Best Cars for Desert Safari in Qatar

Best Cars for Desert Safari in Qatar

QL Motors
By QL Motors

There is something eerily attractive about deserts. Adventurers love traversing miles of barren lands for weeks and months, sometimes to study about the flora and fauna, or for soul searching or, at times, just for the sake of it. In Qatar these days, now that the winter has set in, another type of thrill-seekers, the dune bashers, are thronging the deserts in the south of the country.

Professionals, businessmen, teenagers, parents taking their kids along, men and women of different nationalities -- they come from all parts of the country to drive through the deserts and enjoy the adrenaline rush. Most do it in groups formed on social media, some go as a gang of friends, some take the help of tour operators while the seasoned campaigners opt to experience the excitement on their own, in their often customised 4x4 mean machines. Here we take a look at some of the best vehicles for dune bashing.

Toyota Land Cruiser

Land Cruiser is the complete package of an SUV as far as Qataris are concerned. It's powerful, reliant, sturdy, provides a comfortable ride on any terrain and is as classy as they come. In short, it’s a sophisticated beast. Many regulars, especially locals, use Land Cruisers for dune bashing because the most famous member from Toyota’s stable is a vehicle for all occasions. It is equally at home on a steep dune and on the porch of a five-star hotel. 

Land Cruiser, with its top model equipped with a 5.7L engine, is also commonly used by tour operators because of its safety standards and its larger capacity. Regular dune bashers alter their Land Cruisers, especially replacing the regular tyres with wider ones and opting for a higher bumper for better ground clearance. 

The flipside of Land Cruiser is that although it comes with a massive engine, it is a heavy vehicle which is not a big plus when in a desert.

Toyota Land Cruiser in the Qatari desert

Nissan Patrol

Nissan Patrol is another beast of a machine and a favourite with both locals and expatriates, be it on sand dunes or shiny roads. Patrol has been traditionally used for dune bashing and many enthusiasts still use the long discontinued Safari model. Patrol also comes with a 5.7L engine and like the Land Cruiser, it also has a less powerful variant which too is capable of strutting its stuff in the desert. And like its fierce rival, Patrol also has the weight issue but its engine capacity and power makes up for it.

Nissan Patrol Qatar

Land Rover Defender

Land Rover Defender had a big reputation to live up to when it recently re-entered the tough terrains of the SUV market but it is already a hit. Defender’s rugged look, brutal power and sophisticated soul make it a favourite for adventure seekers, not just in Qatar, but all over the world. Possessing efficient and powerful engines the new Defender is armed with a host of intelligent offroad technologies.

Land Rover Defender in Qatar

Toyota FJ Cruiser

In FJ Cruiser, Toyota has another dependable off-roader suited for the deserts. Equipped with a 4 litre, V6 engine, FJ Cruiser is at home even on the trickiest of the dunes, with an expert driver behind the wheel. The retro-styled FJ Cruiser, easy on the weight department and heavy on the performance side, is in fact one of the choicest vehicles in the deserts throughout the Middle East.

Toyota FJ Cruiser  Qatar

Mitsubishi Pajero

Mitsubishi Pajero is an old favourite when it comes to off-roading, especially in deserts but it could not hold on to its own against its mighty rivals Patrol and Land Cruiser. However, Pajero still has plenty left in the tank and is a reliable vehicle in the deserts, if you are not much into acrobatics. Legendary Qatari rally champion Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, a three-time winner at Dakar, started his campaign in the world’s most gruelling rally in 2005 in a Pajero. Nasser won his titles with  Volkswagen in 2011, Mini in 2015 and with his present team Toyota in 2019, but the Japanese manufacturer holds the record for the most titles with 12 wins, which bears testimony to its off-roading ability.

Mitsubishi Pajero Qatar

Jeep Wrangler

The American icon has been a favourite in the whole of the Middle East when it comes to dune bashing not just because of its extreme off-road capabilities but also because of its classic looks. Jeep Wrangler is a retro-styled SUV and for that single reason, it will never go out of fashion. And its desert capabilities, hugely helped by its comparatively lightweight, are there on display every day on the dunes. Besides, a second-hand Jeep Wrangler is not expensive at all and all you need is a thorough check-up before buying it.

Jeep Wrangler in the desert of Qatar

Used cars

If you are new in Qatar and dune bashing is high on your priority list you can go for a brand new 4x4 from Japanese carmakers such as Toyota, Nissan or Mitsubishi, Or you can go for Land Rover. Almost all popular brands making 4x4 vehicles have their showrooms in Qatar and you can also check at the Qatar Living showrooms. If you are looking for a budget option you can always go for a used car. From the forever young Patrol Safari to the rugged Jeep Wrangler there is a wide range of vehicles to choose from on Qatar Living. While opting for a vehicle, don’t go for too old models and the ones that have done too many kilometres. Do thorough research on the model you are planning to buy because some particular models can be troublesome. And before buying, take the vehicle to a checking centre for a rigorous inspection. 

Safety precautions

Whatever your vehicle is, you have to take all necessary safety precautions. When you venture into a desert, the first thing you need to do is to reduce the pressure of the tyres to between 12 and 15 pounds per square inch (PSI). But even before that, you should make sure that your vehicle is in top condition, fully serviced and having a perfect cooling system. Check the battery and engine oil level also, because you can’t afford your vehicle getting stuck in the desert.

Another basic safety feature, which is doubly important in dune bashing, is the seat belt.

Everyone should be well strapped because in almost all accidents the vehicle flips over and wearing seatbelts could be the difference between life and death. Not just in deserts, we should always wear seatbelts whenever we are travelling in a vehicle. 

All vehicles, whether bashing alone or moving in a group, must have their own recovery gear as you never know when and where you get stuck. The recovery gear commonly comprises a recovery strap or a snatch strap to recover vehicles stuck in the sand, a shovel to remove the sand from beneath the tyres, a deflator, and a compressor or a foot pump. The compressor will come in handy when you have to inflate your tyre to make it suitable for different terrains. Besides, when you are stuck you will have to reduce the pressure to as low as 5 psi which is not suitable for regular driving, even in the sand. So you will need the compressor to get the tyre pressure back to between 12 and 15. 

A proper first aid kit is also essential when going for a dune bash. Deserts are home to many poisonous insects and snakes and when bitten by them it’s always advisable to take the victim to the nearest hospital. 

Tips for beginners

If you are a novice in the desert, stick to the basics even if you are an expert driver. Never slide across a dune because the vehicle can easily flip over. On the dunes, go up and come down straight. Drive in the same path left by other vehicles as much as possible because the sands will be comparatively firm. With experience, you will be familiar with the terrain and you may be able to look at the sand and tell how firm it is, and you may even drive diagonally across a large dune and feel the thrill. But until then safety first is the best approach. In fact, it is always the best approach.

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