Review: Sonara Camp is unlike any other Dubai desert experience
But, is it worth the money?
Dubai desert experiences are normally reserved as something to fill the time while you have visitors over. They usually involve a bit of dune bashing, followed by basic henna art and a belly dancing performance while you fight your way to the buffet table.
Sonara Camp offers none of these things, but in our opinion, this ultimately makes it the best Dubai desert experience.
Upon arrival at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, we park up and switch over to a 4×4, where our driver takes us softly over the dunes toward the campsite. En route we even catch a glimpse of several oryxes, which we’re told are protected in the area.
The camp is stunning, especially as we arrive just before sunset, with Instagrammable opportunities everywhere you look. The upper level has a large round bar, where people can mingle and sip on a huge range of drinks, as well as areas with bean bags and sofas to relax on before dinner.
Activity stations are set up around the camp, in case you wish to get involved. There’s everything from volleyball and archery to sand boarding, an interactive falcon show, and camel riding at your own leisure. Otherwise, you can grab a hammock and enjoy the stunning sunset beyond the dunes.
Dinner takes place on a lower level, under a marquee of stunning fairy lights, where comfortable cream and blue cushions, shisha and more entertainment await. A violinist belts out a number of well-known songs, and things get lively when a big birthday group begin to sing along to Frank Sinatra’s I Love You Baby.
An impressive fire show kicks off a little later, with an exciting finale that we’ll keep as a surprise.
The meal is more like something you’d find in a five-star hotel than a desert camp. With proper plates and cutlery and not a plastic cup in sight, we sit down and are treated to three incredible courses from the new-season sharing menu.
Starters arrive in many creative forms, for example the sea bream Tahitian ceviche comes in a tiny crispy cone topped with an avocado puree and offers two juicy mouthfuls with perfectly blended flavours.
We can’t fault the pulled lamb shoulder with ras el hanout, which Chef tells us he created while at home during lockdown. We embark on a DIY process reminiscent of duck pancakes, only this version uses slow-cooked pulled lamb that instantly melts in the mouth.
Black Angus picanha arrives sizzling on the grill, and is cooked beautifully along with a refreshing side dish of rocket chimichurri.
Thankfully, the dessert is lovely and light, with a fresh fruit salad, and indulgent bitesized pie with chocolate ganache topping. Afterward, we make our way back upstairs where the highlight of the night is waiting.
An astronomer has set up an enormous telescope for us to partake in some incredible stargazing. We’re told we’re lucky as Jupiter, Mars and Saturn can all be clearly seen that night. After a seriously close inspection of the moon, we cast our eyes to the planets and it takes our breath away.
While Sonara Camp is by no means the cheapest desert camp out there, it’s arguably the most memorable. If you’re a regular bruncher, consider swapping out a couple of them for a night under the stars with good friends, great food and a brilliant overall experience.
Right now you can get 10 per cent off at Sonara Camp with the code Resident10.
Sonara Camp, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Dinner and Sunset experience from Dhs860 adults or Dhs380 children. nara.ae/sonara