India // Rajasthan //

Camel safaris from Jaisalmer


Few visitors who make it as far as Jaisalmer pass up the opportunity to go on a camel trek, which provides an irresistibly romantic chance to cross the barren sands and sleep under one of the starriest skies in the world. Sandstorms, sore backsides and camel farts aside, the safaris are usually great fun. Treks normally last from one to four days, with prices varying from Rs600 to Rs1500 per night. The highlight is spending a night under the desert stars, and most travellers find that an overnight trip, departing around 3pm one day and returning the next at noon, is sufficient. Unfortunately, the price you pay is not an adequate gauge of the quality of services you get, and it pays to shop around and ask other travellers for recommendations.  Make sure you’ll be provided with your own camel, an adequate supply of blankets (it can get very cold at night), food cooked with mineral water, and a campfire. You should also make sure that your operator is committed to either burning or removing all rubbish (including plastic bottles).

The traditional Jaisalmer camel safari used to head west out of town to Amar Sagar, Bada Bagh, Lodurva, Sam and Kuldera. Some operators still cover these areas, although encroaching development and crowds of other tourists (around Sam especially) mean that there is very little sense of the real desert hereabouts. The better operators are constantly seeking out new and unspoilt areas to trek through – this usually means an initial drive out of Jaisalmer of around 50–60km, though it’s worth it to avoid the crowds. Longer seven- to ten-day treks to Pokaran, Barmer and Bikaner can also be arranged, though these shouldn’t be attempted lightly.

Finally, don’t book anything until you get to Jaisalmer. Touts trawl trains and buses from Jodhpur, but they usually represent dodgy outfits. Some offer absurdly cheap rooms if you agree to book a camel trek with them. Guesthouse notice-boards are filled with sorry stories by tourists who accepted. As a rule of thumb, any firm that has to tout for business – and that includes hotels – is worth avoiding.

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