Camels are hardly the first animal people think of when imagining an African safari. They probably don’t crack the top ten. That said, they deserve a place in the minds of the adventurous; they are the perfect companions on a walking safari.
More than just beasts of burden – though that is the reason walkers can count on delicious meals and rest in comfort at night – the dromedaries are characters. Domesticated over 5,000 years ago, they have an easy relationship with humans and not only survive but thrive in harsh climates with specialized evolutionary adaptations.
Camels can understand commands, tell right from left, and willingly lower themselves to their knees to be mounted for riding. They have special relationships with their ‘keepers,’ in this case Maasai warriors. It’s obvious that the animals are treated like family, and they respond instantly to their charge’s wishes.
Camped on a riverbank in Kenya, watching the approach of Maasai with a caravan of camels was almost surreal. It was fairly orderly business as they emerged from the scrub and crossed the river after spending the morning grazing. Lips downturned, a few rustled and nipped at each other like siblings in a tussle, but they were content to abide by the Maasai’s wishes and made their way to the back of camp.
When fly camping in the African bush, most people wonder about lions or leopards outside their tents. While lion song was definitely a nocturnal feature, we found camels out back of camp in the morning, steam rising from their nostrils in the cool air. Heads held high, faces screwed into funny expressions, they fit into the landscape as readily as giraffe.
Riding a camel in the African bush hadn’t been a lifelong wish, but it took on significance once I was doing it. The gentle animal willingly led me through the dusty landscape of Laikipia while his keeper encouraged him forward. Looking down at my silhouette on the red African earth made for a dream-like picture. Something about it seemed to fit.
This is an adventure for friends. A memory making, epic safari, where each day unfolds with new and exciting shared experiences that transform into stories to tell around the evening’s crackling fire, and again back home for years to come.