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During our trip to North India, we went on a typical Rajasthan tour, wanting to see all those beautiful palaces. By the way, you can find our complete itinerary here, not only Rajasthan but also other surprises. Anyway, a trip to Rajasthan wouldn’t be complete without testing the must-do attraction in Jaisalmer: a Camel Safari.
We decided to go with Sahara Travels agency, upon the Lonely Planet’s advice and all the good comments on Trip Advisor. And this was an excellent choice, they offer « non-touristic » routes. Which means we didn’t go to Sam Dunes like everyone else. Instead,we went further into Desert National Park. And I have to admit we didn’t see any other groups of tourists.
We chose the 2 days / 1 night option, in order to really immerse ourselves into what life in the desert is really like. I wouldn’t recommend to go on a longer safari, like 4 days, because let’s face it, a camel is not as comfortable as a horse.
We’re meeting in front of the agency at 9 am. We will be a group of six tourists: Paul & I, another couple (Dutch) and two Italian friends. I’m happy it’s a small group and of young people like us, we should get along during this safari.
We’re leaving the city of Jaisalmer on a Jeep and drive for around 40 km. On the way, we stop to an oasis surrounded by cenotaphs, then we visit an abandoned fort in the desert.
We finally arrive on the departure point where our camels and camel drivers are waiting for us. Four drivers for six people, we should be fine. Once introductions are made, we mount our camels and go for a first ride of two hours on the camel’s back.
At first sight, OK we are in the desert but it’s not so fabulous as we would picture it. Yellow sand, very rocky ground, thousands of bush bundles and wind turbines are seen afar.
For lunch, we stop in a plain but below the shadow of a tree. During each break, the camels are un-saddled and can walk freely. We start by drinking a nice Chai Tea. A shepherd joins us for tea with his flock of goats. Then the camel driver-cook starts making lunch for us. It was delicious. We take a nap under the tree before going back on the camel’s back, waiting for the sun to go down.
Mid-afternoon, we’re leaving for another camel ride, for about two hours.
The scenery is gradually changing. Bush trees are disappearing, so is the rocky ground. The sand is turning into orange shades. Finally, we are totally in the middle of the dunes, completely surrounded. Our drivers give us some time to marvel at this view. We leave our camels there and go explore this desert on foot. We take photos, get ourselves stranded, make stunts… When we meet the group again, Chai tea and papaya were waiting for us.
Then, we individually go back to exploring and get to admire the sunset before meeting the group again for dinner. We got plenty of time on our own to enjoy the dunes, a landscape so uncommon for us Europeans, and I really appreciate that.
Tonight, we will sleep under the stars in the desert. After dinner, the drivers set our beds in the middle of the dunes. Real beds with good blanket and pillows. I’m reassured not to sleep directly on the sand, I would have been scared of snakes and beetles. And I was right to be scared of that, because when we woke up, the bed was encircled with animal prints.
In the morning, we had a continental breakfast: toasts, jam, tea, bananas. We mount our camels for one last ride, for about three hours. The sun is already high, we feel the heat.
We ride past a village in the middle of the desert whose houses are huts made of wood and straw. Little girls are running towards us and start singing and dancing for us. Another camel driver joins us on the last section, with his very young son pulling the reins of the camel.
The last riding session was full of experiences but I found it a bit too long. The pain and tiredness started to show on the second day, I was glad to end it.
In total, we’ve spent 7 hours on the camel’s back on a time frame of one day and a half. This is plenty enough to live a full experience.
Honestly, we had a good group dynamic. We really appreciated talking with the other four tourists of the group and sharing our Indian experiences and other travels.
This was truly a remarkable experience. All the ingredients were there to make us live our very own Arabian Nights. Whoever is visiting Jaisalmer or Bikaner, I highly recommend you to take a Camel Safari, especially by spending one night in the desert in order to get a full experience. Camel Safaris are a MUST-DO in Rajasthan, don’t miss out on this one, you will regret it.
My experience with Sahara Travels
Safari 2 days / 1 night: 1550 Rs / pers (15-20€ depending on the exchange rate).
Do not forget the tip for the camel drivers. With our group, we decided that each person would give 100Rs. That was 600Rs in total for the camel drivers to split in four.
The positive sides
- Safaris in small groups to offer you a more authentic experience
- Serious agency, very good reputation. I would recommend them with my eyes closed
- Experienced camel drivers and also very nice: they will be glad to tell you about their daily lives and you can even cook with them and try to make you first chapati
- Vegetarian healthy food, quantities are more than enough. I don’t think you can catch food poisoning on this safari. They have a serious reputation and are careful with the food. The vegetables were bought the morning before embarking on the Jeep. The food was delicious and I particularly appreciated that they put the spicy sauce aside.
- You sleep under the stars in a real bed
- Very good service, kind thoughts from the camel drivers. For example, when they set our beds, they allowed enough space so that each couple could have some intimacy from the rest of the group.
- Everything is included in the price: transfer in Jeep, one camel per person, bed + blankets, food, water
- « Non-touristic » route garanteed, you will not bump into other groups of tourists. In fact, you are all alone in the deset with your camels, the camel drivers and sometimes some goats.
The negative sides
- Bad water management: The agency had told us there would be “unlimited water during the whole safari”. Yet, on the second day, we were left with only two bottles of water after breakfast. Rest reassured, no one died of dehydration.
- Animal happiness. It seems to me the same camels are doing safaris after safaris without any break during the high season. I know they are very robust animals, made to live in the desert but still, I thought about the well-being of the camels. Don’t get me wrong, we did not witness any bad treatment on the camels. Not at all.
- Children labor. Two of our camel drivers were children around the age of 10. We are in India, so it’s not uncommon to see children working. I’m sure the other agencies have children working too. At least these ones are not begging in the street.
Despite those negative sides, I am convinced that Sahara Travels is one of the best agency you could find in Jaisalmer for a camel safari. I do hope that the high price we pay for the safari is fairly distributed to the camel drivers as a salary. Choose your agency wisely because we read a lot of disappointed travelers having gone on a very cheap excursion or some suspicious companies taking advantage of tourists.
Have you ever gone on a camel safari for two or more days ? In which country ? Do you know a company you could recommend to go with on this kind of safari (specify country and city) ?