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Carving it up: Sandboarding in Dubai

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The waves of heat rolled over me as I struggled to climb back up the 40 foot sand dune weighed down by a 7 pound sandboard and 2 pounds of sand in my shoes. Realization dawned upon me as I understood why the guide had told us we’d only have 1 and a half hours to sandboard instead of the 4 hours we were promised.

Sand boarding in Dubai, Traveling Well For Less

It’s not the sandboarding that gets you, it’s coming back up the dune

Carving it up: Sandboarding in Dubai

It was May and the weather was just starting to heat up. In the city the temperature was pleasant.  But in the desert it was scorching.

This was my second trip to Dubai on a $274 round-trip airfare deal from Los Angeles to Dubai.

“You’ll have 1 hour and 30 minutes on the sand dunes.” The tour guide/driver explained after picking up the last passenger in our group. The four of us (three adventure seekers and 1 tour guide) were on our way to sandboard in the Dubai desert. Exactly where in the Dubai desert none of us knew, only that we were in the hands of our tour guide.

The tour guide didn’t explain why we’d have less time and no one asked. But having the tour cut in half turned out for the best. If this were a movie, “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen would have been the perfect song for the drive back to our hotels.

If the way our guide drove the 4×4 on the Dubai streets was any indication of how he’d drive on the 4×4 portion of the tour, I was ready for the tour to be over, now. We hit every pothole and dip head-on at full speed. Brakes were only used to stop suddenly at lights. Whiplash anyone?

Sandboarding in Dubai Orient Tours guide Traveling Well For Less

Our sandboarding tour guide, Mario Andretti – drives fast, but doesn’t know how to use the camera on an iPhone

After a 40-minute drive that included roundabouts and highway speed bumps with a driver who thought he was on the Autobahn, we finally arrived at our destination: a nondescript stretch of Dubai desert across the street from Al Ramool Motorcycle Rentals.

Al Ramool Motorcycle Rental Dubai Desert sandboarding dubai Traveling Well For Less

The only landmark in the Dubai desert

Several small shops lined the entrance to the sand dunes. Snacks, gutras (headdresses also known as keffiyeh and kufiya ), and souvenirs were available for purchase. We stopped at the first shop to deflate tires and have a restroom break.

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Trying on a gutra because there wasn’t a hijab

Then we were off roaring and twisting up a sand dune. 15 minutes of turns and twists that rivaled any roller coaster ride at Disneyland or Six Flags Magic Mountain and we were at the top of the dunes.

I volunteered to go first and quickly strapped into the sandboard bindings. I was up and then down.
sandboarding in dubai Traveling Well For Less

Getting into position for my first sandboarding run
Photo by: Courtesy of Hans – Friedel Siepen

Don’t try to film yourself sandboarding with your iPhone. Not the best pictures.

self filming while sandboarding in Dubai Traveling Well For Less

You don’t get good clips when you self film
Photo by: Courtesy of Hans – Friedel Siepen

And when you wipe out, sand gets everywhere.  Thank goodness for Lifeproof! Next time I’ll bring a GoPro.

carving it up sandboarding in Dubai Traveling Well For Less

Cue the Surfaris’ song “Wipeout”
Photo by: Courtesy of Hans – Friedel Siepen

Sandboarding is very similar to snowboarding. But it’s a lot harder to carve through sand than through snow. And it’s exhausting.

Unlike snowboarding, there isn’t a chairlift to bring you back up for another run. You have to hike back up the dune. And in 100+ degree weather, through several feet of soft sand, it’s a workout.

But when you fall, sand is a lot more forgiving than packed snow. Climbing up is a lot harder than going down because you have to carry the board back up. And the loose sand doesn’t give you any traction.

Dubai sandboarding Traveling Well For Less

Getting back to the top of the dune for another sandboarding run

After 4 runs I was spent! I wanted to keep sandboarding, but the thought of hauling myself up the dune again was enough to keep me at the top of the mountain with both feet firmly planted in the sand.

post Dubai sandboarding Traveling Well For Less

Air conditioning never felt so good

Sandboarding Tours

You can book a sandboarding tour separately or part of a desert safari tour. When you book it with a desert safari tour, you only get 20 minutes to sandboard. Depending on the size of your group, that could mean only 1 run. And the sand dune the tour operator takes you to in the desert safari tour is only about 5 feet high.

I paid $60.27 for a 4 hour sand boarding tour. You can pay $27 for a combination desert safari tour. But you only get 1 run and the tour starts in the afternoon and ends in the evening. I wanted multiple sandboard runs and choose to go first thing in the morning because the weather is cooler (theoretically) and my flight was leaving that night.

If you have more time you could book a tour that includes a camel ride, quad bike tour, sandboarding and visit to a camel farm. Or a private overnight safari with sandboarding, a camel ride, belly dancing, and dinner.

Would I go again? You bet. But next time I’ll go in the winter when the weather is cooler.

Book your sand boarding tour and other activities in Dubai now

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Captain Dunes

Wednesday 15th of November 2023

🌅🏄‍♂️ Who else feels the adrenaline just thinking about it? Excited to hear your stories! 🚀

Welcome new member Debra Schroeder

Monday 6th of October 2014

[…] ghostwriter and editor flying over 150,000 miles a year. Her articles cover adventures from Dubai to Denver. Among other publications you can find Debra’s articles in the San Diego Reader and […]

Shannon Entin

Monday 29th of September 2014

Exhausting - that is exactly the word I've always thought of when I hear about sandboarding. I think I'll stick to snow!

Debbie @ Traveling Well For Less

Wednesday 1st of October 2014

Hi Shannon,

Agreed. Chair lifts make all the difference.

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