It was Day 4 in Dubai when finally we were scheduled to hop into an SUV for Sharjah, Dubai’s neighboring emirate, where we are scheduled for the 2PM desert safari. Other than the New Year Countdown in Burj Khalifa, this was the other highlight of my trip to the gulf state. It was my Dubai-based friend who booked the tour three weeks before so my OC self wasn’t really worried.
An hour passed from our pickup time and there was still no call from our driver. We tried to reach out to the contact person and he said he had an “emergency with the Dubai police”. That raised an alarm. The last thing that you want to be involved with in the UAE is something that has to do with the police.
My first instinct is to grab the voucher and read the terms and conditions. Maybe we can re-schedule it for another day. However, it was non-refundable and non re-bookable. With an estimated 90 minutes travel to the desert, we will surely miss the sunset. That would not be the experience I want for my first Dubai Safari. I also don’t want to deal with a grumpy driver, noting what he probably went through with the police.
You see, my friend booked the tour via Groupon. It is priced at 60 AED per person, which is way cheaper than the normal rates. Basic packages cost somewhere between AED 140 – 180. This is what you guys should be conscious at even on legit sources like Groupon. If it’s too cheap then you have to question its validity or the quality of service. You also have to note the other limited terms that come with the affordable rate like no cancellation and no rebooking.
I am taking an extra caution with the way I deal with people in Dubai. I constantly reminded myself to be more patient and be more gentle and friendly with the way I speak. We were consistent in ending our sentences with “my friend” while we were communicating to have it re-scheduled for another day. Perhaps, with the language barrier, our driver just repeatedly responded “Wait for me. We still have enough time to do the Safari.” We later learned that the driver is not an Emirati. He is actually Iranian, which may have limit his capabilities to do special arrangements for our voucher. With heavy hearts, we have to proceed with the tour. Might as well experience half of what we paid for than not experience anything from it at all.
We were picked up at 5:15 PM and arrived at the desert at 7:30 PM. Yup, there was no more sunlight. While we were crossing the highways of the UAE, I have given up on the idea of capturing beautiful photo souvenirs from this tour. The consolation was, at least we have maintained a pleasant relationship with the driver. He even politely offered Arabic biscuits while we’re on our way.
We went to do the dune bashing. For 20 minutes, we were all inside a car that was wildly maneuvering the desert from the national highway to the camp. It was fun, if you are into extreme stuff. However, we weren’t in the mood anymore for other activities upon reaching the camp. It was too cold, not to mention dark, to ride a camel. Because we were late, we only saw half of the cultural show which featured traditional Arabian dances and fire show. There were not enough food left too. With just twenty minutes in the camp, we decided to call our driver so we can go home.
What about my dreams of an Arabian sunset, you ask. I booked another Safari tour right after the New Year. Of course I decided to go the safer route this time. I bought my tickets online via DXB Tours. They have Filipino employees who can accurately answer your queries. The rest is a beautiful sunset spent at the Dubai Desert.
The United Arab Emirates is banking on tourism and real estate as two of the greatest contributors in their local economy. The influx of tourists in the gulf state has led to the opening of touring-related businesses which may not be ready to guarantee you quality service. While their government is strict to auditing local companies, it is still best to take extra caution in getting services online. Do your research. Read comments and testimonials or ask your Dubai-based friends for referral. It is your job to make your holiday as relaxing as it can be.