The main reason people go to Jaisalmer, an ancient fort city, is to ride a camel through the rolling sand dunes of the Thar Desert. Some will tell you this is “too touristy”, but not me! I loved every bit of it. Although, I do hate to think that someone would come all the way to Jaisalmer and only do the safari. Jaisalmer has much more to offer, so give yourself adequate time.
There are loads of companies offering safaris and every hotel can hook you up with a guide. You can go as low as 500 for an overnight trip, or splurge like I did.
I went with Royal Hotel for 1500 rupees through the Khurri dunes. This was massively over my budget, but I had met a friend who had pre-booked with them and couldn’t change it.
FYI do not pre-book anything in India, especially tours. They can be negotiated. Some of the higher luxury options are to “glamp” in a ready made luxury tent.
Most tour itineraries look like this: ride to middle of desert, watch sunset, go to a set up shack for dinner, ride back to a nice high dune for bed time on a cot, wake up for sunset, and ride back.
Riding a camel is mainly easy, but accidents can happen, just read this story from Liz over at Young Adventuress, who seriously injured herself. I have compiled an ultimate checklist for you to make sure you are readily prepared for your safari.
Camel Safari in Jaisalmer: The Ultimate Checklist
Research the companies and dunes. Know which dunes interest you, and which like overrun. Khurri are meant to be less full, and we did only see one other group while out. I would highly recommend it. I’m told the Sam Sand dunes were more crowded, but don’t know from experience.
Before agreeing, make sure you know what is included. How many hours will you walk into the desert before stopping? Is dinner included? We went 2.5 hours. You don’t need to go further. Your bum will hurt. The scenery won’t change. Will you each get your own camel? Sharing would be boring, so make sure you have your own adorable clumsy animal to ride.
Don’t drink a bhang lassi before you ride a camel or you may come down with “Pakistani Paranoia” a medical term that doesn’t exist, but should when your guide has “that’s Pakistan” and the U.S. State Department has just sent an e-mail saying citizens should stay clear for recent threats… Lots of tourists drink bhang before so they can have “a magic carpet ride”, just make sure they don’t make it too strong and ruin your safari.
Wear sunscreen and take sunglasses.
You can buy beer from the sand-tout! He will come out of nowhere with cold beverages at indecent prices. Bring some extra cash for that, but beware things “go missing” at night in the desert.
While on your camel, you’ll want a silky scarf to cover your head. The sun beats down on you like a hammer. Because you’re in India, your body will be mostly covered, so make sure you wear something breezy. When I was there it was well over 100 degrees during the day.
Wear sandals but take socks for night. Your guides will lay out cots, blankets, and pillows for you (make sure this is agreed upon prior) and it gets very cold at night. If you have to walk to pee or watch the sunrise you won’t want to barefoot. Desert sands catch the cool breeze from the Himalayas at night, and can’t hold onto the sun’s daily heat. There are also big beetles and scorpions in the sand.
Along that line, take warm clothes. It will shock you how chilly it gets.
Dinner was provided for our group at a nearby village, as is it for most. Make sure your guides agree to feed you, and even then take a snack if you wish. We even got a fire and dance show, but I have to say if that’s why this tour cost an extra 1,000 rupees, umm… it wasn’t necessary.
I took wet wipes. You won’t be able to shower after your safari. You’ll be sweaty with a fine layer of sand stuck to you. Before bed, I washed up a little bit and I even brought my toothbrush and brushed with bottled water.
Your guide might tell you it’s so fun to gallop on the camel. My guide called “Halia”, my camels name in these high-pitched noises, and Halia was off on a nice jog. Have you ever seen a camel run? It’s like their legs just have no joints and flop around. It is bumpy. Camels are taller than you might imagine (10 feet!) and falling off while one’s running wouldn’t be ideal. On top of that, it could give you a “saddle sore”. Why does no one warn you of this before a camel ride? I had a sore coccyx for a week!
Get lots of photos! Camels are super cute. I didn’t see one “spit” like they warn. Mine was extra lovable even though she got a little out of hand a couple times. They are such cool animals!
Relax and take in the AMAZING sunset and sunrise. I’ve traveled a fair amount and I have NEVER seen the day change like this. It’s really something, and if you’re considering doing the safari, it’s worth it just to see the red sunrise and sunset over the barren sand dunes. Don’t fall asleep too quickly, because the sky is almost always clear and stargazing is a must.
If I could do it again:
I would not choose somewhere that has you ride to a village to eat. I would go with a guide that cooks over an open fire. It sounds so much more badass and probably would taste better than what I had!
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Rachel Jones is an American who left a career in nursing to live on the beaches on Goa, India two years ago where she is now a Thai masseuse, candle-maker, and travel writer. Her award winning website gives advice on the other 28 countries she's been to but has become the go-to site on India travel, focusing on off beat places & “glamorous travel”. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine & was voted by Flipkey as one of the top 25 female bloggers to follow this year. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google plus.
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