How (And Where) To Have An Ethical Camel Riding Adventure
I adore camels-they are such characters but I can see why some people might be a bit nervous about heading hump-side ’cause these creatures are tall! Well, pull up your big girl pants to check out the unique perspective from atop this animal which is such a big part of Arabic culture…
… in fact, they have 160 camel-related words.
As for me? Horses are so yesterday.
Why Camel Riding Is A Must-Do Experience
Camels are perfectly designed to be desert dwellers. As many of us already know, they can carry heavy loads and, of course, can go for miles in dry conditions thanks to their water storage system (AKA the humps!).
To keep the sand out of their eyes, they have a double layer of luscious eyelashes which put my own limp lashes to shame. 🤯
Known as the ships of the desert, camels are one of the world’s oldest domesticated animals that have worked in partnership with Jordanians for thousands of years. Their endurance and strength is revered, especially by the nation’s nomadic tribes—Bedouins claim that if a camel was wounded in battle, it would carry its rider away from danger before succumbing to the wounds. Total BFF vibes right there.
Nowadays, camel riding is not just for the locals. Tourists can book camel treks in some of the most beautiful and historic places in the world, including Jordan. The most popular camel trekking destinations in Jordan are the vast UNESCO World Heritage Site at Petra and Wadi Rum, now a protected nature reserve where you can release your inner Bedouin.
Besides the fact that they ride like a horse and are loyal like dogs, they’re also just damn fun to ride. It’s fun to connect with them and to the rich historical culture behind it.
Um, hi, we offer women’s adventure tours including RIDING CAMELS IN JORDAN.
Although camels can run as fast as 40 MPH, mostly they trek slowly with that familiar slightly rocking gait, giving you plenty of chances to fill up your camera roll with moody desert captures.
Is Camel Riding Ethical?
It wouldn’t be right to disregard the fact that not everyone in the world puts the wellbeing of animals before their own needs. It’s now generally accepted that riding an elephant is a no-no partly because their spines are not designed for carrying the weight of humans but mostly because the “training” of elephants is generally based in torture, pain and cruelty from a very young age.
Animal rights activists report elephants in Thailand and India being overworked in sky high temperatures, and elephants being beaten badly out of sight of the tourists.
For us animal lovers, it begins to raise questions about tours with animals altogether. We want to make sure that any camel riding we participate in is ethical and fair for everyone involved.
Camel treks have become increasingly popular in recent years as more and more tourists flock to Morocco, Egypt and Middle Eastern countries. So how do you know you are not contributing to the abuse of these ancient animals?
- Avoid lone hawkers outside popular tourist attractions. Choose tour operators who boast about their animals’ wellbeing and who mention a weight limit.
- Longer excursions are generally better for the camel than short trips. Aim for at least a two-hour ride, preferably longer. Multi day treks allow you to get to know your camel and really experience nomadic life.
- Stay in the sandy desert. Camels are better suited for soft, sandy ground and any treks that force camels to walk on harder surfaces that their feet aren’t suited for, then it can be a torturous experience for these gentle giants.
- Be considerate when you plan to ride camels. There’s no official weight limit, but if you weigh over 220 pounds, you should probably not consider riding camels.
- Look at the animals before you agree to ride a camel. If any look underweight, exhausted, overloaded or have obvious sores, they are probably being treated badly. Do you see the owner shouting or hitting camels? That’s a big red flag.
- Consider your location. In Jordan, camels are generally considered a national treasure, almost part of the family and well cared for as such. Before embarking on camel rides, do your research and find a tour operator which trains camels humanely. Nomads have partnered with camels for thousands of years and prefer a “friendly hands” approach rather than violence, believing the relationship to be symbiotic.
The Best Places For Camel Riding
We’re a little biased about our camel riding experience (Petra! Desert picnics! Bedouin! Dead Sea!) but there are a couple of other places that generally have ethical camel riding opportunities.
If you want to book your own tour, then start by checking out these locations, which tend to have beautiful, respectful relationships with animals:
- Jordan: Jordan is known for its well-cared-for camels, and there are ethical tour operators offering camel rides in Jordan. That’s where we organize our camel riding tour!
- India: In Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, there are ethical camel safari operators who prioritize the welfare of the animals. These operators limit the number of hours that camels work, provide them with adequate food and water, and avoid overloading them with heavy loads.
