A country where everyday you will have a new adventure – whether it’s visiting the majestic Taj Mahal or have a cow walk into the restaurant as you’re eating dinner. There are so many amazing and beautiful things to see here (follow my one month itinerary) but one of my most unusual experiences was going on a camel safari in the Great Indian Desert (Thar Desert). The Camel Safari involved spending the night sleeping out in the open desert under a blanket of stars.
The day started off with a Jeep picking my friends and I up at out hostel in Jaisalmer. I was lucky enough to meet some great people in India that I kept running into – we met up again in Jaislamer so all signed up for the tour together. Having a great group will add to your overall enjoyment of the experience.
We drove into the desert until eventually there was nothing around except the odd hut or child walking along the road. After a while, the Jeep dropped us off at a random “guest house”, where all the rooms were empty.
Outside of the “guest house” there was a group of men sitting around with their camels, just taking it easy. We thought that we would jump on the camels right away but instead were told to told to just relax. We didn’t really understand what was happening so all just started playing cricket in the desert to kill some time. You will find out that when in India, it is best to just go with the flow – it’s not often that you know what is happening.
Finally, we were told that it was time to begin the safari and we all picked out our camels. It was hilarious getting on the camels – and arguably the most fun part! How it works is the camel lays down and then you crawl on top of it, sit down, and hold on tight. Then the camel – in a very ungraceful way – stands back up as you hold on for dear life trying to not get rocked off.
Once you are on your camel, a guide leads the camel as it trots through the desert. It was a lot of fun!
Camels are a lot different from horses in that:
- You are a lot higher up on a camel.
- Camels are a lot less graceful than horses.
- Camels spit – it’s both disgusting and hilarious.
We rode through the desert, laughing at our camels varying personalities. I liked my camel, but he had the biggest wad of snot hanging out of his nose for the majority of the trip. We rode in the desert for about an hour. An hour is all the time that you need really because after a while the novelty of being on a camel wears off. Plus – there is only so much to see in the desert.
On the way back my guide asked me if I wanted to run. Was that seriously a question? Go for it!
The man started running, and so did the camel. It was a bit scary as I didn’t feel very secure on the hump of a camel but it was a lot of fun and I couldn’t stop laughing. It was also entertaining seeing my friends on their galloping camels. No one can look graceful while bumping around on top of a snotty, galloping camel (Well, maybe Beyonce).
The we got back to the site where dinner was waiting for us. Hmmm Indian food – always a pleasure.
There were a few other tourists there when we arrived – they must have gone on another tour. All of us ate dinner together…and then the entertainment came. We had no idea that there was going to be entertainment – we thought we were just riding camels.
The entertainment was amazing! It was dancer and a group of drummers. The dancer brought out fire and did all sorts of cool tricks. At the end of the routing, the dancer got all of us to join her and we ended up all dancing around the bonfire. The music was so unique that we all threw away our tradition Western ‘fist-pumping’ and just melted into the music. We followed the dancers cues and just let the music flow through our bodies as we stomped and spun around the fire – everyone’s inhibitions washed away.
After we were all danced out – it was time for bed.
There was a cart loaded up with blankets and mats, attached to a camel. We all jumped onto the soft pile of blankets and got pulled out into the dark desert.
When in the desert, we all threw down the mats on the sand and had a blanket each. The sand that we were lying on had been accumulated over the past 1.8 million years. There was no tent to cover us – the stars were our roof. Our guide then sat with us a for a bit and started singing us a song. It was beautiful.
Then came the funny part. We all thought that it would be nice for us to share a song from our own culture with him. We all started singing the choruses of popular songs but would always quickly realize that none of us really knew the words to a full song. We spent the next ten minutes spitting out pop songs – all completely bewildered that we didn’t actually know the lyrics to any of them. Eventually, we FINALLY found a song that we could all sing all the way through. The song? Ignition by R. Kelly (not our proudest moment).
After our mediocre rendition of Ignition, our guide went of a few miles away to sleep – far away from our screeching voices.
We stayed up talking for a bit longer, but didn’t last long. The serenity of the empty desert and the vastness of the stars above us sent us all into a tranquil state of sleep.
The next morning we awoke the sun rising over the sand. It was 6 a.m. and already we could feel the heat.
We quickly packed up and walked back to the site (we didn’t want to make the camel pull all of us). We arrived to a hot breakfast, ate, and then were driven back to our hostel in Jailsalmer.
Needless to say, the rest of my nights in India where nowhere as serene and memorable. Even if you don’t want to ride a camel, I would recommend this tour just for the opportunity to have this restful night of sleep.
Tip: Bring some cash as you will be expected to tip your guide. Also, with our tour the meals were free but the drinks were not.