Free UAE camping to high-end glamping: Where to go for outdoor adventures this winter

Campsites make a comeback as establishments see significant rise in bookings amidst chilly weather

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Nandini Sircar

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Published: Sat 4 Nov 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Nov 2023, 2:39 PM

Now waking up to the cool breeze of winter, many UAE residents have been on a hunt for a weekend gateway — particularly in places nestling in the country’s most picturesque venues, from the desert to the mountains.

Several outdoorsy families with different budgets shuttle in their 4X4, embarking on journeys with their loved ones, to experience the charm of the rugged but quaint locales.

Whether you're on a tight budget or willing to spend on a glamorous staycation, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to winter adventures in the UAE.

Free camping sites

UAE resident and avid camper Favas Thaniyeppil said: “I have been going camping for four years now, ever since I arrived in the country. I often go to Al Qudra, which is free of charge, with a bunch of friends. We carry a tent, camping chair, bedding, a mobile table, and lights among other items. Some people also carry 30 litres of water for ablution. Those who want to do a BBQ, carry the entire barbecue set like charcoal, log of woods, and utensils.

“Many may not be aware but there are washrooms at Al Qudra, so one can use those. We also go to Wadi Shawka in Ras Al Khaimah and Jebel Jais which have free camping spots.”

Apart from Al Qudra Dubai and Wadi Shawka in RAK, campers can also experience the rugged wilderness at absolutely no cost at the Half Desert through the E611 highway, Dubai; Al Quaa Milky Way Spot, which is a 90-minute drive from Abu Dhabi city towards Al Ain, Liwa Desert Abu Dhabi; and the Jebel Hamri mountain top in Fujairah.

Mid-range camping options with basic facilities

If you are one of those who don’t want to go through the hassle of setting up your own tent, there are several companies and services across the UAE that provide camping experiences — without burning a hole in one’s pocket.

Some of these organisations charge anywhere between Dh300 to Dh1,000 per person, providing a canvas tent, a queen-sized bed, a wood-burning stove, and other amenities.

Camp owners highlight these prices vary as per the client’s requirements.

Ali Bin Ali, CEO, Dojoin, said: “The Out Out Camping goes beyond offering a scenic stay with a view of the Hajar mountains; it ensures a secure and comfortable experience. With sufficient toilet facilities, free parking, and private surroundings, it's a haven for families. Choose from Arabian and Igalu tents for 40-50 guests, conveniently located just a 1.5-hour drive from Dubai. Our price ranges from Dhs 199 to Dhs 299 per person.”

He explains that they provide all camping essentials, including grills, even the ingredients for meals, charcoal, and wood, making outdoor enjoyment easy.

Ali added: “Settle in, cook, socialise, and unwind in the tranquil atmosphere, with added perks like temperature-controlled water beds for kids and various entertainment options.”

Bnbme Holiday Homes is another such company that takes campers to some remote locations in Dubai and RAK.

Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of bnbme Holiday Homes, said: “There are many enquiries coming in and also there are many who are excited about the weather and the glamping. We are already witnessing a booking rate of 60-65 per cent. We have locations at Al Qudra for the desert and Ras Al Khaimah for the beach and the mountain. Our locations are exclusive and private. We have classic Tents which can accommodate two adults, family tents that can accommodate two adults and children, presidential tents that can house six adults and trailer that can accommodate two adults.”

Mahanti points out not only do they put up tents with beds and a portable washroom, if need be, they have several add-ons like an on-call masseur, upon request.

He continued, “Our location is exclusive and private and we have various activities which our guests can do. This includes belly dance performances, dune bashing, musical evening alongside the bonfire, falcon man etc.”

Glamping sites with luxury tents and high-end amenities

Individuals seeking the luxuries of a hotel in remote camping locations can pamper there inner glamper at several spots.

Nestled on Sir Bani Yas Island, the Anantara Al Sahel Villa stands as a remarkable glamping haven, seamlessly combining safari-style luxury with the splendour of natural surroundings. Others include Bab Al Nojoum enviro-resort and Hudayriyat Island destinations, situated within a vibrant biosphere, guarantee an unforgettable journey brimming with unique experiences ideal for both friends and families.

The Bear Grylls Explorers Camp in Ras Al Khaimah; the Kite Beach Centre in Umm Al Quwain; and the Hatta resorts, the world's first trailer hotel, all rank high on the glamping charts. Meanwhile, in the vast dunes of Sharjah, Mysk Al Badayer Retreat offers a distinctive experience, featuring private tents that transport guests back in time to the days of Silk Road inns.

Shedding light on their signature luxury twists, which also offer swanky perks, Urs Eiselin, CEO of Starlight Camping said: “We are opening this amazing glamping experience in Abu Dhabi in about two weeks. We’ve nearly got all our government approvals. This offering is going to be private, exclusive, and a major upgrade from what we’ve been offering in the past. The package will remain Dhs 2,600 for two adults.”

He added, “We will be offering luxury tents, snacks, tea, and coffee with one’s bathroom and shower. It will also have a lounge area in the camp area where individuals can either choose to have privacy or interact with others if the need arises. At this point, I am unable to reveal the exact location. But it’s a new location.”

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