After completing my trip through Africa last month, I can look back and really appreciate what an amazing continent it is. Home to the largest hot desert in the world and gigantic mountain ranges, what better way to traverse the arid wild lands of Africa than from the back of a traditional desert caravan. Travel by camel is a unique experience that can offer a quiet inroad into the raw landscape of a country. With tour guides and trips aimed at everything from a daytrip outing and weekend breaks through to weeks of endurance exploration, there’s pretty much something for everyone.
Both the Western desert and Sinai offer unrivalled terrain for camel treks, with all manner of ancient monuments and relics to pepper the route. In the Sinai, St Catherine’s Monastery and Mount Sinai (great mountain to climb too!) offer ancient religious iconography, whilst the arid, rocky terrain of the Wadi Gnai is home to remote, traditional Bedouin settlements where you can enjoy a meal on an open fire and sleep out under the star studded sky. Venture in land to Cairo and Luxor too (you can spend an awesome few days in Luxor, check out my time there) Also, you’re only a stone’s throw away from Jordan and Petra so make your way over there if you can.
Acting as a backdrop for many famous movies, including Star Wars and Indiana Jones, the desert of Tunisia surrounds the capital of Carthage and encompasses some of the nation’s most famous monuments – including the Coloseeum at El Djem and the Great Mosque of Kairouan. Many camel treks take in the Berber town of Matmata, which offers travellers a rare chance to stay overnight in underground ‘troglodyte’ structures.
With Atlantic coastline, the highest peak in North Africa and the expanses of the Sahara desert, Morocco offers a diverse landscape that is ripe for travel by camel. Whether travellers choose to venture into the foothills of the High Atlas or delve deep in to the Sahara to Zagora and Nakhla to explore the huge dunescape, camel safaris are a popular choice.
With a terrain that spans the extremes of the Namib Desert and the Skeleton Coast, Namibia is home to a diverse natural terrain, including the Namib-Naukluft Park. Taking in both desert and mountain range, the National Park is home to a wide range of wildlife, from snakes and geckos through to hyenas and jackals. Camel tours are available throughout the park – offering a low impact tour of the region.
The Kilimanjaro National Park, home to the highest peak in Africa with a summit at over 19, 000ft (and not as expensive to climb as you might think!), is also home to a rich ecology of flora and fauna, and camel routes are a great way to take in the wildlife, with antelope, elephants, leopards and hyenas all on the safari agenda. Many multi-day trips are accompanied by Maasai guides who can offer local insight and knowledge on the wildlife, way of life and natural terrain.
Ok guys, good luck and just for the record after a camel trekking experience, make sure you bring some pillows for those long bus journeys in the aftermath. You might be feeling a little tender for a day or two!