The desert can be a safe and fun place if you take the right precautions and stay vigilant. However, there are some critters out there that any intrepid desert adventurer should be aware of.


The region is home to several types –the black scorpion, thick-pincer scorpion, Arabian death stalker and more. You’ll need treatment if stung, and can be pretty ill, but only rarely do cases turn serious like that above.

To avoid scorpions, remember they’re nocturnal – so be extra vigilant after dark. They also like shaded nooks and crannies; check empty shoes, and avoid putting hands into holes, or lifting stones.

If stung, see a doctor as soon as possible. Ice can relieve local discomfort, but morphine or a similar injection may be needed for serious pain. If symptoms worsen (sweating, heart palpitations, rising blood pressure, nausea), full treatment is essential. For bad reactions, there’s an antiserum.


The same advice applies; don’t put hands into cavities or cracks in rocks, even if you drop something. If you see a snake, don’t provoke it. Its instinct is to go away. Staying still may also help; snakes use the sound vibrations of motion to attack. The UAE has some venomous snakes, the most dangerous belong to the viper family, recognisable by triangular heads.

If bitten, try to snap a photo to help identify the snake. Don’t pick it up, even if you think it’s dead. Wash round the bite and head to hospital for antivenom. Avoid excessive movement or agitation, thus slowing the venom’s passage around your body. ‘Sucking out the poison’ is a misconception; likewise tourniquets, elevating the limb and antiseptic creams: none help, and may actually be counter-productive. Remember: most snakes in this region aren’t poisonous, and viper bites are rare.

2013 saw redback spiders back in the UAE for the first time in a while. However, they prefer shady gardens to open desert, so are less of an adventure trip hazard. Nonetheless, if bitten follow the procedure above; go to hospital for the antivenom, use ice for local pain and avoid tourniquets.

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