This is Part 2 of our review of the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai.
Part 1 of our Al Maha review can be found here – we had to split it due to length!
Al Maha is one of the most iconic redemptions available via Marriott Bonvoy and exceptional value given the high cash rates. Back to my story ….
At just after 5pm we wandered over to the lobby to meet up with other guests and the rangers ahead of the evening’s activities. In the bar area was a delicious spread of juices, teas, coffees, treats and cakes that we could help ourselves to while we chatted to the rangers.
Just before 6pm we were led down to the area in front of the main pool where two ‘trains’ of camels were waiting for us. The camel handlers helped choose guests for each camel – two guests per beast! It was very well organised, and we were given clear instructions about how to hold on while the camels went from seated to standing and vice versa.
Soon we were on our way, with rangers and handlers on foot, kindly offering to take photos while the camels carried us into the dessert:
The walk took around twenty minutes and we found ourselves rendezvousing with the 4×4 contingent in a dune at a specially prepared table. It was set out with sparkling wine, beer, soft drinks, strawberries and snacks for us to enjoy while we watched the sun go down.
After sundown, we got back on our camels to make our way back to the resort and headed for the outdoor terrace to enjoy cocktails and the very welcome happy hour which runs from 6-8pm! By this time, it was pitch black, and we sat up on the Hajar Terrace Bar staring out into the dunes towards the lit-up man-made oasis while we worked our way through the cocktail list.
Our evening meal was once again taken in the Al Diwaan restaurant, dining outdoors – there is also the option to dine on your private terrace. You are also able to opt to dine out in the desert should you so desire!
The dinner menu included oysters, Wagyu beef, fois gras, scallops and lobster to name a few of the delicious ingredients. The presentation was once again fantastic and all food was piping hot and clearly very freshly cooked. At this point I really should complement the amazing staff at the resort. The waiting service was simply wonderful, and nothing was too much trouble. The staff really do go all out to ensure you have everything you could possibly need, and they genuinely seem to care that you are having the best time possible.
At the end of the meal and following the cheese plate we were surprised by our waiter bringing an absolutely amazing chocolate cream torte with Happy Anniversary written on it! We thanked him profusely but asked if we might be able to enjoy it the following day, as neither of us could honestly manage another thing! He fully understood and said they would refrigerate it and we could take it away with us when we left which was very kind.
We retired once to our suite and sat under the night stars to enjoy the dry port as a welcome digestive! With a 5.30am wake up call for the birds of prey, we sank into the luxurious bed and slept like logs, waking just in time to enjoy the sunrise!
Sunrise over the desert was wonderful. Not only were the birds back in full song, we got to enjoy the sight of hot air balloons gently drifting over the dunes as we wandered down to our rendezvous point. Teas and coffees and breakfast treats were laid out for us to help ourselves to before going down to the ‘demonstration’ area just in front of the restaurant.
Once we were all seated, a ranger and bird of prey handler told us all about the history of how the Bedouin hunters used falcons to catch food and how they build up their relationship with and train their falcons to hunt their prey including hares and even small gazelles.
It was absolutely fascinating to hear about how the birds were initially captured, and how they quickly became an important member of the family.
Whilst no longer an integral part of putting food on the table, falconry is still an important and cultural sport in the UAE and it’s wonderful to see the bond between the trainer and his birds.
We listened to stories and watched demonstrations with both falcons and an eagle and even got to hold the majestic creatures in turn!
By 10am and after a 5.30am start, we had both developed a good appetite for breakfast, so we headed off once again to the restaurant!
Helping ourselves to freshly squeezed watermelon juice, we explored the amazing buffet spread as well as the kitchen area where a chef was preparing freshly cooked eggs, omelettes, waffles and pancakes to order. There were a number of different buffet stations where you could help yourself to a huge array of international cuisine including dim sum, Arabic sweet and savoury dishes, cold meats and smoked salmon, as well as the usual pastries, yoghurt, fresh fruit and juices. As well as this, there was an a la carte offering which included cooked breakfast include fillet steak medallions which I could not resist.
After breakfast, we rolled back to our suite to enjoy our last hour and pack our bags before our car came to pick us up and drive us back to the city.
One point of note. I did not book the return car journey when making the outbound reservation, and on arrival, I was horrified to see the prices had shot up to $160 one way with Blacklane, which was similar to the prices on offer by the resort. I remembered reading on Flyertalk that someone had recommended a car company Airport Taxi Transfers and I checked them out. Luckily their prices were much more reasonably at just around $50 dollars for a one-way transfer.
All too soon it was time to depart and we were collected from our suite by a golf buggy.
Despite a short visit, we really did pack in some amazing experiences and enjoyed some delicious food. I would definitely love to visit again and would recommend a 2-3 night break as being ideal. That said, it is definitely worth considering booking 5 nights on points for the cost of 4 which is Marriott’s ongoing redemption offer.
Next time we would love to have a go at the archery and 4×4 dune driving activities and I would definitely want to do the sundowner camel trek again too. Ideally, we’d plan two nights to relax at the end of a stay in Dubai, rather than at the beginning as we had done.
All in all, this was one of the nicest hotels stays I have ever enjoyed, with excellent service and attention to detail when it comes to the amenities and the comforts in the room. It’s definitely one to add to a bucket list of amazing experiences and The Al Maha Desert Resort gets a solid ten out of ten from us!
The Al Maha website is here if you want to find out more.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards (July 2021)
There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card usually comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year. Until 31st August 2021, the bonus is doubled to 40,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. You can apply here.
You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.
Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards points with American Express Gold (20,000 bonus points), the American Express Rewards Credit Card (5,000 bonus points) and – for small business owners – American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus points) and Business Platinum (40,000 bonus points).
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)