Morocco Desert Tours Part 1: How to Ride a Camel: 4 Essential Tips

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morocco desert toursIt’s when you’re actually up there on your camel, settled in to the Morocco desert tours, swaying to the sauntering gait of your “ship of the desert”. That’s when you realize that you are actually doing one of the most uniquely magical things you will ever do in your life: riding a camel into a Berber tent camp in the golden dunes of the Moroccan Sahara desert.

It’s just a fleeting thought, though, because this is one experience that demands you be in the moment.

How would you like that moment to be in… oh, maybe the 12th Century? Close your eyes… you’re part of a caravan, 38 days out from Tombouctou! The camels are laden with trade good like; gold, silk, ebony, and exotic spices. Imagine you have just 14 days more until you reach Zagora and the lush oasis of the Draa Valley.

Open your eyes: just another 15 minutes to the tent camp where you will enjoy delicious traditional dinner with entertaining music, a soft bed to sleep in and all the stars you can possible imagine! Aren’t you so very glad and impressed with yourself that you did not allow yourself to be intimidated by the prospect of riding a camel now?

Are Morocco desert tours safe?

morocco desert tours in the SaharaIf you’ve ever been on a trail ride with horses, you can do this. It probably depends on the camel (or maybe on the horse) but the camel is possibly a bit narrower. It probably depends on the camel (it certainly depends on the horse!) but the camel sways more than it rocks, and is quite easy on the body. It possibly depends on the camel AND the horse (or maybe on the padding of your bum bones) but you may be just as saddle-sore either way.

Learn the best tips to how to ride a camel on your Morocco desert tour

Tip No. 1: If you’ve never ridden a camel before, limit your first ride to about an hour. (If you travel with us, I promise your ride into the tent camp won’t be more than that – unless you ask.) Wear long pants or calf-length capris or long shorts: camel hair can chafe your legs quick-like. (Although the hair on their head is often springy and soft.)

Getting onto a camel is significantly different from getting onto a horse. You have to climb up onto a horse, and there are stirrups to help you. The camel conveniently crouches down, enabling you to just swing your leg over and sit down into the saddle. But then the camel has to stand up – and for you, then, this is the tricky bit. There will be guides to help you, but even though they tell you to “get ready”, it’s still a bit of a surprise to feel the camel’s back end come up first behind you, so that you’re already in the air (or so it seems) when the head comes up, and suddenly you’re there.

It scarcely takes two seconds, so you don’t have time to think about what’s happening. However, it only takes two seconds to find yourself toppled over. Inevitably, this happens when you try to stay centred and upright in the saddle as the camel gets up. As the camel rises on its back legs, if you aren’t leaning back, you will pitch forward – you will – possibly doing an inglorious somersault into the sand.

Fortunately, you don’t have far to fall, since the front end of the camel will still be low to the ground. Your ego will take most of the bruising, that’s for sure.

Tip No. 2: When they tell you to “get ready” and then clop the camel on its backside, just lean back as far as you can while the camel’s backside is coming up, and then immediately that you feel the camel is getting its front legs up, lean forward. You will instantly be sitting nicely centred and so composed that everyone will think you’ve done this a hundred times. Ho-hum.

When everyone’s up, you’ll be ready to go. You’ll notice that all the camels are tied nose to tail, so there’s no chance of anybody getting out of line. You don’t have to worry about your camel getting any inclination to do any free-range gallivanting off into the dunes. The pace is set by the camel herder who walks ahead of the lead camel. It’s slow and steady, even hypnotic.

morocco desert tours in the Sahara desertTip No. 3: Hang on! You can’t afford to give yourself completely to the embrace of the dunes. As much as the trek into the desert camp is relatively level for the most part, it’s likely you’ll also go up one side, and therefore down the other, of some of the smaller or medium-sized dunes.

Your otherwise fairly gentle ride can suddenly become a jolting rollercoaster of a ride, albeit at slow speed. You don’t have stirrups, so you need to keep both hands on the metal handle on the front of the saddle to stay balanced. Here again, lean forward a bit while you’re climbing a dune in order to take some of the pressure off your lower back and behind. And then lean back when you’re descending the other side. You’ll feel it the most when the sane is loose and deep, and the camels sink in up to their ankles. (Do camels have ankles??) Their swaying gait is accentuated when they’re heading down, so… hang on!

Tip No. 4: Here is the most important thing: be sure to leave your camera with one of the guides walking with your camel train on your way in to the tent camp. I know, I know… it sounds completely counter-intuitive: here you are on this never-forgettable totally unique experience, and I’m telling you to give over your camera. …Remember Tip No. 3? Yes. Quite often, your hands will be occupied with the task of hanging on. You will need two to take pictures: one to steady the camera (difficult… you are swaying… the camel will not stop…) and the other to click the button.

But here’s the really big thing: how will you get those GREAT pictures of YOU up a camel or of YOU in the turban, and YOU against the dunes, or you YOU in silhouette in the deepening evening light? Simply leave your camera with the guide. Oh, and please – leave your guide with a little thank-you tip for enabling you to look like an absolute world adventurer when you eventually show those Amazing shots to your cubicle mates in the office back home… Maybe that was Tip No. 5.

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