As the only Ecotourism Desert Safari company in Dubai, Platinum Heritage are advocates of sustainable travel, and their mission is to conserve the natural environment, wildlife, and culture of Dubai and its people.
With authenticity and attention to detail at the core of what they do, Platinum Heritage have been awarded the prestigious World Travel Award for the Middle East’s Leading Desert Safari Company for six years in a row, and TripAdvisor has ranked it as one of the top 10% businesses worldwide from 2012 – 2021.
The reason for their success is simple: they make sure that their Desert Safaris embrace the land’s culture, history, and environment and most of the tours authentically showcase different periods in Dubai’s history.
FOUR speaks to Adam McEwan, CEO and Co-Founder of Hero Experiences Group, to find out more about these once-in-a-lifetime safari experiences.
Can you give us a brief overview of the company, its history and what it offers?
The first arm of the business we founded was Platinum Heritage in 2012 by my co-founder, Bassam and myself. After working in the desert safari industry for years, we realised we could create experiences than are more authentic and sustainable than regular mass tourism activities. So, we embarked on the mission of curating unique desert safaris that truly showcase the traditional heritage and history of the UAE. We wanted our guests to become the heroes of their adventure in a fun and engaging way, so we decided to offer nature drives in fully restored vintage Land Rovers from the 1950s. We also identified the need for a more private, premium experience, so we started our luxury collection with the latest model Range Rovers, a 6-course fine dining menu, and stunning gazebos around an intimate, private lake. After seeing the positive response in the market for activities that offer something unique for the more discerning travellers, we acquired Balloon Adventures Dubai (sunrise hot air balloon flights) in 2015. We also opened HERO OdySea Self-Drive Boat Tours in 2018.
Each of the three companies made guests feel empowered in one way or another, and we want our guests to feel like heroes. In 2019 we decided to place all of our experiences under one umbrella, so we formed the Hero Experiences Group, the travel experience group behind some of the most engaging and immersive air, sea and land adventures across the UAE.
Tell us more about Platinum Heritage’s Collections and what makes them so special.
We offer three collections as a part of Platinum Heritage’s repertoire: Platinum Collection, Heritage Collection and Overland Collection. Each collection has options for morning or afternoon experiences and includes a desert drive, falcon show/interaction, camel rides, dinner or breakfast, entertainment and a dedicated Nature Guide that will share interesting facts and stories about the desert throughout the experience.
The Heritage Collection offers guests an opportunity to journey back to a turning point in Dubai’s history when Land Rovers changed how people travelled through the desert in the 1950s. This collection is ideal for curious and adventurous travellers looking to learn more about the culture and history of the UAE. Safaris in the Heritage Collection consist of desert drives in vintage, open- top Land Rovers, authentic Arabic cuisine and traditional Emirati performances of Yola, Drumming and Ayala. There is even a safari that is presented by a professional Astronomer that focuses on how the Bedouin used the stars to navigate the desert.
The Platinum Collection is curated for travellers looking for an ultra-luxurious experience who appreciate the finer things in life. Safaris in the Platinum Collection conducts a desert drive through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in a modern Range Rover. Dining options include a six-course fine dining dinner in a private cabana next to a serene desert oasis or a five-star breakfast in a world-famous resort. The evening safaris in the Platinum Collection have magnificent entertainment of fire and acrobatics that takes guests’ breaths away every time.
Our newest collection, the Overland Collection, is enjoyed by travellers looking for off-the-beaten- track experiences. Each safari spans a whole day and is completely customised and private. The guests will work closely with our Experience Consultants to set up an itinerary that will meet all of their needs. They can go biking, hiking or kayaking in other areas of the UAE, such as Wadi Shawka and Hatta. After a day of adventure and adrenaline, they will join a Heritage Safari in the desert.
What are some less commonly known things about desert safaris in Dubai? And what makes them must-visit destinations?
There is so much to learn about the desert in the UAE! The desert is such a magnificent place with a thriving ecosystem. As most of the desert life is nocturnal and hides under the sand during the day, people often miss the opportunity to see them. Activities like dune bashing and ATVs or buggies harm their environment and kill them without people even realising they are doing it. If you visit the desert with the right mindset and company, you will not only see and experience more of what it offers but also play an active role in protecting it.
Many people don’t know that falcons are an integral part of the UAE’s history, as they were man’s best friend back in the day and, as a reliable hunting companion, ensured there was protein on the table.
When looking into the history of the UAE and how the Bedouins used to traverse the desert in search of their next stopover, you will be amazed at where a lot of the customs of Arabian hospitality originated from and how it is still being used today.Learning about all these anecdotes and traditions while on a safari with Platinum Heritage is truly unique.
You pride yourself on being an ethical and sustainable tour operator. Please tell us more about this and what guests can expect.
