I hadn’t even heard of Jaisalmer before booking our trip to India. However, as soon as we started planning, a good friend told me the one thing we “must-do” in Rajasthan was spend a night in a Jaisalmer desert camp. I will forever be grateful for this advice, as our Jaisalmer camel safari has been one of our favourite travel experiences to date.
While searching for somewhere to stay in Jaisalmer, I came across Wanderlust Guest House. It was incredibly well rated on booking.com, and once I started reading the reviews everyone raved about their Jaisalmer desert safari experience with Wanderlust. The guest house was very reasonably priced, so we booked ourselves in and let them know we were also interested in their camel safari. There are many different options for desert camps in Jaisalmer, but to be honest, I barely even searched for any other options, the Wanderlust reviews were that good
Jaisalmer Camel Safari Options
Wanderlust had multiple options for safaris to the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer. They offered everything from half day to multi-day camel-treks, as well as desert jeep tours. We opted for a one night camel-safari, and it was just the right amount of everything!
Our group included the 4 of us, a couple from Germany doing a 2-night trek, and 3 ladies from Taiwan who were riding camels out, eating dinner and then taking a jeep back to town. Randy and I shared our camels with the girls on the way to our desert camp. The next morning they were able to ride on their own on the extra camels (from the Taiwanese ladies). They were over the moon with their own camels, but I don’t think they would’ve been comfortable enough to ride alone the first day.
The Road to Khuri
Our safari began around 2pm when we were picked up from Wanderlust Guesthouse. Thankfully, we were able to leave most of our luggage at the guesthouse and only packed a small bag for the night. The drive took about an hour on a decent stretch of road towards the town of Khuri. It was just barely wide enough for 2 vehicles to pass each-other, and there were only a few times when the passenger side wheels pulled onto the dirt shoulder to avoid a collision. Our driver was quite competent, and contrary to many of our other driving experiences, he actually went a reasonable speed down the highway rather than pretending to be a race-car driver. I’d choose safe, partial off-roading over Nascar-wannabe driving any day! And, it was worth the drive to get away from the busier sand dunes around Jaisalmer.
Wanderlust’s usual camel driver was getting married, so when we arrived at the small village to pick up our camels, we got to see him dressed up in his wedding outfit. A few kids in the village asked for money or presents, which always puts me off a bit. It’s not necessarily their fault. Some tourist, at some time, gave someone a handout, resulting in the expectation that it may happen again. They weren’t too pushy and didn’t follow us around, so it was soon forgotten once we drove away.
The Jaisalmer Camel Safari Begins
Our camels were already saddled and waiting for us when we arrived. We hooked our packs and a water onto the saddle, and got a quick lesson on how to lean while the camel stood up. Because their legs are SO long, you have to lean WAY back when they lift their back legs, then WAY forward when they lift their front legs. Kacela sat with me, and she was a bit skittish when the camel first stood up, but quickly settled into the rhythm. I’d ridden a camel once, many years ago, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as tall as this one! My fear of heights almost kicked in as I pictured Kacela plummeting to the ground off the side of the camel. Thankfully she remained firmly seated in front of me the entire ride, and my crazy-mommy-anxiety wasn’t necessary (as per usual)!
It was HOT on the camel. The sun scorched down on us, and every inch of exposed skin felt like it was getting a little more fried every minute. About 30min into the ride, I pulled my buff and socks out of my pack, as well as Kacela’s, and we were soon happily covered and surprisingly much more comfortable. I’m sure we looked completely ridiculous with our pants, socks and bandana’esque buffs tucked up under our hats. But, there was no one there to see us (except for the camera!!).
Our safari took us past a few farms where herds of sheep hid in the shade. Many had broken fences, and huts that looked long-abandoned. After about 90min on the camels, just as Kacela was starting to ask “when will we be there?”, we came up on a hut that was in good shape, and a fence that wasn’t in need of repair. It was our camp!
Our Jaisalmer Desert Camp
Riding a camel is slightly more comfortable than a horse, because a camel isn’t quite as wide! However, by the time we arrived at the camp I was happy to be off my camel. It only took a minute or two before the girls were romping around and rolling down the sand dunes. They created a whole game about the dune beetles, with princesses and “bad-guys”, and completely lost themselves in the joy of playing. I sat on the dunes, with a steaming cup of milky chai, and watched them play while the sun set. It was magical.
Dinner was prepared, from scratch, on the fire. It was late by the time we ate, and we were all starving by the time it was ready. I think the “fill-in” crew (because the regular team was at the wedding) didn’t know where everything was, so it took them a bit longer than normal to get it all going. It was delicious none-the-less and we enjoyed the fresh fire-cooked naan and curry under the stars. As soon as we were done eating, we tucked the girls into bed, and enjoyed a few moments of adult time. The ladies from Taiwan got in their jeep to head back to Jaisalmer and rest of us sat down around the fire. The camel driver and his helper sung us some traditional songs, using a large water jug as a drum. The music was haunting and made me think about the hard life these people have, both in the past and present. The environment is hostile, with all sorts of temperature extremes and minimal water or agriculture. Yet, they’ve made a life for themselves for generations, and have really conquered their little corner of the desert.
Sleeping Under The Stars
It was surprisingly comfortable sleeping on a mattress, amongst the dunes, under the stars. The sky was perfectly clear, and a light breeze blew, keeping most of the bugs away. We watched the stars and snuggled in for a short night. (After taking some incredible pictures on the dunes, of course!)
Camel Safari Day Two
The sky brightened early, and as predicted, Kacela was awake before the sun crested the horizon. We got up, found a bush to pee behind, and wandered up to the dunes to watch the sunrise. The girls commenced their dune-beetle game, and Randy and I enjoyed yet another chai on the dunes. Our guides prepared breakfast and we helped pack up the bedding. The small hut is used both for storage, and for the driver’s to sleep at night so they’re not always stuck sleeping on the dunes.
