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Travel Guide
Camping at Sam Sand Dunes
Remote Jeep and Camel Safaris

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Trekking around by camel is the most evcative and fun way to sample Thar Desert life. Don't expect dune seas,however - the Thar is mostly arid scrubland sprinkled with village and wind turbines,with occasional dune area popping out here and there. You will often come across fields of millet,and children herding flocks of sheep or goats whose neck-bells tinkle in the desert silence - a welcome change after the sound of belching camels.

Most trips now include jeep rides to get you less freqented area. The camel riding is then done in two -hour batches. One before lunch, one after.it's hardly camel trekking. but it's a lot of fun nevertheless. A cheaper alternative to arranging things in jaisalmer is to base yourself in the small village of khuri(p193), 48 km southwest. where similar caml rides are available but where you're already in the desert when you start.


Before You Go.

Competition between safari organisers is cut-throat and standard vary. Most hostels and guesthouses are very happy to organise a camel safari for you. while many provide a good service, some may cut comers and take you for the kind of ride you didn't have in mind. A few low-budget hotels in particular exert considerable pressure on guests to take their safari. Others specifically claim no safari hassle.

You can also organise a safari directly with one of the several reputable specialist agencies In jaisalmer. Since these agencies depend exclusively on safari business it's particularly in their interest to satisfy their clients. It's a good idea to talk to other travellers and ask two or three operators what they're offering.

A One-night safari,leaving Jaisalmer in the afternoon and returing the next morning. with a night on some dunes, is a minimum to get a feel for the experience: You'll probably get 11/2 to two hours of riding each day. You can trek for several days or weeks if you wish. The longer you ride. the more you'll gain understanding of the desert's village. oases. wildlife and people.

The best-known dunes, at Sam(40km west of jaisalmer). are always crowded in the eveing and are more of a carnival than a back-o-nature experience. The dunes near khuri are also quite busy at sunset, but quiet the rest of the time. Operators all sell trips noe to `nontouristy` and off the beaten track areas. Ironically. this has khuri quieter again, although Sam still hums with day-tripper activity.

With jeep transfers included, typical rates are between rs. 1100 and rs. 1700 per person for a one-day-one-night trip(leaving one morning, and returning the next). This should include meals, mineral water and blankets, and sometimes a thin mattress. Check that there will be one camel for each rider you can pay for greater levels of comforts(eg tents, better food), but always get it all down in writing

You should get a cheaper rate(rs. 900 to rs. 1500 per person) if you leave jaisalmer in the afternoon and return the following moaring. A quick sunset ride in the dunes at Sam costs around rs. 550 per person. including jeep transfer. At the other end of the scale. you can arrange for a 20-day trek to Bikaner. Expert to pay between rs. 1000 ad rs. 2000 per person per day for long. multiday trips,depending on the level of support facilities(jeep,camel,carts,etc).

HOTEL(ph: 251700;www.hotelroopmahal.com;Rs. 300-1500) CLean spacious rooms in a new building,trustworthy management,fort views from the rooftop restaurant(mains Rs.80 to Rs. 180) and free wi-fi throughout. A Solid budget choice, but with some fancier rooms too.

Namastey! Just got back from a 3 day safari it was awesome, great food, great Guides, great Camels, great desert experience. Highly recommend it, our best adventure get in India

Allison (Australia)