Jaisalmer is a small Indian city in the far west of Rajasthan, only 130km from India’s border with Pakistan. But despite (or rather, because of) being a comparatively smaller and quieter city, it became our favourite India. Taking a camel safari in Jaisalmer was a huge highlight for us in India – so much so that we did it twice!
Choosing a camel safari
Although pretty much every hotel or business in town will happily book a camel safari for a commission, you want to make sure you book a good one and also one that is ethical – to the camels, and to its workers. We booked our Camel Safari through Padam at Wanderlust Guesthouse where we stayed in Jaisalmer, and I can’t recommend Wanderlust enough.
Our overnight safari cost 1850 INR per adult ($25 USD). There are various options available for differing lengths of time and choices for with or without an overnight stay.
What is included in the price?
- Luggage storage in Jaisalmer (you only need a small backpack),
- Pick up and drop off from your guesthouse,
- An overnight desert safari near Jaisalmer,
- Jeep transportation to and back from the desert with a couple of stops along the way,
- Chai, water, dinner and breakfast.
Getting to the camels
We were picked up by jeep from Wanderlust Guesthouse at 2:00pm and driven the 60km to the desert. Nabu, our driver, was a great guide in showing us stops en route to admire a natural desert oasis and explore an abandoned city.
We arrived at a small village to begin our trek, with the suddenly apprehensive recollection of just how tall camels are… and just how awkward they are to get on and hold onto when they stand up!
But our guides were great, and before we knew it we were all on board and ready to ride. For the first day I rode with Harry, but by day two he was confident and rode on his own while Oscar rode with me.
How long is the camel ride?
From the village, the camel trek took about 1.5 hours to get to our camp spot for the night. Although this sounds like a short amount of time; trust me, that’s a decent amount of time in a saddle. The camels plod along at a steady pace, and the trek passes through patches of low scrub and desert that could more aptly be named as plains arid with scrubby vegetation, before reaching more frequent dunes of sand. These areas of sand dunes sometimes border makeshift paddocks and areas where farmers were tending to and herding goats, and it was interesting to see different aspects of village life and to wave hello as we went.
Plus, the most exciting thing was that we were actually riding camels… in the desert of India!
Staying the night
Camp for the night is literally a sheltered spot, where a small mud hut has been set up to store cooking utensils and bed frames; all a welcomed sight after an hour and a half in a camel saddle!
And bed for the night is quite literally, under the stars…
We loved the evening sun and the slow routine of getting the camels hobbled and set out for the night. The boys ran up and down the sand dunes, chasing the tracks of dung beetles and playing as camel herders across the dunes.
What about dinner?
Gavin and I enjoyed a beer and helped to make chapati for dinner on the campfire. The whole evening created some of our best memories from India. It felt so far from other times of travel and the busyness of the cities and tourist sights…
Our guides, Nabu, Gudu and Huna cooked an amazing dinner of dahl, aloo, chapati and rice over the campfire. They even finished off the evening by singing songs until bed time.
We did our camel safari in Jaisalmer in March, and it was cold outside at night. But the blankets provided are heavy duvets and we all snuggled up together – quite literally under a million stars and the post-full moon from Holi New Year.
Waking up in the morning felt like the most unreal freedom. Our guides were up early too. Gudu headed out to track down our camels, and Huna had brought us a hot cup of chai before we even got out of bed! I am still to this day fairly sure that nothing could taste sweeter than a hot cup of chai at sunrise after a night of sleeping under the stars…
Know before you go
Going into the desert on a camel means being completely exposed to the sun with no cover. At night time in the desert the temperature drops big time. Dress for both extremes, and cover as much exposed skin as possible. You will only need to take a small backpack, and if you are travelling with kids we found one backpack was plenty between us.
Depending on your safari, a jeep might follow or drive ahead while you ride the camels. They can transport a bag if you’d rather not wear it while riding.
Don’t forget to bring a torch of some sort for night time; especially as there is no toilet in the desert… and you will want to make the bathroom runs as far away from camp as possible!
What to bring
– Long sleeves and ideally long trousers, to cover as much skin as possible.
– Sunhat or scarf for the heat of the afternoon.
– Shoes that are comfortable to ride in. A camel saddle doesn’t have stirrups like a horse saddle does.
– Long sleeved top and thermal outer layer for night time. We found it warm enough (in March) under the heavy blankets.
– Light waterproof rain jacket just in case. Rain is a possibility during the wet summer months. We didn’t need this but I was grateful for the extra layer to keep warm in the early morning. I wore my jacket plus neck buff and used my scarf as headwear…
Thats about it! Be prepared, and enjoy an adventure like no other!
More about India
- Varanasi: Two days in the Sacred City of Varanasi.
- Kerala: The best introduction to India.
- Indian Food: 12 Indian breads you need to try before you leave.
What do you think? Would you go on a camel safari in Jaisalmer?