Destination: Al Wadi Desert, Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
We wanted to go on a short "staycation" following the birth of our son and Al Wadi Desert is only a short drive from Dubai for us. We had heard good things about it being a nice escape from the city and unique in that it is located out in the desert - so we jumped online and made a booking.
Al Wadi Desert is only around an hours drive from Downtown Dubai and is located in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. It is relatively easy to find and is well marked on Google Maps.
The resort was previously part of Banyan Tree, however since the start of 2017 has been under the management of the Ritz-Carlton group. Since taking over, they have put a lot of work into improving the property - from renovating the accomodation, re-developing the grounds and constructing new restaurants. Many of the works were still in progress, which did limit some of the experiences when we visited, however when completed they will be a significant improvement.
Where To Stay:
We stayed in one of the single bedroom villas. They are really spacious with an enormous bathroom overlooking a small private garden. They are really nicely set out inside and extremely comfortable! By far the most impressive part is that the villa opens out onto your own private deck and plunge pool overlooking the desert. We visited in August when it was still really quite warm, so looking out over the sand dunes from the cool waters of the pool was a real treat.
They are renovating the larger tented villas that look even more spacious.
What To Do:
The nature reserve covers an area of more than 500 hectares, providing a great example of true arabian desert without having to venture far from luxury.
There is a host of activities available including archery, bike-riding, falconry, fishing, star-gazing and horse-riding. For a more traditional desert experience, guests can take a camel ride through the dunes. The reserve has populations of many of the native animals - arabian oryx, gazelle, desert hedgehogs, red fox, reptiles and a huge variety of birds. Each day there is an interactive falcon show where guests can get an up close look at this highly revered bird of Arabian culture.
The Al Wadi Spa has a full list treatment options, including a unique rainforest circuit experience that has hydrotherapy stations of alternating pressures and temperatures. It's a novel way to refresh yourself after a day of exploring in the desert.
Your dining options are essentially limited to those at the resort. There are currently 2 feature restaurants - Indian cuisine at Samar Lounge and western inspired at Kaheela. We dined at Kaheela and the food was really nice. We also had the in-room dining for lunch and the menu is more than adequate. For us, this was perfect - sitting by the plunge pool, enjoying a traditional arabic mixed grill.
The resort also offers some unique outdoor dining options - at the top the watchtowers, a bedouin experience in the dunes or a picnic hamper you can take yourself. As we had a young child and the temperatures were still really hot, we chose the options closer to air conditioning.
They were also in the process of completing a new steak restaurant close to the small lake.
The meals were quite pricey for what you would get outside the resort or even in Dubai.
Definitely taking the opportunity to explore the reserve - whether on foot, vehicle or the unique experience of being on the back of the camel. Even living in Dubai, we seldom really get the chance to see the true desert, especially some of the native wildlife.
Desert sunsets can be spectacular! Whilst it was still quite hazy, things will start to clear up as the temperatures fall. There are some great vantage points, but from the top of Al Wadi Tower is a great place to get a good look over the reserve at sunset
5 Word Travel:
Desert. Staycation. Close to Dubai.