The sands of the Al Wadi Nature Reserve shift over 1235 rippling red acres within Wadi Khadeja near Dubai. They form the perfect location for glamping in Ras Al Khaimah.
Here's what you need to know.
Glamping in Ras Al Khaimah: The Al Wadi Nature Reserve
Across the sand, something is moving. Slowly. Stuttering. But real.
An oryx, I think, white flanks caked in dust, horns piercing the air. It's almost as though she's following the sun, appearing with its quiet, dawn-like shift across the dunes.
It's early, but as a new mum, I'm used to early.
I'm not that used to quiet.
A bird dips its wings in the water and I hold my breath, waiting watching.
And I haven't needed to venture far. In fact, I've just opened up the blinds. And tiptoed to the edge of the private plunge pool...
My work with the airline Royal Brunei highlighted an unusual travel destination to explore: the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah in the U.A.E. This Ritz Carlton Al Wadi review forms part of a project produced in partnership with Royal Brunei, RAKTDA and Ritz Carlton. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. If you book through links, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you. Now, about that oryx...
THE ULTIMATE RAS AL KHAIMAH GLAMPING SPOT
Just a 45 minute drive from Dubai airport into neighbouring emirate, you'll find the 1235 hectare Al Wadi Nature Reserve. The word "Wadi" means oasis and the place fulfils the promise on two fronts: the nature and the superb luxury hotel that offers the best glamping in Ras Al Khaimah, right in the heart of the sands.
With clean lines, Arabian influence and beautiful design, the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi mixes luxe glamping villas with more traditional rooms set in this desert nature reserve. You can either relax and stay in your room. Or venture out to explore..
Here's what you can do in the Al Wadi Nature Reserve.
THINGS TO DO IN THE AL WADI NATURE RESERVE
The Al Wadi desert activities mix culture with nature and a bit of relaxation. You can leave on tours or stay within the substantial grounds of the hotel for the following experiences:
Camel and Horse Riding
The Ritz Carlton Al Hamra has a substantial equestrian centre set in the heart of the Al Wadi Nature Reserve, with ponies for younger riders and camels for the curious.
At first glance, the desert sands may look empty. But spend time there and you'll find plenty to see, from the desert fox to the oryx and gazelle. Take part in guided nature walks at dawn and dusk or rise early and sit still and quiet in your own Ras Al Khaimah glamping spot.
Take a Spa Break
You may be in a nature reserve but you are still glamping in a five star hotel. And one with a substantial spa centre, of course.
Desert Bike Safari
Saddle up on specially adapted desert bikes and try the might of your calf muscles against the power of the dunes.
Although a controversial topic today, falconry forms a core part of tradition and culture across the Arabian peninsula and the falcon is the national bird of the United Arab Emirates. In the Al Wadi Nature Reserve you can join educational falconry exhibitions and understand more about the practice, its origins and its necessity in the heat of the desert. See the desert eagle owl, Harris hawk and falcon and learn more about each of these birds.
Catch and Release Fishing
Head to the watering hole in the Al Wadi Nature Reserve and, well, catch and release. This activity is also a great way to introduce children to the importance of fishing and its role in our survival.
Dine Beneath the Stars
You can arrange to dine outside, beneath the stars on the carpet of the Al Wadi Nature Reserve. Glamping, the Ras Al Khaimah way.
Learn another skill of the desert Bedouin by taking archery lessons in the heart of the Al Wadi Nature Reserve. Adults and children over the age of seven can take part.
Glamping in Ras Al Khaimah provides one of the best opportunities you'll ever find for stargazing. Far from the light pollution of the cities, the dark, inky canvas of the sky bursts into brilliant lilac and blue stardust after dark. In the Al Wadi Nature Reserve, you'll find guides to help you decode the constellations. You can also borrow their telescopes.
Heritage Forest Tree Planting
Join a project to restore up to 4000 native Ghaf trees within the Al Wadi Nature Reserve by sponsoring and planting your own tree.
THINGS TO DO NEAR THE AL WADI NATURE RESERVE
Ras Al Khaimah is a compact place but you will need to drive to visist anywhere other than the Al Wadi Nature Reserve. From the hotel, drives of 20-30 minutes take you to the coast or to the top of the Jebel Jais mountain range and world's longest zipline. A shorter drive takes you into an introductory Bedouin camp for some dune bashing and a feast beneath the stars. Check out this article on other things to do in Ras Al Khaimah.
It's also easy to visit the Ritz-Carlton sister property, the Al Hamra on the coast for a swim before returning as a day trip.
THE RITZ CARLTON AL WADI: THE ROOMS
The best glamping in Ras al Khaimah takes place within the gorgeous Al Khaimah Tented Pool Villas. Catch the live walk around here:
Find more information about the different room options at the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi over here.
WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE AT THE RITZ CARLTON AL WADI?
The main restaurant is the Kaheela, an all day, all out buffet with a la carte options to match. The design of the room and outdoor space is gorgeous, with latticework, bright white lines and perfectly framing foliage.
The other main food spot is the incongruously named Farmhouse, with the feeling of a distinguished gentlemen's club. Blue and yellow leather chairs wait besides textured brick walls and shelves brimming with globes, ceramics and glassware.
When it comes to what arrives on your plate, though, both places excel with fresh flavours and a fusion between Arabic and Indian cuisine and aged meats.
Private and dune-top dining is also possible
WHAT ABOUT GLAMPING IN RAS AL KHAIMAH WITH KIDS? IS THE AL WADI NATURE RESERVE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
I travelled alone on this occasion but my daughter would have loved it. There's a kids' club for the over 4s, which looked amazing, but the masses of space and easygoing staff made things look very child-friendly. The private pools make it much easier with children, although the tented villas are not fully enclosed so you would need to make sure no one wandered off...
How to Plan Your Glamping Trip to the Al Wadi Nature Reserve
Fly into Dubai or Abu Dhabi and arrange a transfer by road. Dubai Airport is closer, with around a 30 minute transfer to the Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi.
You can easily collect a hire car at the airport and then drive yourself around Ras al Khaimah. Alternatively, simply arrange hotel transfers and then rely on the hotel tours, excursions and activities.
Health, Visas and Other Practicalities
Ras al Khaimah is malaria free and most UK and US nationals do not need to arrange a visa in advance. However, always check the most up to date information before you book or travel. Check out our ultimate pre-trip checklist to make sure you get everything done before you go!
More About Travel in the Middle East
Within the United Arab Emirates
- Beyond Dubai, check out Sharjah, the cultural emirate with plenty of things to do.
Beyond the U.A.E
Explore more of the Middle East with this collection of travel stories. In particular, look out for the flavours of Jordanian food, the best things to do in Jordan, the story of the Madaba mosaics and a two day itinerary for coastal city Tel Aviv.