This January we escaped from gloomy London to warm and sunny Dubai – many thanks to Visit Dubai for organising everything so perfectly for us.
One of the activities during our trip was a desert journey as I call it: first hot air balloon travel followed by a Land Rovers ride among the dunes, a breakfast in Bedouin camp and, finally, a safari ride in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
Every part was unique – and it’s hard for me to choose my favourite because I honestly loved them all! I’m a crazy animal lover, I have been dreaming about an air balloon ride for the several years, I’ve never been to a proper desert before and a breakfast is my favourite meal of the day – even better when it’s enriched in traditions. So please don’t make me choose – I just can’t 🙂
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Sometimes, things you want for a really long time disappoint you. And, as I had that feeling before(for instance, I was deadly disappointed by NYC – sorry, guys!), I was a bit anxious about the hot air ballooning – but I ended up loving my experience with Ballooning UAE even more than I expected!
Our pick up from the hotel was at 4.50 – we were contacted on the day before with the exact timing which varies from 4 to 6. After picking up other 6 passengers we went directly to the start point of our ride together with other minibuses. Two balloons were waiting for as – we were split to form two groups – one per each balloon. Then, after a safety introduction, a magic of blowing a huge empty sac that was to become our balloon began.
18 person per basket, we all climbed to occupy our places in it right on time to see first glimpses of sunrise. The capacity of basket is 24 people but local company prefer not to squeeze everyone to tight for the reasons of comfort and safety.
Isn’t it the most magnificent ‘magic carpet’ moment ever? Colours of sand were just incredible – very tender varying from muted fucsia to gentle rose.
I was often asked whether it was a frightening to fly? Not at all! I’m actually quite psychologically stable and it’s not easy to make me feel afraid – but believe me it’s nothing compared to say flying in an helicopter! Even the landing was quite gentle (thanks to our well-experienced pilot) – especially considering that the tools of steering are quite limited on this type of transport.
If you think that one can get bored with desert – well, only a non curious and non paying attention person! From time to time you can spot gazelles, roads are getting busier and busier with time, modern Bedouin plantations are running below.
The length of ride varies from one trip to another depending on weather conditions. We were lucky – our trip lasted about 1 hour and 15 min!
Falconry has been a traditional activity in Dubai for a long time. These cute birds are naturally violent hunters but now they are involved in sport activities like falcon race.
Nevertheless, falconry is much more – it’s a cultural heritage to be protected. It’s even enlisted as living human heritage by UNESCO in some countries including United Arab Emirates.
During our hot air balloon ride we had a falconer with us – he let his falcon flew around the balloon and upon landing we were allowed to pet them a bit (but as falcons are wild animals, of course, you should follow safety instructions from the falconer)
Land Rovers were an iconic transport for exploring desert in 20th century – and we had a chance to ride exactly the cars from the 50s to make our experience fully authentic.
As our Platinum Heritage tour included the ride, we were taken in them firstly to the Bedouin Camp and then rode to the Conservation Reserve (see below). Obviously, the ride across the dunes with the road making sharp bends is not the smoothest but it’s definitely very enjoyable!
Watching baby camels in their natural environment while driving along the sand was an additional pleasure.
I had a lot of nice breakfasts in my life but breakfast in a Bedouin camp is definitely the one to remember for a long time! Actually the desert dwellers’ camp is a traditional village surrounded by fence filled with carpets, tables three-walled tents and numerous authentic items.
Upon arrival we were immediately given a rose water to wash our hands and a small pretty cup of coffee. After that we proceeded to the tables with a generous spread of both Emirati and Western dishes that included fruits, salmon, bread, eggs Benedict, cold meats, cheeses, fruits and even black caviar! Water and some fresh juices accompanied our meal. Our group wasn’t the one who enjoyed the food – quite a fat and fluffy cat who presumably lives in the camp lazily walked around as well.
Who could’ve imagined that it could be so calm and relaxing in the middle of a desert?
Worth noting that everything in the camp is made out of eco-friendly materials and it even uses solar power!
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Numbers to start with: founded in 1993, 225 square km, 60 km from Dubai. Uncounted number of animals met.
So, after having breakfast, we were taken back on an exiting journey through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, first national park in the UAE.
We were provided with water and head scarves by our guide – and, accompanied by his detailed narrative about local flora and fauna, rolled through the Reserve’s territory.
Desert that looked so empty, was all filled with traces of various animals! We were lucky to spot gazelles and Arabian oryx (well, the second ones we quite hard to miss to be honest) but of course there are plenty of other species (I presume some of them could be seen at night) such as foxes, hedgehogs, hares, lizards and so on.
Land Rovers can drive only on a specifically dedicated tracks to minimise the invasion into the nature. Scientific research and ecological restoration of the species are also taking place in there – oryx were almost on the edge of extinction but now they flourish.
I enjoyed the views of desert itself as well because it’s really beautiful! We were even allowed to stroll along a but – but only within a fenced area of course, not to intercourse with the wild life. Btw, there are just two colours of sand in this part the Arabian Desert – all other hues are just illusions created by shadows.
The whole length of activities took about 7 hours from the pick up in your hotel to getting back there, but time usually varies depending on traffic, the winds that influence the time of balloon ride and many other factors.
Take something warm and easily removable like a a jacket with you because your journey is going to start really early. The weather was just perfect: not sizzling hot as it might be in summer but a steady UAE winter temperature of +26/+28 degrees.
Nevertheless, it’s really cold in the desert early in the morning before the sunrise and it’s getting hotter as your trip progresses. I made a mistake of choosing shoes with open toes – it wasn’t a catastrophe but considering that you have to climb into the balloon basket and walk on sand, I would call all-covered shoes like trainers more suitable for the occasion. Don’t take a lot of things with you – you sincerely won’t need them.
To keep our heads and eyes protected from the heat and sand by the end of the journey we were given a nice headscarf – nevertheless I recommend to take sunglasses with you as well.
P.S.: you can see more details of a trip like ours via this link – Hot Air Balloon ride with falconry, breakfast and wildlife drive.
Hope you enjoyed my today’s blog!