The cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are fascinating places, but there is a whole world of adventure just a short distance away. The sand dunes offer some fascinating experiences that have become favourites with visitors, and that are collectively known as "dune bashing." Popular areas for dune bashing are Hatta, in southern Dubai, the Liwa desert, and the area between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Dune bashing basically means driving over the dunes in 4x4 vehicles or quads, but very often the journey into the desert also includes a safari, with the opportunity to see the sunset, enjoy a barbecue, take a camel ride, and perhaps even spend the night in the desert.
There are some specialized agencies (such as dubaidunebashing.com), and it is essential to have the guidance of experienced staff. Manouevering an off-road vehicle or a buggy is not simple on dunes that can be very steep and up to 300 metres high. The desert safari tour operators that organize dune bashing experiences generally form groups of 4x4 vehicles that travel into the desert together, maximizing safety and fun. Once you have completed the journey from your hotel into the dunes, the tyre pressure has to be reduced, and the passengers are told to strap in tightly. Then the local drivers will start the fun, climbing up the dunes, and racing down at up to 45 degree angles, zooming around like a boat on a stormy sea.
The jeep pitches up and down, sinking and spinning, with sand flying up and onto the windows like crystallized ocean spray. The local drivers are incredibly skilled at surviving angles that seem certain to overturn the vehicle, and they keep this up for about ninety minutes, often accompanied by manic music from the hi-fi system on board. Hopefully you will have been informed in advance that it's best to have eaten frugally beforehand, and not to have drunk very much water. Light clothes are recommended, and simple footwear - sandals rather than shoes. The sand gets everywhere!
Buggies offer a more personal, wind-in-the-hair experience. They can be single or twin-seater, with about 700 cc engines. The instructor gives you some basic information and then sets off, leading you off on a tour of the dunes, gradually accelerating as your skill and confidence at driving the vehicle increases. The dune buggies are equipped with a roll cage, bucket seats and a harness to ensure safety. Other sand experiences include sand skiing, using the slopes to ski down on boards. At a certain stage, all this energetic activity comes to an end, and the drivers take you to a spot where you can watch the incredible Arabian sunset. After the thrills and spills of the afternoon, winding down in this way is often an intense and memorable experience.
A night under the stars is an appropriate and poetic way of continuing the dune-bashing experience. In this case, you will reach a camp that has already been prepared, with tents, tables and chairs, ready for a barbecue meal. All in all, this sort of tour is an excellent way of experiencing something totally different to the skyscrapers and shopping malls of the Emirates' cities, and it is warmly recommended for all visitors.
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