Before coming to India, I had read a lot of blog posts about the Jaisalmer Desert Safari, and it looked pretty cool. The chance to sleep under the stars in the isolated desert. Sounds quite adventurous right?
There are so many tour operators in Jaisalmer, that you have to do some shopping before making the decision. Different prices and types of packages make the decision making process a little more difficult. Ask around at least 3 or 4 places before committing. I remember the package costing around 1300 rupees for the 2 days 1 night desert safari.
Jaisalmer Desert Safari – What’s included?
Generally, the tours will all offer the following, if they don’t, look for an operator that does.
- Camel Ride – you should have your own camel. Ask how long you will be riding for each day.
- Food – find a tour where your guides cook food for you in the desert over an open fire rather than riding to a village for food. They should provide you enough water for your whole duration, check this.
- Sleeping in the open desert under the stars. Sleeping gear should be provided. Go back to basics, you don’t need a bed, just lie on a blanket on the sand.
Touristy and Non-Touristy are the main options that the operators will sell to you. Touristy means going to the main sand dunes areas. Most of the operators will go here, it’s called Sam Sand Dunes, where you are likely to see many other groups.
Non-Touristy Desert Safari Package
I decided to choose the Non-Touristy package where I was taken to a quieter dune. It is true that we didn’t see any other groups, however I feel that the dunes were not so spectacular.
We booked our package with the Temple View Guesthouse. We spoke to the manager who was enthusiastic and didn’t try to hard sell it to us, however I felt that he provided many false promises, and the tour didn’t meet our expectations.
What I didn’t like about the Jaisalmer Desert Safari
- The dunes we went on were not what I’d expected. They were not the image you have before you set off, of large vast dunes of sand that go on for miles without anything else in your line of sight. In actual fact, we could see industrial power generators in the distance which detracts from the beauty of the area. On our camel safari we saw a more luxury resort, which had giant canvas style accommodations, which probably offered real toilets and kitchen prepared food. In my opinion, why come for a desert safari experience if you’re not prepared to go back to basics. That’s all part of the experience.
- The Dunes were relatively small. In the past I have been privileged enough to see dunes in Gobi and Dubai, which were larger and spectacular, so perhaps my expectations were too high. I found the experience underwhelming. The sand was not pristine, there was debris in much of it. So much so that walking around the sand in bare foot is a bad idea. Keep your shoes on if you are going for a walk, as my foot was impaled by some sharp branches.
- The guides we had were a little strange. Smoking Bidi was their main agenda rather than tending to their guests. This isn’t to say that all the guides are like this. It depends on the operator.
- I realize that this is a tour so there is going to be a fixed route for the camel ride, but it felt like we simply rode around in a giant circle and didn’t see anything particularly memorable. Ultimately, the feeling of the tour for me was forced. The guides didn’t seem passionate about the activity or group.
What I liked about the Jaisalmer Desert Safari
- It was fantastic to have food prepared for us in the desert. We made chapattis over the open fire, and were given the chance to eat our own ones.
- Sitting in front of the campfire eating our freshly cooked food in the desert is great. The stars are very bright and visible as there is little light pollution in the desert. Shooting stars can be seen if you concentrate hard enough.
- Unlike some of the other tours, which leave quite late in the day, we left in the early morning so made the most of the day riding the camels.
Is the Jaisalmer Desert Safari really worth it?
I think that depends on what you have seen before.You will really enjoy this if you have never been to any sand dunes before and camel riding is a first experience. The night in the middle of nowhere under the clear night sky eating fresh cooked Indian food over a camp fire is fantastic. You might be underwhelmed if you have seen bigger more spectacular dunes. I don’t think they take you far enough out to see the really spectacular parts. Perhaps the Sam Sand Dunes is better, I would love to hear what others think.
Never the less, I don’t regret going on the desert safari. It was still a fun experience, however if I was to do it again, I would perhaps choose different operator and a different location. I was told that different tour operators are designated different areas of the desert, so it can be hard to find total seclusion.
If you are short of time, then missing the Jaisalmer Desert Safari experience isn’t going to end your world. I would however still come to Jaisalmer. It was probably my favourite city in Rajhastan and has a certain charm about it.
- It gets really cold at night, so remember to bring some extra clothes
- Bring some wet wipes in case you need to go for a desert poop
- Sun protection. The UV rays will be strong during the day, especially just sitting on the camel. Top up your sun protection and bring some sunglasses or hat.
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