I’ve been in Dubai for over 2 years and have been champing at the bit to go off road. Clearly my Mini isn’t really built for this, so my fiancee Emma kindly lent me her 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sahara and I booked on a Saturday morning driving lesson with the team at OffRoad Zone based in Al Quoz, Dubai.
We drove out in convoy towards Hatta and after an hour pulled off the main road to go through some basics. Firstly, how to let down your tyres quickly and safely to around 12psi using a very simple deflating tool. This enables better grip and traction on the sand and if you do not have a compressor, knowing to drive carefully below 50kph when back on tarmac roads until you can get to a garage to reinflate. We needed to ensurewe kept the correct distance from each other, not stopping on an uphill incline and always, where possible, stop on slight decline. Most usefully, learning when to use Low Range (4L) and High Range gears (4H). Most of the driving was completed in 4L.
Lesson number one was to get deliberately stuck and buried deep upto axles.
Here Minas is explaining how to use gravity and turns of the front wheel, combined with short hard revs in 4H to dig the front of the car out, and gradually the car just rolls back down the slope after a couple of minutes.
Once this important lesson was learnt and practised, we were capable of getting ourselves out of trouble without the need for Minas to keep stopping and dragging us out. (In most cases) After some more convoy driving we practised descending down steep slopes, being careful not to lose our front bumpers at the bottom.
Practice practice practice and round again.
Soon we did cresting, which is very difficult. Getting the correct speed and power up the slope, whilst being very wary of the other side, so having to drop the acceleration just at the right point of cresting the dune. Unfortunately this chap didn’t get his timing right.
The remainder of the session was driving in convoy, testing different situations and the odd occasion of getting stuck in bowls. This is like a small bowl or crater where you have limited space to gain momentum to get up the other side and end up going back and forth. Quite frustrating.
All in all, a valuable lesson in how to drive in the desert. Minas stressed the importance of taking the correct equipment before you set out such as shackles, towrope, portable air compressor, GPS/Satnav, water and supplies. Most importantly, not to set out on your own, go in groups or join established outings or group events. Letting friends or family know where you are going, with GPS co-ordinates if necessary.
This certainly something that all drivers should do before heading out in the desert and I’m very glad I did. Minas was an excellent instructor and very patient with key important points reiterated time and time again. I’ll be out again soon (if Emma lets me borrow the Jeep of course!)
Course details, prices and timings can be found at OffRoad Zone based in Al Quoz, not far from the Oasis Centre, off the Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. If you don’t have your own 4×4, they can lend you one for the course for a reasonable charge.