We pride ourselves as Dubai’s only eco-luxury desert safari company where “eco” emphasises our values of sustainability through several sustainable practices. The one with the biggest impact is not conducting dune bashing of any kind. As I mentioned, most desert life lives under the sand and is invisible to the naked eye. By operating on set tracks designed in conjunction with Conservationists, we ensure we keep vast parts of the desert untouched, allowing the less-known desert creatures who are very important to the ecosystem, to continue thriving,
Another sustainable practice we follow is providing each guest with a stainless steel water bottle when they arrive in the desert, with several opportunities to fill it with water. This ensures we reduce the amount of plastic brought into the desert, as guests are asked to leave their plastic bottles at the gate.
We also donate a portion of each guest’s fee to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve for desert conservation.
We have this sustainable mindset across the whole group, and each company follows similar practices to ensure a better environment for the future.
What are the different food and activities for some of the experiences?
Platinum Heritage offers an array of food and activities, depending on which Collection you choose.
Breakfast is either a traditional Emirati or Bedouin Breakfast and has dishes like Chabab (traditional pancakes), Desert Truffles, Luqaimat (Arabic doughnuts) and many more. Dinner in the Heritage Collection is a four-course menu with the very traditional Lamb Ouzi as the star of the menu. Other dishes include Fattoush Salad, Kibbeh and Chicken Tagine. If guests opt for a Platinum Desert Safari, they will indulge in a six-course fine dining menu where they can choose their dishes. Options include Roasted Duck, Australian Grass-Fed Beef Fillet, Norwegian Salmon and Grilled Prawns, Risotto and many more in the other courses.
All desert safaris include a desert drive, a falcon show or birds of prey interaction, camel rides, henna, shisha and entertainment.
What makes a trip with Platinum Heritage so different in your eyes?
Our motto is “Your Life. Your Story. Be a HERO”. The hero in the story is not just our guests but also our amazing team of professionals, our industry colleagues and Mother Nature. Our experiences are engaging and inspiring, aiming to positively impact the lives of everyone around us. As we want to preserve and protect the culture and environment, sustainability is at the core of everything we do, and it spills over into all aspects of why our safaris are unique.
Our biggest unique selling point, however, is the vintage Land Rovers, where we conduct most of our safaris, as you can’t do that anywhere else in Dubai.
Every Nature Guide is extensively trained in-house on desert conservation and the soft skills required to consistently deliver exceptional guest service in 9 languages. We don’t overcrowd our safaris, offering each Nature Guide the opportunity to build a relationship with every guest, making them feel like family.
What are the best times of year to embark on a desert safari?
Platinum Heritage operates 365 days a year. Although winter months (October – April) are generally cooler and easier to visit the desert, we make provisions for the summer months.
We adjust the start and end times of the safaris to be between the coolest times of the day. In summer, we offer the option to do the whole safari in an air-conditioned vehicle. We change our menus for each season and add dishes to complement the weather.
Our hot air balloon flights only operate during winter as the air inside the balloons needs to be hotter than the air outside, which is more difficult during the summer.
For those who don’t want to visit the desert in the summer, HERO OdySea Self-Drive Boat Tours is a great way to cool down as you zip along Dubai’s coastline.
What do you think is most important to guests when they select a desert safari in Dubai? And how do you incorporate this into tours at Platinum Heritage?
There are two types of travellers visiting Dubai. Most people enjoy doing mainstream activities and ensuring they capture them on camera. We cater to the other travellers: those who are looking for a unique experience where they will learn about the culture and history of the UAE while contributing to the environment.
With so many operators in the markets, guests will always compare prices first. With our premium prices of safaris, we know guests who book with us will expect luxury and will also truly appreciate the experience we give them.
We always consider guests’ feedback when developing offerings and products for each season, ensuring we keep up to date with what guests want to see, hear and experience.
What memories or emotions do you hope travellers are left with at the end of a Platinum Heritage experience?
When guests are dropped off at their hotel at the end of their morning or evening, we can only hope they are awe-struck and inspired. We hope they will take away everything they learnt from us and share it with their loved ones. We also want our guests to be more conscious about sustainability and how they choose their travel activities in the future.
What do you have in store for 2023/24?
Hero Experiences Group has many plans for the next two years. The most exciting is the launch of The Dubai Balloon at Atlantis in February 2023 – Dubai’s latest aerial adventure that offers uninterrupted 360-degree views during both the day and night. It is a helium balloon anchored to the ground at the Atlantis Resort on Palm Jumeirah and can go up to 300 meters high, making it the highest observation point in the area. The unprecedented views of the Dubai skyline and the Arabian Gulf are breathtaking.
We are also looking at geographical expansion in the near future and have many exciting things in store!