Movie-like desert camel riding

Swakopmund-What must rank as an experience of a lifetime, equalling that from a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie, are the daily guided camel rides through the rolling Namib dunes.

Desert Explorers Camel Safaris has become one of the great highlights for holidaymakers visiting Swakopmund, bringing people close to a fascinating animal that they don't call the nomads of the desert for nothing.

Lorna Davis has managed the camel safaris ever since the owner introduced only a handful tamed beasts into their quad bike adventures seven years ago. Today they boast a caravan of around 32 adults and four youngsters.

Each day they round up a dozen or so camels from their kraal, saddle them up and take them to the waiting post, where they sit patiently under a cluster of huge palm trees that one can spot from the main road on the outskirts of town.

They leave in groups of up to 15 depending on the height of the season and size of the group. The guides play a major role in caring for these patient 'desert creatures', whom they have all given names and treat like family members.

Within the group of guides, each is responsible for certain camels, and Gerson Fliede, who hails from Rehoboth, is one of them.

He has spent as much as seven years looking after his charges and has developed a wonderful rapport between with his long-legged friends.

It's people like Fliede who make sure that they care for the wellbeing of the animals when brought in at night, fed, watered and that all the saddle equipment is packed away after a long day's ride.

They lead the tour groups, trudging through thick sand, giving the animals orders whilst tourists have the chance to enjoy the splendour of the desert from a high vantage point.

Lorna further explains that the rides vary from 30 minutes to an hour. The thrilling excursion starts from 9h00 in the morning with a two hour break for animals and handlers over lunchtime, before heading back out on many more afternoon walks.

Not all the camels are on location at once, because they keep some out at a nearby river plot and rotate them to rest them during busy times.

This operation, the largest privately owned group of camels in Namibia, has strict policies in place to ensure that they monitor the treatment of the animals for the safety of all parties, and that they do not expose the animals to provocation, teasing or taunting in any way.

With a diet comprising hay, Lucerne and pellets for the little ones, the food bill every month isn't cheap, but these hard working camels are well cared for, and socialised to interact with tourists.

They purchased eight camels from the Save the Rhino Trust, which used them as anti-poaching rhino trackers, but then sold them off when the camel patrols were replaced by 4A 4's instead. They bought another half a dozen camels from a farmer in Otavi.

With December just around the corner, Lorna says they are once again expecting to be very busy with holidaymakers during the season, adding that camel rides have become a real treat for locals, who have added this adventure to their bucket list when they visit the coast.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia