Thursday 5 January 2017

Number 23b: Spend a night in the desert

Completed 12-13 October 2016
Arabian Desert, Liwa Oasis region - United Arab Emirates

The Arabian Desert, stretching 2,300,000 square km with sand dunes as far as the eye can see and temperature variance from 45+ during the day to single digits during the night. The second largest sub-tropical desert in the world and the one I wanted to go camping in.

The idea of the iconic desert always fascinated me, probably since seeing Star Wars as a child. The endless rolling dunes, as far as the eye can see, in every direction. Just such a beautiful sight that not a lot of people get to see and my bucket list was not content with just seeing the desert, I wanted to spend a night in the middle of one.

On initial review, I had a few options of different groups, tours, and experiences to choose from but ended up not going with any of them and instead enquiring about the solo rate for the Liwa Camping experience. It was not cheap, however according to my guide I later discovered that I was only the second person in his 17 years of doing it that had booked a solo overnight camping trip.
Below is a scaled out map of exactly where we ended up, thanks Google Maps.

So after I flew into Abu Dhabi, bussed down to Dubai spent a day down there and bussed back to Abu Dhabi it was time to adventure forth. I was picked up at my hotel at around 1pm and then we drove... a lot. Three and a half hours straight out of the city and into the sands where we stopped briefly as we exited the main road, adjusted the vehicle for sand terrain before driving straight out into the dunes. We ended up driving for a further three hours, but we did make multiple stops for numerous photo opportunities along the way. Being able to stop wherever (safety permitting) and for as long as I needed was one of the main reasons I ended up booking solo, freedom to take as long as I needed for my photography.

Along the way, we saw many camels and other wildlife, stopped to chat to a local camel farmer who was just wandering kilometres behind the herd, drove up and down some very steep dunes and passed several oases which were nothing like Hollywood lead me to believe. But eventually close to sunset, we arrived at our destination and got set up for camping, food and more photography.

One thing I immediately noticed was how much cooler it was in the oasis. The temperature noticeably dropped within the trees and ferns, and how quickly the temperature dropped once the sun set. It was amazing.
However I got to work setting up for photography and enjoyed dinner with my guide and the oasis host.

I shot for a while, however the moon was close to being a full moon so it was incredibly bright. I decided to get some sleep, setting my alarm to the early hours of the morning when the moon would have set. When I woke up it was so cold, much colder than I expected. But I grabbed my gear and shot away getting some really nice shots, although like all things I'll have to go back when I've improved.

Morning rolls around and it's breakfast before heading back to town with a few stops to check out different types of deserts that were in the area, such as one that had super soft sand and was subsequently too dangerous for us to drive across with only one vehicle.

A number of hours later, along with a lot of very informative conversations with my guide about the socio-economics and the political situation in UAE we got back to my hotel, where I checked in... and straight into a shower.

An amazing experience and one I highly recommend to all.

With that, Number 23 of my bonus list is completed.


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