One of the most unforgettable and enchanting experiences you can have in India is to ride through the rippling, windswept desert on camel back and camp out under the stars. Taking a camel safari will also give you the opportunity to witness the rustic, rural desert life of India. While the desert can be barren, it's also surprisingly well populated.
Where Can You Go on a Camel Safari in India:
The most popular place for camel safaris in India is in the desert surrounding Jaisalmer, in Rajasthan. Great camel safaris can also be done around Bikaner, also in Rajasthan. Many companies will give you the option of choosing your route, so you can decide if you want to take the road less traveled, or the more touristy track. It's also possible to go on a camel safari in the the alpine desert around Leh Ladakh, mainly in the Nubra Valley from Hundar to Diskit. The camels on these trips are the double hump Bactrian variety.
What Reputable Companies Operate Camel Safaris in India:
Be sure to take care when booking your camel safari as the business is very competitive and it's definitely a case of you get what you pay for. Cheaper deals may seem appealing initially, but you'll find that the quality of food, bedding, and other necessities is lower. Most hotels in Jaisalmer will organize safaris but it's better to go with specialist agencies such as Sahara Travels (next to the Fort gate) and Trotters Independent Travel (which also runs a recommended desert camp). Shahi Palace is also good. In Bikaner, Vino Desert Safari is highly recommended.
If you really want to go off the beaten path and have a rustic experience, far from the tourist trail, try The Adventure Travel Agency in Jaisalmer. They'll take you a long camel safari out towards Barmer, sleeping under the stars on army bedding in the dunes.
How Many Days Do Camel Safaris Go For:
It's possible to go on a quick camel safari and return the same day. However, most people prefer to go deeper into the desert for up to four days. Many choose the two day/one night option. Longer seven, 14, 21, or 30 day options are also available for hardcore enthusiasts! You can get an itinerary tailored to meet your needs.
How Much Do Camel Safaris Cost:
The price of camel safaris varies according to the standard of food and comfort provided. The average price is around 650 rupees ($15) per day, including meals. However, this can increase up to around 1500 rupees ($35) for top of the range camping facilities and jeep transport for part of the journey to go further afield.
When is the Best Time to Go on a Camel Safari in India:
The best time is during the cooler dry months, from September to March. After March, the desert becomes unbearably hot, and then the monsoon season starts. Camel safaris usually depart early in the morning to allow some distance to be covered, and a suitable camping spot to be found and set up, before dusk.
What Should You Take on a Camel Safari:
Riding on camel back can become surprisingly uncomfortable after a while, and many people complain of having very sore legs and bums by the end of their journey. To avoid this, do bring something comfortable and padded to sit on! Other useful items to bring include sunscreen, a hat, toilet paper, flashlight, water bottle, and plenty of warm clothing as it can get cold in the desert at night.