Camel Safari India – Things to Consider
Camel Safaris are without a doubt the major reason that any tourist comes to the city of Jaisalmer, India.
It is a bit of a shame, as this city of sandstone built around an ancient fortress is full of all sorts of small town charm and the friendliest of people.
Like anywhere in India, you will certainly be approached by a whole bunch of people that are trying to sell you whatever they may have whilst you walk these sandstone streets. However, the major spiel here is regarding the camel safaris.
Most guest houses will offer you really cheap rooms (sometimes under a dollar) with the unwritten agreement that you will take a camel safari with them. Do not feel pressured into this, you are still free to shop around town and find the safari that you feel works best for you (though you’re hotel manager may become incredibly rude and even kick you out if you do this), But, after all, you don’t really want to head off into the desert feeling uncomfortable. Furthermore, your hotel owner will actually tell you to not discuss prices with any other hotel guests… and he’ll badmouth other companies… and the list goes on.
There are three major decisions for you to consider.
Camel Safari Decision 1 – Who to go With
Use whatever criteria you choose to make this decision… just make sure that you are happy about your selection. Prices will vary a bit (you definitely need to be doing some bargaining) and the safaris themselves will include a bit of variance. The fact of the matter is that every outfit will be telling you almost identical information, so you’ll have to just choose one and go with it.
Camel Safari Decision 2 – How Many Nights
Your hotel will make it seem as though this is the most important decision for you to make, but that is because they don’t like to admit the fact that you might consider going with a different company. If you have little desert experience, then you will certainly be intrigued by the desert and should consider going for at least two nights. You really only get a feel for the desert lifestyle after the first full day. Furthermore, you will be sleeping under the stars on the dunes, and having at least two nights will be much appreciated.
On the other hand, if you have been in deserts before, especially on dunes, then 1 night is most likely sufficient. This is more of a scrub desert than endless dunes, and as such, it is quite flat. However, this is still a worthwhile experience, especially getting on a camel and getting out into the starry skies. It will also give you a little taste of the area where the Pakistani border was metaphorically drawn in the sand in 1947.
There are also a couple of different choices to head out on a camel safari which is more like a trek to either Bikaner, Jodhpur, or Pushkar. Take a look at this option as it is certainly an interesting experience. However, you should keep in mind that it is still just for tourism. If you have the idea that you are hopping on a camel convoy… you’re not. You will also have to pay for an extra couple of days so that your guide can get back to Jaisalmer. But still, if you are looking for an experience that others don’t have, this is certainly a worthwhile option.
Camel Safari Decision 3 – By Yourself?
Your hotel will attempt to push you into going on safari with another group, to minimize they’re costs. However, you do have the option of going on your own (or with whomever you are travelling) and not having any strangers out in the desert with you. Is this really worth it? Obviously that depends. You will have a much quieter experience by your lonesome, and get a better appreciation for how the ‘desert people’ really live. However, you will also have to embrace the awkward to a much greater extent and may feel starved for conversation. Despite what you may be thinking, this is not a fantastic opportunity to learn Hindi as your guide will most likely be lacking any sort of education and have very little idea what it means to be a teacher.
Other Things to Know
The Lassi Shop, formerly the Bhang Shop, has carved out a quite prestigious living by providing Bhang Lassies (Yoghurt shake with Marijuana) to tourists in Jaisalmer for a few decades. They also sell cookies in a couple of different strengths for people to take into the desert. The claim is that you will feel like you are riding on a flying carpet in the desert instead of bumping along on a camel. This is completely legal, but should still be approached cautiously. If this is not your type of thing, then maybe stay away from it, as the middle of the desert is not a fantastic place to have an attack of paranoia.
You will be brought into a few villages where the people will flock to you looking for rupees, chocolates or pens. Taking pictures will sometimes cost you rupees, sometimes not, make sure to sort that out before you take the picture. Furthermore, you will be given the opportunity to buy Opium in order to eat or smoke in the desert. You are now looking at what is considered a ‘class A’ drug in the United States… so if you are going to experiment with this one, take even greater precaution.
If you’re in Jaisalmer around large holidays, you may be able to find a special Camel trek oriented at celebrating, such as a camel Christmas which is one of the most unique ways to celebrate the 25th.
So get out there and have your own little Camel Safari in India, I’d love to hear about it. If you’re curious about my camel safari in India, take a look here.