Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Dubai's desert roots can still be experienced in this section of the emirate, where the city meets the sand. Soak up the scenery, seek thrills amongst the dunes and enjoy a side to Dubai that is not often seen to the outside world.
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve Holiday Deal
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In strong contrast to the hyper-modern buildings and skyscrapers of the rest of the city, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) aims to protect the natural landscape of the emirate. Visitors can discover the area and take part in a number of pursuits that celebrate the scenery, traditional Arabic practices and even some thrill-seeking adventures.
Located to the south of many of Dubai’s most famous attractions, the DDCR is 87 square miles of untouched desert. It was established in 2002 as the emirate’s first national park and makes up five per cent of the landmass of Dubai. This unique desert habitat provides refuge for many threatened species of flora and fauna, including the Arabian oryx and sand gazelle.
Where to stay
Being located in the desert there are not vast swathes of hotels to choose from like in other parts of Dubai. This makes staying in this area all the more special and peaceful once day trippers leave in the evenings. There are two resorts in the DDCR to choose from.
-Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa – when it comes to an oasis in the desert it doesn’t get better than this. The five-star resort combines its emphasis on helping with conservation, showcasing the heritage and architecture of the Bedouins and providing supreme luxury to its guests, culminating in a unique ethos. Complete with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna, as well as offering rooms with terraces, this is a place you’ll never forget.
-Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa – another five-star property, this resort has a slightly more rustic feel to it and is suitable for families. This said, there is an infinity pool, as well as a children’s pool and other facilities for kids. The rooms are fitted with all mod cons, but sitting in the courtyard huddled around the fire pit is the real pleasure.
Where to eat
Dining in the DDCR is not just a case of choosing a restaurant, but deciding on the experience you wish to have during your meal. While the resorts have eateries to help sate hungry visitors’ appetites, there are also excursions into the desert available to offer meals you will never forget.
-Dune Dinner – book a special desert dining experience that includes sitting on cushions in a Bedu tent, as you enjoy freshly grilled meats, an assortment of salads and Arabic sweets. Entertainment comes in the form of belly dancing and taking in the majesty of the clear skies above.
-Private Desert Dinner – if you are away on a romantic holiday or perhaps even your honeymoon, a secluded spot for your meal may be more appropriate. Be welcomed by traditional torches to rugs and cushions set up in the desert and a menu arranged for your own requirements.
-Al Hadheerah – of the eight restaurants that can be found within the Bab al Shams resort, this is by far the most spectacular. Stack your plate high with Emirati dishes, including lamb kebabs, hot mezze and chicken shawarma at the cooking stations, before settling into a seat in this incredible outdoor setting. Live music and other entertainment helps you to make an evening of it.
What to do and see
In the DDCR, the desert is the real attraction, with this incredible landscape providing the backdrop for a whole host of activities. Whether you’re keen to spot wildlife or take part in some adventure activities you have come to the right place.
-Wildlife drive – heading out in a 4x4 across the desert you never know what you’re going to find. Luckily your guide will have ideas about the best places to go to see some of the region’s most fascinating wildlife up close. This is a great way to find out more about the ecology of the area and what it takes for creatures to survive in this beautiful place.
-Sand boarding – winter sports lovers will absolutely love the opportunity to hurtle down a sand dune without having to bundle up in thick clothes. Take on this stunning landscape with a sand board strapped to your feet and feel the wind in your hair as you fly down an impressive dune.
-Camel trek – let yourself be transported in the age old method of the region – by camel – for a peaceful way to explore the scenery. Feel at one with these lovely creatures, as you trek through the desert and uncover its secrets.
The DDCR is a totally different side of Dubai to the image of skyscrapers and modern shopping malls that often springs to mind, but is certainly worth exploring. It allows visitors to see where this ultra-modern city has sprung from and the beauty of such terrain and its importance in supporting plants, animals and traditional Arabic culture. Even those who plan to spend the majority of their Dubai stay in its sleek neighbourhoods should experience the contrast at some point during their trip.
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