Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published July 8th 2019
Ride High Through Red Dune Country
On a recent trip to Uluru, it was agreed that a camel ride through the desert was a must do. But, once there and standing before a real life camel, I felt absolutely terrified. My fear had nothing to do with the camel himself - Hugo was friendly and loved pats. My fear had everything to do with how I would stay on him!
My hands started to sweat and, as we were the first in our group to mount our camel, all eyes were on us. Camels stand up from their back legs first, which means the riders have to lean as far back as possible, then lean as far forward as possible once they get up onto their front legs. It feels very unbalanced and is unnerving.
But I can say with a big sigh of relief, that it was a lot easier than I had imagined and I didn't fall off!
In fact, once I was safely settled into my saddle, I enjoyed every single second of my first ever camel ride. It was nothing short of sensational and I tell everyone that they must do this when visiting the Red Centre.
It didn't take long for everyone to be up and seated on their camels. Our camel caravan set off at a slow and steady pace, giving us lots of time to bond with our camel and to take a heap of photos. The camels move so quietly. Their tread is soft and they make very little noise.
The tour through the sand dunes was incredible. We had a running commentary from one of the cameleers on the ground. She walked alongside us and constantly moved around so that we were all able to hear and be enthralled with the history of camels in Australia.
We moved through the landscape and ended up at the top of a dune which gave us the most incredible view of the World Heritage sites of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. It was such an unique and memorable way to view these Australian natural wonders.
Our camel's name was Hugo and behind us we had "Lazy Dazy" follow us. Lazy Dazy is a friendly beer-guzzling, cud-chewing, ex-racing, loud-burping camel. Dazy's name is a conundrum - he is certainly not lazy and he's not a girl either! He is the holder of the Australian camel land speed record and has won the Camel Cup several times. His rider in the Cup, Matt Dazy, describes riding him as "like riding an epileptic cow". At his peak, Dazy could sprint at 63 kilometres per hour! Dazy is the "rock" star camel of the farm. But, it's his long, loud and bilious burps that we will remember. I'm sure that I saw a green cloud appear each time he let one rip. It was nauseating and hilarious at the same time. All of the camels have names and they all have their very own personalities and quirky behaviours. They are pure entertainment and we loved them all.
More than 60 camels call the Uluru Camel Farm home - the largest camel farm in Australia.
Camels were introduced into Australia in 1840 after the early explorers found that horses did not cope very well with the harsh outback conditions.
Once modern transport methods were introduced, the camels were no longer needed and several thousand of them were released into the wild where they have no natural predator.
Their thirst for water and hunger for native plants means that camels have become a serious problem. Australia has the largest population of wild camels in the world. In 2008 it was estimated that there were close to a million camels roaming wild in the Australian outback with that number expected to double every 8 years.
The camel numbers are being managed by trapping, mustering and shooting. There's a new found industry which is booming - Australian camel milk products are being exported all over the world. And, of course, the camel farms, such as the one at Uluru, are very popular with tourists.
There are a lot of places in Australia where you can ride a camel, but there's nothing as unique as the experience you'll get at Uluru Camel Tours, founded in 1998. They are an environmentally responsible company and pride themselves on minimising their own, and their camels', impact on the environment.
The camel tour was a definite highlight of our visit to Uluru and is highly recommended. The Camel Farm staff pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation and there are shorter corral rides as well as sunrise and sunset tours available too.
Entry into the Camel Farm is free. Tour prices vary, based on the experience taken. If you don't have your own transport, you can catch the free hop on/hop off bus that operates every day.
Funny - when I was in Alice Springs a couple of years ago, I was offered a ride on one of these beasts, but I took off in fear. More rear that I would fall off!!! Thanks for the info, but, I my camel riding days are over.