Only in Dubai: Desert safari

Only in Dubai: Desert safari

Dubai is a lush city oasis, tantalisingly situated between glimmering sea and spectacular desert. And, where there’s desert, there’s adventure to be had. 

For event planners, the desert offers adrenaline, luxury and unforgettable memories away from the bustling city. Simply, a trip to the sand dunes is a must for anyone wanting to taste the full Dubai experience. So, to hear how to do it right, we spoke to Paul Fenton, managing director of Viva Esprit, whose team placed a desert safari experience at the heart of a four-day corporate event for a global technology company. 

Word-class incentives 

Founded in 2005, Viva Esprit has seen a rise in incentive travel over the past 18 months, and Dubai is at the forefront of creating corporate events that go the extra mile. 

“Since the early days of our business, Dubai has been a very strong location for hosting our client events,” says Fenton. “Clients recognise the importance of creating bespoke experiences for their people. They value getting their teams – and in some cases their partners – together for experiential and networking events.”

The global client came to Viva Esprit to organise an event for around 500 guests. It had three key objectives: a wow location, world-class hospitality and unique experiences. “After a detailed search, Dubai was unanimously chosen by all of the client’s stakeholders,” says Fenton. “We all felt Dubai had the most suitable access for a global guest list, the wow factor in terms of activities and also one of the best levels of service and hospitality in the world.” 

Luxury activities 

Viva Esprit chose the five-star Sofitel The Palm as the base for the event, and the hotel delivered a luxurious French Polynesian feel to the event. The four days were action-packed. Guests visited the famous souks for a taste of Dubai’s rich heritage, had an exclusive private turn on the Dubai Ain, and headed to the water to relax on board a luxury yacht (and, for the more adventurous, kayaking). 

Yet, the star of the show was the desert safari experience, at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. A key part of Dubai’s natural heritage, the reserve is UAE’s first national park and is home to indigenous species such as the Arabian oryx, the Arabian red fox, and the desert monitor (a lizard that can grow to 120cm). It also hosts camel treks, horse riding, wildlife and dunes drives, sand boarding, camping, falconry and hot-air balloon rides. Viva Esprit chose a desert safari with exclusive evening dining for their discerning clients. 

“The desert safari experience is so difficult to beat, especially when the programme was curated with such detail and ensured so many memorable touchpoints,” says Fenton. 

Hitting the dunes

Organised in partnership with Arabian Adventures, the desert safari was filled with highlights. It kicked off with more than 100 4x4 jeeps taking attendees from The Sofitel into the Conservation Reserve, before enjoying a drive across the awe-inspiring landscape of endless dunes. As the sun began to set, the guests stopped for champagne and canapes. Then, when the sun dipped behind the dunes, the guests were driven to a new location. There, they dined under the stars, immersing themselves in traditional local entertainment as they feasted on an array of local cuisines. 

“The 4x4s at the hotel, the drive through the conservation area, the champagne sunset stop, the banquet in the desert and the specially curated entertainment set this dinner apart from so many we have delivered across the world,” says Fenton. “The team had various photo opportunities set up for guests, but the colour of the sand and sky was the only backdrop needed. It was simply stunning. It ended with a magical evening under the stars, and the guests danced the night away. In the following days, the guests really thought it was so special.”

Delivering the highest standards

With its iconic skyline, luxurious hospitality, and world-class infrastructure, Dubai offers a unique blend of opulence and innovation, culture and style, relaxation and adventure, business and leisure. 

“Dubai is always a winner as far as we are concerned,” says Fenton. “The city knows how to deliver the highest standards of hospitality, and it has that x-factor that clients and guests crave. The world is a very competitive place in terms of locations for incentive trips, and Dubai remains at the forefront.”

Find out more at or contact