- Australia: In Australia (yes, Australia!), there are ethical operators who offer camel rides that prioritize the welfare of the animals. They provide ample rest and food breaks for the camels and avoid overworking them.
What To Expect On A Camel Ride
Forget any horse riding experience you have—camel riding is all about going with the flow. Sway along with your new humped friend!
It helps to wear loose, light and long-sleeved clothing and a decent bra. You might fancy a floaty dress for your camel riding, thanks to Tikok, but it’s probably best to wear leggings underneath for comfort and modesty.
Leave the flip-flops or in your luggage—sneakers, lightweight hiking boots or other styles which won’t fall off are the footwear of choice for camel rides. If you are prone to dropping stuff, consider a neck strap for your cell phone and a surfer-style sports strap for your shades.
As you are in the Middle East, you probably already have a good hat which preferably shades your neck and face. If not, then you get to totally complete your chic desert chick fit with a head turban if the person in charge of your camel offers to make one for you.
I found a long scarf covering my hair and wrapped round my neck. Shemagh style was perfect, especially with the option to adjust the scarf to cover my nose and mouth if it got really dusty. There are lots of instructions on how to make a variety of Middle East style head wraps, including this one showing how to tie a Shemagh.
But how do you mount one of these long-legged beasts safely without mortally offending it?
Those who organize camel safaris generally coax the camels onto the ground. Seasoned camel riders advise to approach nonchalantly from the side, hopefully not letting the beast realize you are scared. There might be a stirrup to help you mount—swing your leg over as if it was just a large horse.
After this, any resemblance to horses ends once your very own camel decides to stand. It will do so back feet first, probably hoping to fling you inelegantly over its neck and onto the sand. Lean back to look like a pro and avoid being thrown. Then, as the camel starts to clamber fully upright, lean forward until both you and the camel are upright and ready for your camel ride.
Wiggle until you are sitting in the center of the saddle and to look like a real pro, cross your legs in front to distribute the weight onto your tailbone rather than your, well, camel toe, which experts maintain makes for a more comfortable ride. Or be like me and just hang on for dear life and hope not to fall. Whatever suits—you do you.
Insider Tips For A Successful Camel Ride
Camel riding is wild, relaxing, tricky, and just so damn fun. It’s the “wild” and “tricky” part that could use a little extra support the first time around. Since we know our way around a camel, here are some of the best tips we can offer you for a totally fun experience.
To avoid annoying your camel, don’t surprise it by suddenly appearing within spitting or kicking distance. After (hopefully) successfully mounting, grip firmly with your hands but relax your body and sway with the rhythm of the camel’s walk.
Avoid jeans and tight clothing—wear long loose trousers and shirts and shoes that stay on even if your legs are dangling. A head covering is vital, but make sure it will stay on even with a strong desert wind. Sunglasses are a must—choose good quality models to avoid eye damage from the strong sun. They will be especially useful if you plan a sunset trek. You don’t want to be squinting in your camel ride selfies.
PRO TIP: You’ll be grateful for an easy opening water bottle you can sling over your body for mid-ride refreshment.
Obvs you are going to want to take ALL the pictures but be aware that desert camel adventures = dust and sand which are not great for phones or cameras. The top of dunes is the worst for encountering flying sand. Use a soft makeup brush to gently clean all crevices after your ride.
Camels are prone to sudden unexpected movements, especially if they spot a tasty shrub, so attach your phone and/or camera to your bag or body with a lanyard. Don’t worry, though, the slow pace is perfect for taking pictures. Make the most of the golden hour at sunset for dreamy captures your friends will envy.
You might think a two-humped camel would be more comfortable and easy to ride wedged between humps, but actually, most consider the one humped Arabian (dromedary) variety to be more comfortable.
Ready to Ride Some Camels?
All fired up to tick this Arabian adventure off your bucket list? Ready to experience a taste of ancient nomadic life complete with a sunset journey on camel back, Bedouin glamping and feasts featuring local cuisine? Book a camel riding adventure in Jordan with Explorer Chick and share these unforgettable experiences and more with new friends in a small, female-only group.
Meet the Writer
Afra is an award winning journalist who has enjoyed many adventures including swimming with sharks, crewing hot air balloons and canyoning. She started creating online content ten years ago, diversifying after years writing for print publications. She loves travel, great food, and her family. Not necessarily in that order.
Favorite outdoor adventure: Snorkeling in the warm waters off the coast of Cyprus
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