Camel riding isn’t a popular means of transportation in the United States, but a method I’ve always wanted to try. As luck goes, I was blessed with two diverse opportunities within one month.
The first came when I traveled to Jordan and spent two nights in a Bedouin tent camp. The desert at Wadi Rum reigns as an ideal location for a camel trek. Lawrence of Arabia described the landscape as, “red sands that stretch like seas between mountains of crimson sandstone. The rock monoliths sculpted by nature resemble the drippings of candle wax on a monumental scale.”
On the morning of my ride, owners in long flowing robes crossed the dunes and walked alongside their herd. The scene looked like it a sepia-tinted photograph from a history book, except the two Bedouin were talking on cell phones. Okay, I thought — digital age dromedaries.
They cushed the camels (lowered to a kneeling position) and covered their basic saddles with blankets. Stirrups are not part of a camel’s gear, so one grips the tufts of hair atop the hump. To get on, I flung one leg over the beast, feeling my yoga class stretches coming into use. I casually shimmied my butt into place and hunkered down.
Suddenly, my camel erupted upward nearly tossing me off its back as it leaped to its fore-knees. Then, in a two-stage process, its back legs extended, and I was nearly catapulted forward over its head. I then found myself riding at the height that would guarantee a slam dunk into a basketball net. Woo-hoo!
The first few minutes gave me a bumpy, disconcerting ride, as my body jostled to and fro. But soon I began to adapt and enjoy the feel of the gentle compression of my camel’s hooves into the sandy sea. The view on camelback is spectacular, you’re about twice as high as when riding a horse and the desert scenery gorgeous.
Later in the month, I found myself at the Safari Wilderness Ranch in Central Florida. Believe it or not, I mounted a camel here for another ride. They use an easier method to get of on and off, but honestly it’s not as much fun nor as hair-raising as my original. Polk County camel riders step up onto a platform at the dromedary’s height. Then, riders simply toss a foot over. The camel does not rise or descend. In Florida, the saddles had metal frames which guarantee a secure ride.
Once beyond the loading zone, the sensation of riding is identical, except the safari traverses grass instead of sand. While riding through Wilderness Park I saw zebras, lemurs, wart hogs, cattle, deer, antelope and Water Buffalo. Safari Wilderness Ranch is not a zoo or theme park. There are no crowds and no lines; it’s a natural adventure with guides who explain the herds of exotic game. Safari vehicles fitted with shade canopies offer an alternative tour.
I highly recommend a trip to Jordan; the country is safe, the people are friendly and the archeological ruins outstanding. A camel ride across the desert is a cherished memory, but I have to admit, a three-hour car ride gave me a similar, close encounter with the humped beasts.
If you go:
Safari Wilderness Ranch:
Tours in Jordan: www.jordantours-travel.com/cms/