When you have that much acreage under sand, camels are a handy ride and they are deeply entrenched in the culture of these desolate but surprisingly densely populated regions on the borders of Pakistan. Even today there are extensive stretches of border country where remote oases support tiny hamlets and picturesque sand dunes are the scenes of a constant cat and mouse game between camel-mounted smugglers and camel-mounted border guards!
The fact is, camels are a fantastic way to get away from the crowds and retreat into the magnificent silence and remote beauty of the deep desert. In the early days of tourism here, Jaisalmer was the perfect location for these camel safaris but with the growth of tourist numbers we moved away from the crowds unless you want to visit the Nagaur or Pushkar Fairs which sell both horses and camels.
You may or may not like camels but this is their natural habitat – nothing else will do. And people forget just how alive with life the desert is: nilgai antelope inhabit the strip between the desert and the sown accompanied by graceful little chinkara gazelles; bushy tailed desert foxes streak across and over the dunes in pursuit of the richness of insect and rodent life; desert cats watch patiently over mouse and gerbil holes and an amazing array of birds patrol the skies and live in the scrublands dependant on water in the farms and the oases that punctuate this landscape. And there is no better way to enjoy this than from camel-back.
The fully staffed special exclusive mobile camp provides some magical moments – especially at sunset when unexpected surprises can loom out of the darkening landscape. One evening, listening to a group of inspired desert singers as the stars climbed high overhead, we were startled to see a line of camels emerge silently out of the dusk, be-turbaned riders silhouetted in the firelight seemingly for an instant before disappearing over a ridge of sand.
The tents are large, comfortable with excellent ensuite facilities and the entire arrangement very beautifully managed. And then there is the glory of the night skies in the desert when the stars seem just an arms length away and the Milky Way is a substantial presence. Nothing stirs the silence – except the occasional gurgle of your camels, settled in for the night.
Nobody can be immune to the charms of a desert. The widespread sandy landscapes, sand dunes, camels walking all around, oasis for shelter all give immense pleasure to the eyes of an adventure lover. A desert safari will ensure that you get the real flavour of the deserts, stay in the make shift camps, travel on the camel’s back. The slow pace of camels ensures that you do not miss any of the details. The life in the villages around the deserts of Bikaner and Jaisalmer vibrates to the sound of music and sways in a profusion of colours. Turbaned men with long and dense moustaches, colorful women in multitudes and children live life to the hilt. The camel safari also promises an unparalleled fun filled, colourful and memorable experience of villages around these deserts.
The Explorations Company can arrange some extremely interesting itineraries for guests keen to explore the areas on camel back – whether for a couple of days or even a week. The sands of the Great Indian Thar Desert are extremely popular and a rare experience on old caravan routes, unfolding the marvels of glorious Rajputana – frescoes, intricate paintings and fine Hindu architecture of forts and palaces. We can also custom design safaris on double humped camels in the high altitude desert of the Nubra valley in Ladakh. Explore Buddhist Monasteries, wild flowers, beautiful landscapes with high passes on camel back.