Once we were packed up we were met by our Jeep-driver from the previous day walked up to take us back to town. The German couple were continuing further into the desert with our camel driver. Kacela asked if we could come back another time for a 2-night camel safari. Maybe sometime, but considering she barely made it the 90min before asking when we were done, I think the one-night option was good for now.
Since the Taiwanese ladies had taken a jeep back to town the night before, there were a few extra camels. The girls both opted to ride their own camels, much to their delight! I was a bit nervous watching the camels stand up with them on their backs, but they both did awesome.
Not long after leaving the camp, our guide stopped us and pointed out some birds on the horizon. It was a pair of Great Indian Bustards. The nature reserve was created specifically for the conservation of these birds. We had no idea at the time, but upon later googling discovered that there are only 250 of these birds left in existence. It was pretty neat to watch them take off and soar across the desert, and in hindsight, knowing how few are left, it was even more special.
The camel ride on our second day was shorter than the first. The jeep met us about an hour into our ride to take us back to Jaisalmer, and the assistant tied our camels together to lead them back to the village. We posed for a few last-minute pictures on our camels before saying goodbye.
After our incredible experience, I can safely say that no trip to Jaisalmer is complete without a camel safari.
What Does a Camel Safari in Jaisalmer Cost?
The Jaisalmer camel safari price was 1850 rupees ($37 CAD) per person for one night in the desert. (We paid half price for the kiddos). This included transportation to and from the desert from Wanderlust Guesthouse, our camels, dinner and breakfast at the camp, a camel driver and assistant.
Jaisalmer Sand Dunes vs Khuri
There are a number of desert safari options in Jaisalmer, but I read a few horror stories about dunes crowded with people. The Jaisalmer sand dunes are quite close to town, but are busy as a result. This was not what I envisioned, and for me, it was well worth the 1 hour drive towards Khuri to avoid these crowds.
What to Pack for your Camel Safari
The most important thing to ensure you have a magical desert safari experience, is to pick a great tour operator. The second most important thing, is to make sure you have the right stuff packed!!
Clothes to wear: I recommend wearing a light weight, long sleeve shirt and long pants. You’ll definitely want a hat, as well as a scarf or buff to cover the back of your neck. Wear socks to protect your ankles, because once you hop on the camel your pants will ride up exposing those white ankles to the vicious rays of the desert sun. You can really wear whatever shoes you want, because you’ll just end up taking them off to run through the dunes anyways. However, I recommend some kind of sandals (this is the ONLY time you’ll EVER see me recommend socks and sandals…I’m shuddering just typing it!!). Your feet will get hot riding the camel, so sandals will at least allow for a bit of airflow. And, if you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you might appreciate having something that slips on and off easily. Plus, sand in running shoes just feels yucky. At least with sandals it’s easier to get the sand out.
Clothes to pack: You’ll be going into the desert, getting sweaty and sandy, so it’s perfectly acceptable to wear the same clothes two days in a row. If you’re not into stinky underwear, you might want to pack a fresh pair. Although, half an hour into the ride on the second day you won’t be able to tell the difference between the underwear from the first day or the “fresh pair” from the second day!
You’ll also want clean, non-sandy clothes to sleep in. I suggest bringing a tank top and shorts if you’re visiting during the summer months. If you’re visiting in the winter you’ll want to bring a sweater for the evening and an extra shirt and comfy pants to wear to bed. You should have nice, warm blankets provided, but it’s worth having enough clothes for sleeping in to ensure you’re comfortable. We visited in late March, and I slept in a tank top and shorts.
Toiletries: There’s no running water in the desert (shocking, I know!!), but you’ll be able to brush your teeth with bottled water, so you can still bring your tooth brush and tooth paste along. Also, you’ll want sunscreen, and possibly bug spray depending on the time of year. Deodorant might also be a good idea, although I doubt the camel really cares what you smell like!
Water: You SHOULD be provided with water for the camel trek, and there SHOULD be more when you get to the camp, but make sure to double check this. We always bring water with us whenever we go anywhere (preferably in a S’well or Klean Kanteen to keep it cold!), but it likely won’t be enough for the night so ensure it’s provided with your safari.
Snacks: Dinner is served later in the evening. We had tea provided soon after our arrival, but it’s never a bad idea to have a few snacks on hand, especially if you have a husband and daughter who get hangry quickly!
Camera: Don’t forget your camera, of course!! The desert offers some incredible photo opportunities that you’ll definitely want to capture. But, you don’t need anything fancy, I took a number of great shots on my iPhone.
Valuables: We left most of our things at the guesthouse, just sitting on a bench. Everyone did the same thing, and I wasn’t all that worried about our stuff. However, we did bring our passports and money along with us (we left the laptops and heavier electronics in our bags). This will have to be at your own discretion once you see what kind of storage options are available for you, and how much you trust the storage location. At the very least though, bring your passport and money.
Where We Stayed in Jaisalmer
This is one of the highest rated accommodations on booking.com we’ve stayed in, and it lived up to it’s rating. We were picked up from the train station at 4:30am and given a room to sleep in upon arrival. The rooms are basic but comfortable, and incredibly inexpensive. There’s a restaurant on the roof with good food and amazing views over the city and fort of Jaisalmer. They arranged our camel safari upon arrival, and stored our luggage for the night. After arriving back in town after the safari they offered hot showers and the ability to freshen up. Wanderlust offers this to all of their safari guests, whether they’re staying at the guesthouse again that night or not. I can’t recommend this place enough!
Cost: 250 rupees ($5CAD)/night for a double room with shared bath, 500 rupees ($10CAD)/night for a double with private bath.
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