Dune Bashing in Dubai’s Desert


Dubai is a diverse land of opulence, development and all the sand you can imagine. Shopping, extravagance and western influence is everywhere and just outside of the oasis there are kilometers of beautiful desert sand.

Sand, sand and more beautiful sand

Sand, sand and more beautiful sand

Our desert safari sunset excursion was nothing short of an adventure. As we climbed into the 4×4 with all the bells and whistles we had no idea of the twists and turns that lie ahead. The first official stop was about an hour outside of  city limits at a market for tourist trinkets and most importantly, a bathroom, since the next would be a few hours away with only sand in between.

A boy, a truck and the dunes of Dubai

A boy, a truck and the dunes of Dubai

Back in the car we banked left turning off the paved road into a desert abyss of never ending burnt orange sand. Just a few hundred meters in we met up with a handful of other similar vehicles each stopped for a photo session atop the first dunes we found. Massive and glowing in the UAE sunshine, these dunes were reminiscent of Namibia’s Red Dunes and our hike up Dune 45 in the blazing sun. Gorgeous and picturesque just don’t do it justice. Sand for kilometers and dunes that mirrored well-placed jujube candies atop a desert themed cake were in front of our trucks just waiting to be bashed.

Seriously, bashed! That was a large part of this expedition-‘dune bashing’. Again, this is something to tell your family members about only after it’s done. For me, this falls into the “I can’t believe we did this category”, much like my New Zealand zorbing experience. It was exhilarating, frightening, death defying and magical all at the same time.  Up one dune and down the other we flew bumping in our seats mouths agape. Over half an hour complete with screams, shrieks and white-knuckled ‘delight’ inside the car, these maneuvers continued. The dune peaks ahead were hidden from sight and once reaching the pinnacle we plummeted down the front veering on two, sometimes one wheel at a time. Tipping down the sides of each dune feeling as if we’d head face over apex each time, we tumbled. “This is nuts”, I managed to shout while uncontrollably gripping my husband’s arm for dear life as he did the same to the handle above the door. In a sea of nothing but sand there were fifty jeeps rolling up and down these monstrous dunes like Hershey kisses jumping into their final package.

Dune Bashing in Dubai

Dune Bashing in Dubai

We stopped. Finally it was flat for a minute and we came to a halt. The insane rush of excitement spread a smile on my face while my body stood shaking from the thrill experienced. That numbing adrenaline pulsing through my veins shook every part of me as my brain tried to process what had just occurred. Seriously-dune bashing! We jumped out of the truck, all the while trying to keep our equilibrium in check and took a breath of fresh desert air as we stood on the now steady ground. As our fingers tried to stop shaking we hiked up for a quick photo stop amidst another towering magical mound of sand looking out at the vast beauty of desert. As we turned around there was a new adventure in sight. Sand-boarding. Yes, this is exactly as crazy as it sounds. A daring combination of surfing, skateboarding and wake-boarding was in store atop this mountainous heap.

Mathew sandboarding in Dubai

Mathew sand-boarding in Dubai

Hike up the dune and wait. While one man holds a small flat board and points to where to place your feet, another helps me to find my balance on the tippy top of the dune and then the ride begins. I’ve been a swimmer for years and have done my share of diving. I’ve even surfed the waves in a few oceans but this tipping sensation on the sand was new and felt unnatural as I tilted forward to attempt a slide to the bottom. Snowboarders would understand-but then that’s not something I’ve yet to tackle as I’m not a fan of snow or cold. If you make it, you slide gracefully down this hill of sand to a standing dismount at the bottom. If you’re me, you make it halfway and fall flat on your backside laughing with a huge grin on your face for having tried this thrilling ride. For those who tumble down headfirst, even the face plants are worthwhile! I wouldn’t say I was successful with a gymnast ‘ta da finish’ since every orifice was filled with sand-but; it was definitely fun and unquestionably ‘an experience’ I wouldn’t trade.

After dutifully dusting off just some of the thousands of sand molecules found in our hair, mouth, eyes and pockets we hopped back in our vehicle. A stop for a Bedouin themed evening took us to low wooden tables where we sat on cushions and our toes ran happily through the now cooled sand. We listened to local music and took in the evening as silhouettes of camels appeared in the setting sun. There was a cool breeze in the desert’s bewitching sky and the stars danced along-side us as we made our way back towards the lights of the city. Had Aladdin and Jasmine soared by on their flying carpet I wouldn’t have been surprised. Dunes bashed, sand surfed and another desert night embraced. There’s magic in this Dubai air and we look forward to our return to this enchanting desert oasis.

Sand Dunes of Dubai, UAE

Sand Dunes of Dubai, UAE


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