The camel safari in the Thar Desert has been an experience that I didn’t really expect like that. When I thought of India, the picture of turbans camels, and sandstone buildings just didn’t come into my mind. But that’s how it actually is on the western end of the state Rajasthan, less than 100 km from the Pakistani boarder. So during my stay in Jaisalmer I booked an overnight camel safari at a local travel agency.
Don’t book it at your guesthouse where they generally try to overcharge you. I was offered a two day tour by the owner of my guesthouse in Jaisalmer for 10,000 rupees and got just the same package a couple of hours later by just walking around town at a local travel agent for only 4,000 rupees.
The tour price always includes food and drink.
So the following morning I went to their office at 10 am for the start of the trip. There was a group of seven Italian friends that I joined with. The group size really depends on how many people have booked a tour for a specific day. As in my case we were only eight people, sometimes there are only five people and sometimes as many as twenty or more people so they have to split and go to different dunes.
We got on the jeep and started the tour driving out of Jaisalmer and and didn’t take ten minutes until we were right in the plain with just desert and just a few dry trees and other plants around. What I liked about the trip is that we didn’t drive straight to the camels but included several stops on the way like visiting another sandstone castle and especially a small village.Yes, the people were already expecting us and I’m sure they get tourists stopping by every other day. But it was really overwhelming to see how few things they had but how happy and excited they actually were when they saw a group of young white Europeans like us visiting their village. Our tour guides told us to not give them any money but handed some candies to the kids instead.
It took about three hours since we left Jaisalmer and we reached the camel farm. We got off the jeep and our tour guides (three local Indian guys) picked a camel for each of us. Let me tell you something at this point:
Make sure you get a good camel.
Some camels are very young thus small which makes the ride quite bumpy. Some camels are very old already and need to be watched by the guide all the time to make sure they follow the track. And some camels are just fat and lazy. So have a look at them while they are sitting on the ground. It’s quite easy to tell which camels are fit and looking forward to a small trip. Of course you can tell your tour guides which one you prefer and if you are not happy with a particular camel – normally there are more camels around than needed.
As soon as everyone got his and her camel we started our little safari. We didn’t have to do anything except keeping the balance (it’s easy). The guides were always around and made sure we all kept together and walked in the same pace more or less. After around two hours we reached the dune. Notice that the Thar Desert is not comparable with the Sahara for example that provides virtually endless dunes. The Thar desert is a lot greener with some dry grass and trees around. But every camel trip ends at some strip of dune.
So once we reached our dune, we got of the camels. Believe me, even if you are lucky and picked the best camel of the group, after two hours you are more than happy to stand on your own feet again. We strolled around the dune, enjoyed a wonderful sunset and had some pasta for dinner (that the Indian guides cooked for us all on the spot). At some point another Indian guy and his camel came to our camp, bringing cool Kingfisher beer. That was quite a nice surprise, of course we had to pay extra for the beer (200 Rs) but it’s a great feeling to enjoy a cool beer on top of a dune in the middle of nowhere (or more precisely in the Thar desert less than 50 km to the Pakistani boarder) with a group of seven cool Italian guys.
We spend the night sleeping right on these dunes. A wonderful experience.
The next day we took it easy, had breakfast at the dunes (our guides prepared bread, chaa (Indian milk tea) and fruits) before riding on the camels back to their sanctuary and arrived in Jaisalmer by jeep at around 4pm in the afternoon.