the ride, his expertise in such stuff etc. Apparently the license to drive over the dunes is different from the regular driving license in Dubai and it is renewed every year.
The pit-stop at the camp was a really short one. The camp was being prepared for the evening celebration after the dune bashing. I could preparations for tattoo making, a photo-booth, traditional henna in different tents. After a few minutes of the stop, we were all asked to make sure we were wearing our seat belts. I was on the rear seat, the only one there. We started our drive. A few cars drove together. I was told that they tend to drive together so that incase of an emergency help can be extended.
The cars drove a bit into the desert sand till we reached the dunes. They stopped there and deflated the wheels a bit. Once the car was ready, we started going over the dunes. The dunes that look so harmless from afar were really a roller-coaster in the car. At times while climbing the dunes we could see the car ahead look like it was climbing a wall vertically. Similarly when we looked sideways some cars looked like they would topped down the dune anytime. The seat belt acts like a harness but you definitely need to hang on to every thing within reach. To add to the fun (or fear) the driver kept making it look like he was about to lose control. He took us through difficult dunes but drove over them with great expertise.
As we went up and down my fellow car mates started screaming. Specially when we went down the dunes, the gravitational pull definitely made one go ticklish in the tummy. They were perplexed that I was laughing throughout. They asked me if I had done such rides before. Why not, my daily bumpy ride in India had done a good job of preparing me for this. So up and down we went on the dunes for about 30 minutes. After this gut wrenching ride, the cars stopped at a specific point for us to admire the sun set.
The ride back was a quiet one. I don’t know if it was the impact of the serene sun set, or the relief after the fearful ride, but everyone in the car was introspective. We reached the desert camp to enjoy the rest of our evening with some traditional belly dancing and authentic middle eastern dinner. Few things about the camp:
- There are no chairs in the camp, you need to sit on carpets or mattresses around the stage set up in the center for the traditional dances.
- The food served is traditional and like a buffet, it’s a bit difficult though to move around with the food in your hand as the sand gets cold and wet at night. The room where the food is served does get a bit stuffy
- The camp has wash rooms but again, they get crowded as there are typically more than a hundred people in one camp.
- After the dinner the same car that picked you up will drop you back to your hotel.
All in all, I definitely think this is a must do in Dubai. Dune bashing is a safe and interesting way to get friendly with the intimidating expanse of the desert…