All You Need to Know Before You Go Dune Bashing
Just Because it's Fun
When you find yourself with time on your hands in any of the desert nations along the Persian Gulf, you might want to consider a trip out into that wilderness to indulge in a spot of dune bashing. The reason behind your decision to embark upon such a course of action might be marketing, a lack of alternatives, peer pressure, or just an overwhelming passion for sand -- but the most sensible reason is simply because it is a lot of fun.
Guests at the Centara West Bay Residences & Suites in Doha, Qatar, or the Centara Muscat Hotel in Oman will certainly find no shortage of tour operators promising excursions of varying length which take in some spectacular desert scenery, as well as a little local culture, and incorporate up to an hour of dune bashing in a comfortable 4X4 SUV.
Don't Go it Alone
Before you sign up, however, it's a good idea to understand a little more of what dune bashing actually involves, so you'll know how to get the most out of your experience. First of all, you probably shouldn't try renting a vehicle and heading out into the desert to do it yourself. Driving on the dunes is a skill that you're unlikely to pick up on your own by simply putting your foot down and having a go.
It's much wiser to go as a passenger with a highly experienced driver who understands the limits of his vehicle and the terrain. In fact, even these experienced professionals rarely go out alone; for safety reasons you'll usually see a number of vehicles in a convoy, so if one gets into difficulties, the others are on hand to help out.
No Dune is Ever the Same
The activity itself begins when you reach an expanse of dunes where vehicles are permitted. Tearing up the desert landscape is often frowned upon, so there are limits on where you can go. Of course, the winds and the shifting sands ensure that the tracks you leave today are gone tomorrow, and the dunes themselves will never be the same from one day to the next. The first job is to let down the tyres to something in the range of 7-14 PSI. This increases the surface area which will come into contact with the sand. This not only helps the vehicle to gain traction as it climbs the dunes, but also makes it more difficult for the car to sink into the sand and become stuck.
What Should You Expect?
When the tyre pressure has been suitably adjusted, it's time to hit the dunes -- literally. Your vehicle will head up and down at some crazy angles, surging and sliding as it goes, but as long as you're heading straight up, or straight down, you should be fairly safe. It's when the vehicle turns to go sideways across a slope when the risk of rolling over becomes very real. Good drivers understand the speeds and angles needed to keep the car upright, and by following the tracks of the car in front, they can avoid any unexpected changes in the sand texture which might cause problems for the vehicle.
As a passenger, you'll probably enjoy it best if you are in the front seat so that you can see clearly where you are going, and anticipate what's coming up ahead. The next best option is to have a seat next to the window in the back, so you can still see out. If you happen to suffer from car-sickness going in a straight line on a level road, you might want to spare your fellow passengers and yourself by giving this a miss.
Who Shouldn't Go Dune Bashing?
Other passengers who might be well advised to think twice include the elderly, people with back problems, or pregnant women. The car will be rocking from side to side, as well as pitching, rolling, and sliding, like a rather random roller coaster, so if you think this might be unbearable, don't do it. You should also be prepared for sand. Sand gets everywhere -- that's just what sand does -- so even though you'll be in a sealed and air-conditioned vehicle, you will still find sand in your socks afterwards. A scarf and sunglasses are a good idea to block the worst of the sand, especially if it’s windy. The best time to go is during the afternoon, so when the adventure is over, you'll usually have a chance to take photos of the desert sunset from amongst the dunes. This means you'll be outside getting sandy, so dress with this in mind.
You should also make sure you take some water with you. The tour operators typically provide some water, and there are usually lunch or dinner stops involved, but the desert is of course a very hot and dry environment and it’s essential to stay well hydrated. This is especially important for children.
All in all, dune bashing is a great way to get out into an environment you won't normally experience at home, and to enjoy an activity that can be lots of fun for the whole family. Combined with a traditional meal, and maybe an oasis visit or a camel ride, it's the perfect day out you'll never forget.