Trek through the desert on camel or horseback, observe native wildlife and camp under the stars at the United Arab Emirates’ first national park.
Dubai may be more famous now for its skyscrapers and huge shopping malls but the emirate’s biggest project is the preservation of the region’s natural ecosystem. The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is an 87-square-mile (225-square-kilometer) protected area of Arabian desert; that’s nearly 5 percent of Dubai’s total land area.
To maintain a balance between Dubai’s rapid growth and the need to preserve its natural heritage, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE’s Prime Minister, purchased the land. It was previously a camel farm. Today it’s a shelter for hundreds of plant and animal species.
The only way to explore the park is with one of the reserve’s approved tour operators. They offer a range of different experiences including resort stay, camel treks, archery, falconry displays and SUV journeys over dunes and through the desert terrain.
Take a slow drive out into the desert to observe the free-roaming herds of Arabian gazelles and a wide variety of bird species. During your trip the tour guide will explain the desert ecology. Watch for some of the park’s other animals including nocturnal sand cats, Ethiopian hedgehogs and side-winding vipers.
Over the years, endangered Arabian oryx, Macqueen’s bustards and a number of other wildlife species have been successfully reintroduced to the desert here.
Take part in desert sporting activities. Strap on a sand board and slide down dunes toward the valley floor. Try your hand at archery with a traditional bow.
As the sun starts to dip over the horizon, enjoy a dune dinner of grilled meats and Arabic sweets and drinks in Bedouin tents. Then, stay for the night and camp in this exotic environment. In the morning you can enjoy breakfast while watching the sun rise.
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is located approximately an hour’s drive inland from Dubai.