The first national park in the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) offers visitors a stunning landscape of sand dunes and desert fauna. Once a huge camel farm, the land it occupies was bought by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 1993, who, inspired by the national parks of South Africa, decided that Dubai needed its own reserve. The reserve is a must-visit for adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts, with its rolling dunes setting the scene for thrill-seekers to experience fat-bike riding, off-roading, camel trekking, sandboarding, and falcon demonstrations.
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve offers one of the the UAE’s best opportunities for viewing native wildlife and experiencing the adventure possibilities of the inland desert. Options are plentiful, including morning dune drives, hot air balloon flights over the Arabian desert, private desert safaris, and outdoor dinners in a Bedouin-inspired camp. To visit, you must book a guided tour with round-trip transportation from an approved operator—both half-day and full-day tours are available.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Guided tours from Dubai last anywhere from two to seven hours, depending on the option chosen.
- Remember to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, as the reserve offers very little shade.
- Drink plenty of water—it’s easy to get dehydrated in this arid environment.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, particularly if you’re participating in adventure activities.
How to Get There
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is situated about 37 miles (60 kilometers) outside of Dubai, a journey of about 45 minutes by road.
When to Get There
For the best weather—temperatures around 80°F (27°C)—visit the Dubai Desert (or anywhere in the United Arab Emirates for that matter) between November and March. Occasional rain showers occur from January to March, but they rarely last for long. Those who opt for a summer visit should expect highs well over 80°F (38°C).
Flora and Fauna of the Desert Reserve
While it may not look like it at first glance, the desert is teeming with life. Among the many critters that call the dunes home are the sand cat, Gordon’s wildcat, Arabian red fox, sand fox, gazelle, Arabian hare, hedgehog, and the pygmy shrew. Even the plants are colorful and diverse, with several species of trees, flowering shrubs, herbs, and grasses. The true success story of the national park is that of the Arabian oryx, a species of antelope. Before the park was established in 2003, the Arabian oryx was close to extinction. Today, well over 100 live here.