Bikaner is a town some 500km west of Delhi; a dusty, desert town with an enticing outpost feel. Its much less touristic than many other cities in Rajasthan, but is growing in popularity for travellers who wish to do a camel safari away from the busy-ness of Jaisalmer (where you’ll find an enormous camel safari scene).
We arrived in Bikaner on an overnight train from Delhi with the plan of doing an overnight camel safari through the Thar Desert. So, after checking into our hotel and freshening up after the laborious train journey, we were jeeped about 40 minutes out of Bikaner, where we met our camels and guides.
My guide (each guide led their camel by foot) told me my camel’s name is Samir, and helped me on board. The camels were quite a bit bigger than I had anticipated but they seemed very docile.
After we were all mounted, we headed off into the desert, with a camel carrying a cart of our supplies trailing behind us. Because of this, we obviously could not leave the pathed out track, so followed a path through the desert. We rode for about an hour, and then we stopped for lunch, at a shaded area with a bunch of chairs laid out. The lunch was impressive: rice, bread and several different curries.
After lunch, we got back on our camels and proceeded to ride towards camp for another two hours. We rode through some little farming communities, which were really interesting to see, and went further into the desert. We didn’t ride over any sand dunes like I had hoped, but it was a pleasant enough trek.
By the end of the two hours, my legs had seriously begun to ache, so I was pleased when we arrived.
The camp was really beautiful. It had several basic tents put up in a circle, a toilet block and a large stage area. On arrival, the camp staff bought us over a hot cup of chai, which was hugely appreciated by all. The sunset over the desert was really quite spectacular, and so we sat and enjoyed it with our chai. After the sun went down, we made our way over to the stage area, where we had a buffet style dinner and some drinks while watching a traditional Rajasthani dance performed by locals.
After dinner, the camp staff prepared a camp fire for us and we sat, drank and chatted until the fire wood ran out. The temperature had dropped dramatically, so I gratefully headed into my tent, which had a soft mattress and a warm duvet (not exactly slumming it on this desert safari!)
The next morning, we were jeeped back to Bikaner. I was very glad we didn’t have to ride the camels back, as I was stiff and sore from yesterday’s ride.
Many tourists who come to Rajasthan choose to do a camel safari from the city of Jaisalmer instead. While the desert is far more spectacular from Jaisalmer, in my opinion, I felt that the area seemed pretty over saturated with “desert camps” and the camels seemed way less happy. It seemed that they were being over worked and exploited for tourism. Not only this, the desert here was full of hawkers trying to sell things, whereas there were none in the desert by Bikaner. So, while the Thar desert is less visually impressive from Bikaner, I am glad I did a safari from here, rather than Jaisalmer. Instead, we drove out to the sand dunes during our time in Jaisalmer and experienced the desert from there that way.
If you choose to do a camel safari, please ensure you do some research and make sure the camels aren’t being overworked and are happy and healthy!