Camel trekking is an outdoor activity where you get to ride camels in the desert, walk over sand dunes, and enjoy amazing views. This is an experience like no other and an excellent way to explore the beautiful desert landscape.
This was one of my favorite experiences in Dubai. I encourage anyone who has the chance to make time, explore the desert, and meet some camels. It was a fun and comfortable activity and you don’t have to be an adventure traveler to enjoy it.
My package lasted 3 hours from pick up to drop off. I booked online and coordinated via WhatsApp. The day of the activity a driver picked me up at my hotel, and drove me to the company’s desert site, one hour outside the city of Dubai. There I met my guide and the camel I would ride. I was on the camel for about 45 mins out in the desert. I paid on location after my ride and returned to my hotel with the same driver that picked me up.
How to mount a camel?
Getting on and off a camel is easier than mounting a horse. Camels bend their knees and lay on the floor, which puts their back at a comfortable height for easy mounting. After you have taken a seat, firmly hold on to the handles in front of you, because the camel will first stand up on its hind legs with its front knees still on the floor and then straighten its front legs. If you don’t mentally prepare for it, you will feel as though you will fall forward. Don’t worry though, it’s just an unusual sensation, not actual danger.
How was the ride?
The blogs I had read before I embarked on the camel trek had mentioned that the camel’s particular movement could sometimes be uncomfortable of even cause back pain … so I braced myself for the worst and expected a somewhat painful experience. However, even toward the end of the ride, I never felt any pain and my camel was very comfortable. When my partner and I switched camels to take photos from different perspectives, I noticed a starkly different comfort level on his camel. Riding my initial camel felt like sitting on a cloud, while his felt a lot more rigid. This was most likely because my initial camel was a younger quite large and padded male, while the second camel was an older, smaller, and bonier female.
How were the camels?
Contrary to what many people might think, the camels didn’t smell or spit. We had two camels in our entourage -- one for each of us, a male and a female. The male camel had his mouth covered with a blue fabric mouth guard. We were told that this was because the male was a bit younger and could sometimes bite, while older female was much more relaxed. That being said, neither of the camels seemed to be in any kind of distress, or anguish. When we dismounted the camels for some photos, the male camel vacillated between snuggles and some more forceful gestures towards me. However, it seemed rather playful than aggressive and it showed nothing but kindness and affection for my partner. I moved on to taking pictures with the female who was very relaxed and docile.
How was the weather?
The weather was wonderful. Most of the trekking companies offer excursions early or late in the day to avoid the midday heat in the desert. During our morning trek, we had clear blue skies and enough wind for a refreshing ride. I wore a sleeveless t-shirt and an unbuttoned long-sleeve jean shirt over it. For picture purposes, I took the second layer off at times. Since I had put on sunscreen, don’t burn easily and the ride was less than an hour, it did not feel as though the long-sleeve shirt was necessary.
WHAT TO WEAR?
When researching the camel trek, all of the websites I found were very vague and only recommended “wearing comfortable clothes.” Let me bring some more light to what this actually means:
You can wear anything you would wear to go horseback riding. Your legs will be on a padded saddle made of fabric -- be mindful that the camel’s movement will cause some friction on your thighs. Wear something that covers your entire legs to avoid any undesired friction with the saddle. Choose a fabric that gives and stretches to adjust to the movement. If in doubt, jeans work very well.
For your top, think about what the locals wear. They wear layers, mainly long sleeves to protect themselves from the sun, sand and wind. If you are taking a relatively short ride (less than an hour), you could get away with almost anything. Just don’t forget the sunscreen! I was lathered up with sunscreen and mosquito/bug repellant. I would recommend this combo for any outdoor activity. Even though I didn’t see a single mosquito (just some flies hanging around the camels), those repellants also usually do a decent job at fighting off other bug bites.
If your priority is taking pictures and you would like to feel the sand for a bit when you are not on the camel, sandals should work fine for you (just make sure they can strap firmly on your feet, so you don’t lose them while riding). However, if practicality is your priority, I would advise you to wear closed sneakers. You do walk on the sand to take some photos and before/after mounting/dismounting, so you will accumulate some sand in your shoes, but the amount was minimal. Closed sneakers do help you prevent injuries when mounting the camel and avoid skin abrasion from the sand under sandal straps. Also, if you choose to wear sandals, don’t forget to use sunscreen on your feet! There is no shade in the desert, remember that.
*Pack a bottle of water and maybe a small snack to make sure you stay hydrated and your blood sugar doesn’t drop while you are riding. That’s of lesser concern if your ride is less than an hour, but still something to keep in mind.
I was conscious of the photos we would take, and I didn’t want my over-sized backpack in the shots. That is why I brought my smaller messenger style camera bag with just the essentials. This worked out perfectly. I was able to hang it on one of the saddle humps and hide it from view.
My camel trekking experience was great. I searched within TripAdvisor and found the company “ Rah Tourism”. I contacted them on their site and later via WhatsApp to coordinate dates, time and payment method. I was picked up in a clean, comfortable, and well-maintained SUV to go to the company’s desert location. There I met my local guide and rode a camel for 45 mins. I paid after my activity with a credit card, but I recommend paying in cash. I was drop off back at my hotel by the same driver.
HOW TO SELECT A CAMEL TOUR
There are many tour packages out there. Some focus only on a camel ride, while others include Arabian belly dancing, henna tattoos, quad rides, and sand-boarding. The safaris can range from 3 hour engagements (including about an hour car ride from Dubai to the trekking site and an hour back) to overnight stays. You must be careful selecting what package best suits your needs. Some friends went dune bashing and camel riding. While they expected to ride camels in the open desert after the ride in the 4x4s, they ended up riding in a circle at a closed farm for about 10-15 minutes. Be sure to read the descriptions carefully before booking. I was on the hunt for a reliable camel trekking-only safari, and I found it thanks to TripAdvisor. Below you can read my review and camel trekking experience.
“When looking for a camel trekking experience, my main goal was to find a company that would provide the option to choose only camel trekking (without a ton of extra activities like jeep rides, and belly dancing, etc). It was important to me that the ride was in the desert (not on a farm, riding around in a cirlce), and that the activity incl. transportation would take 3 to 4 hrs max. The camel trekking experience at Rah Tourism, turned out as a private group of only me and my partner (each of us with our own camel), as well as a friendly local guide that would even stop to take pictures of us. The experience was better than what I had hoped for. We were picked up at the hotel on-time at 8am, as agreed upon. I coordinated with the driver via WhatsApp, which made communication easy. The SUV was clean, the driver was friendly and spoke English. Once we arrived at the trekking site about an hour outside of Dubai, we didn’t have to wait to begin our camel ride. We were introduced to our guide and off we went. The ride was very comfortable and for around 45 mins (as advertised), we rode over sand dunes, took pictures, and enjoyed the amazing views. When we were done, we returned to the spot where we began. We paid and found our driver waiting for us to take us back to our hotel. The entire experience was effortless.
Payment: we paid with credit card as discussed prior to the trip. I recommend paying in cash to save on credit card transaction fees. (Amex was not accepted)
*I was able to charge my phone in the car with the available cables and the ride to/from the site was relaxing. I highly recommend this company. This experience was authentic and of great value!”
My Camel Trekking Dubai tour
Cost: 250 AED ~ $70 (at the time)
Company: Rah Tourism
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