Al Qudra Lakes
How to reach: Take E11, Al Khail Road, D63 and Al Qudra Road to your destination
What to expect: Stunning lakeside scenery, beautiful greens and all kinds of fauna including 130 species of birds await you at the man-made Al Qudra Lake, arguably the season’s most popular campsite in the country. If you believe campers, you could even be greeted by foxes and ‘mystery’ animals. Visited by feathered beauties like Glossy Ibis, Caspian Plover and even Wheatears, eagles and falcons, among others, it is the place everyone’s headed to for a perfect outdoor party in the lap of nature this winter. Located in the middle of Bab Al Shams and Seih Al Salam desert, the lake was first birded in May 2012. For cycling enthusiasts, there’s also the newly opened Dubai Cycling Track nearby that will stretch 178km when complete.
Distance: 1hr 30mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 1hr from Safa Park
How to reach: Take Al Awir Road/E44 and then Dubai-Hatta Road/Ras Al Khor Road to your destination in Lahbab.
What to expect: Known for its spectacular red sands, Lahbab is a popular night-time haunt for new campers. Many start off close to the familiar Fossil Rock that’s also a great place for star gazing. A barbecue in this weather is the best thing to do while attempting the ‘Big Red’, a 300-foot high sand dune, is a dune basher’s delight. You could also head over to the sleepy village of Madam just before the Hatta border crossing for more camping spots where you may have some wandering camels from local farms for company.
Distance: 1hr 40mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 40mins from Safa Park
Ras Al Khaimah desert
How to reach: Head towards Ras Al Khaimah on Mohammad Bin Zayed Road.
What to expect: You could either camp near the farms or explore the stunning dunes of Ras Al Khaimah. A great incentive of camping overnight is the region’s flora and fauna. Besides banyan, palm and ghaf trees lining up the desert, you won’t struggle to spot native animals like the Arabian oryx. Many wild birds, some migrating from cooler regions this time of the year, are a regular feature. However do take note that it’s seriously off-road and in the middle of nowhere and ample food and drink along with other essentials is a must for overnighters.
Distance: 2hrs 40mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 1hr 10mins from Safa Park
The Rubh Al Khali
How to reach: Follow Dubai - Ghweifat International Highway, Abu Dhabi -Tarif Road/E11 and E45 to Hameem Road
What to expect: Part of the larger Arabian Desert, the Rubh Al Khali or Empty Quarter is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world, covering some 650,000 square kilometres across parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, and Yemen. The stunning Liwa Oasis is at the heart of it all and many say is the site that provides the ultimate desert camping experience. For a first-timer venturing into the desert it is advisable to have at least a couple of cars and an experienced guide for company.
Distance: 2hr 50mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 3hrs 40mins from Safa Park
How to reach: Hit Mohammad Bin Zayed Road heading north and then get on to Al Dhaid Road (E88) in the direction of Masafi.
What to expect: Start off at Al Hala, a village in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains where there’s Wadi Taybah, not far from the village of Al Taybah. Drive through to Masafi, UAE’s version of Évian-les-Bains, famous for its spring water. There’s also a Friday market that actually opens every day. You could camp anywhere en route to the mountains. The picturesque Wadi Wurayah is about an hour’s drive from Masafi, not far from the foothills of the Hajar mountains. Roughly 20km off the Khor Fakkan beach, the rocky terrain of the region will take you down winding ravines, leading you to serene waterfalls.
Distance: 3hrs 30mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 2hrs 30mins from Safa Park
Jabal Al Jais
How to reach: Take Shaikh Mohammad Bin Salem Road/E11 in Al Riffa and then Khuzam Road
What to expect: Stunningly beautiful mountainscape with naturally scultped rocks will take your breath away on your way up to Jebal Al Jais, the UAE’s tallest mountain. With temperatures recorded as low as -3 degrees Celsius (in January 2009 when the enitre mountain cluster was covered in snow), it is also amongst the coolest places in the country, often making ovenight stays here a bone-chilling affair.
Distance: 3hrs 30mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 2hrs 20mins from Safa Park
Umm Al Quwain beach
How to reach: Take Mohammad Bin Zayed Road north towards Ajman, and take Dreamland Waterpark exit.
What to expect: The beaches are a perfect gateway even for a daytime trip or a night-time barbecue. For more fun, you could also visit the old fishing villages along the peninsula at Al Raas where you may spot flamingos and other wild birds. Some adventure seekers even go as far as exploring the mangroves along the coast on a kayak. If a beach is what you want, there are plenty in the eastern coast of Fujairah as well. A popular destination is the quaint little town of Dibbah on the east coast entry point to the Mussandam Peninsula.
Distance: 2hrs 10mins from Abu Dhabi Corniche; 1hr from Safa Park
The camping checklist
- Tent or shelter
- Sheets or sleeping bags
- Blow-up mattress and pillows
- Firewood, grills and stove top kettle
- Barbecue set and tin foil
- Charcoal and matches
- First Aid Kit
- Tow rope
- Rubbish bags
- Tissues and wipes
- Maps and GPS (when off-roading)
- Insect repellant
- Cool Box and ice
- Water- for drinking and washing
- Torch or flashlight
ABC’s of camping
Avoid pollution. Take all garbage home, if you can’t dispose it in the right manner. Camping in some parts of the desert needs a licence from the competent authorities. Throwing waste and causing pollution in the desert or marine environments makes you liable for a fine. Make sure campfires are properly snuffed out before you leave.
Be considerate towards others in the region and be wary of venturing out into a private property. Make sure you are not camping on someone else’s private beach or farm and seek prior consent
Charge your mobile and carry power banks at all times, so you are never disconnected. 999 is the number to call for all kinds of emergencies in the UAE, even for off-road rescue services in any emirate.
Don’t pitch your tents at the base of a dune or anywhere near it. This puts you at risk of getting run over by onrushing off-roaders who may not be aware of what’s going on behind the dune they are climbing.
Ensure car is serviced and in good condition. Also check tyre pressure and fluid levels.