Camel safaris draw many visitors to Rajasthan. They allow an insight into otherwise inaccessible desert interiors and a chance to see rural life, desert flora and wildlife.
The ‘safari’ is not a major expedition into the middle of nowhere. Instead, it is often along tracks, stopping off for sightseeing at temples and villages along the way. The camel driver/owner usually drives the camel or rides alongside (avoid one sharing your camel), usually for two hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, with a long lunch stop in between. There is usually jeep or camel cart backup with tents and ‘kitchen’ close by, though thankfully out of sight. It can be fun, especially if you are with companions and have a knowledgeable camel driver. Camel safaris vary greatly in quality with prices ranging from around Rs 500 per night for the simplest (sleeping in the open, vegetarian meals) to those costing Rs 4500 (deluxe double-bedded tents with attached Western baths). Bear in mind that it is practically impossible for any safari organizer to cover his costs at anything less than Rs 500 – if you’re offered cheaper tours, assume they’ll be planning to get their money back by other means, ie shopping along the way. Safaris charging Rs 500-1000 can be adequate (tents, mattresses, linen, cook, jeep support, but no toilets). It’s important to ascertain what is included in the price and what are extras.
The popular ‘Around Jaisalmer’ route includes Bada Bagh, Ramkunda, Moolsagar, Sam dunes, Lodurva and Amar Sagar with three nights in the desert. Some routes now include Kuldhara’s medieval ruins and the colourful Kahla village, as well as Deda, Jaseri lake (good birdlife) and Khaba ruins with a permit. Most visitors prefer to take a two days/one night or three days/two nights camel safari, with jeep transfer back to Jaisalmer.
Camel safaris are also popular around Bikaner, where there is a Camel Research Centre – even if you don’t fancy a camel ride, maybe you want to try camel milk ice cream. A more comfortable alternative is to be jeeped to a tented/hut camp in the desert as a base for a night and enjoy a camel trek during the day without losing out on the evening’s entertainment under the stars.