Queen of the Desert: Experiencing the Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi
Nature lovers aren’t normally drawn to Dubai or lesser-known neighbouring emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, but beyond the magnificent ever-expanding metropolis, you’ll find endless desert that provides an excitement all of its own. Our Caribbean Product Manager, Joanne Ellis, tells us of her trip beyond the desert…
After exiting the busy 6-lane highway out of the city, the only signpost on the road to The Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert is a triangle warning drivers to slow down in case of a wandering deer or camel. The word “Al Wadi” means valley, and in this case refers to a desert nature reserve of around 1,200 acres which provides a perfect contrast to the faster-paced-glitzy-beach-scene we had just left behind. Ritz-Carlton have created something amazing here and you feel the tranquillity instantly – from the moment you step inside the serene lobby lounge that combines tradition with refinement and where an ancient olive tree takes centre stage.
Each room is an individual villa. As it’s the Ritz-Carlton, everything is particularly sumptuous and comes complete with your own private pool (a real godsend in the heat). So yes, it can be tempting to stay put in your luxurious pad, however there’s plenty to keep you busy outdoors too – there are bikes and cycle paths around the resort, making it relatively easy to access some of the best viewpoints and activities. But rest assured – for the hotter parts of the day, or to avoid turning up at a restaurant a little clammy, there are always buggies and a cheerful driver ready and able to drop you off.
Our first jaunt on the bikes was around 5pm. We cycled to the stables and had a quick look around. The horses appeared to be thoroughbreds (mainly Arabians of course) and are available for riders of all abilities, plus there are 2 extremely cute ponies for little ones! Nearby are the quarters for the resident camels that are also available for adventurous desert treks. Later, we joined the owl talk and falconry show at the aptly named Falcon Point. This is a wonderful interactive experience that offers the chance to see, learn about and even get to handle some of the birds of prey that are fortunate to call the Al Wadi Desert their home. There were four birds to view and we got to observe a falcon and an owl in flight. I even got to hold one of the birds (after donning a thick glove and following expert guidance from the handler) – a real moment to savour! We then ‘parked up’ for a refreshing glass of prosecco at the Moon Bar, a sociable place to watch the sun go down. Away from the city and any light pollution, the desert offers great star gazing opportunities and there are locations around the resort set up to enjoy a view of the night sky. Want to experience it properly? The resort can also arrange private dining on the dunes!
For dinner that evening, we headed to the acclaimed Farmhouse restaurant – a farm-to-fork style eatery that has its own smokehouse. We sat outdoors with a view of the watering hole where deer and oryx come to drink. Needless to say, the meal and service were excellent and the surroundings so relaxing.
Early the next morning, we set off on our next cycle with the temperature at a pleasant 27 degrees – with water and our camera packed nearly in the handy basket at the front of the bike. This time we went further out to a brilliant vantage point (it involved a couple of slight hills but no gain without pain as they say!) and it was so worth it to appreciate the sandy landscape, colours and wildlife – including seeing a couple of oryx arguing. The horses and camels were chilling out in their paddocks and there was a lot of birdsong. Such a special time, but aware of the heat rising we were ready to retreat to the heavenly villa for a well-deserved dip in that fabulous pool.
While the Dubai desert may lack vibrant flora (common trees include sidr and ghaf) but it has outstanding indigenous wildlife and this is a great place to spot them in their natural environment, via nature trails and guided walks. Keep your eyes peeled for foxes, gerbils, desert hedgehogs, geckos and a range of colourful birds out there – who would have thought it! The Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi is definitely a hotel with a natural wow-factor, offering a real insight in to the Bedouin lifestyle. The experiences for children are superb and discerning adults will appreciate the pampering facilities like the luxury spa and a concierge who can arrange bespoke activities based on your interests. The desert isn’t just bland and desolate, this is the place to enjoy it in style.
Want to visit the Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert for yourself? Browse our website or give our Travel Specialists a call for expert advice!