Yes, I’m really writing about how to ride a camel, and perhaps I should write how to successfully ride a camel. After all, if the rider falls off, then it can’t really be considered riding a camel, can it?
Camels have really cool elbows and knees, and while they may seem disjointed and wobbly, they aren’t. When you first approach a camel, you’ll notice how tall he is and may wonder how you’re going to actually get on. From a standing position, the camel first bends his front legs (i.e. his elbows!) which lowers the front part of his body, and then he bends his back legs (i.e. knees) so he is fully resting on the ground. At this point, you can grab hold of the saddle horn and swing your leg over so you are settled into the saddle. This is the time to hang on tight!
Then the camel will straighten his back legs so his rump is in the air, yet for a moment his elbows (front legs) will still be on the ground. If you brace yourself by locking your arms and solidly holding on to the horn, you won’t fall off. Within seconds, he will be standing fully upright and you’ll have a whole new view of the world, from about 10′ up.
I have been lucky enough to ride a camel on three different occasions, in three different countries: Australia, United Arab Emirates and Oman. Each experience was better than the previous one, and in Oman I was delighted to ride a “clean” camel. She didn’t spit or slobber on me, and she moved quite gracefully. In fact, when she stood or sat down, she was able to remain much more level than my previous camels could (or did). It almost seemed as if she bent and straightened all four legs equally at the same moment.
At first the camel’s gait will seem awkward and off-beat, but once you ride along for a few minutes, you’ll adapt to the camel’s rhythm and enjoy the ride. And don’t worry about sitting on the hump; you actually sit just on the back side of it. Plus the saddle and padding (three thick blankets) provide comfort to you as well as the camel.
I would love the opportunity to travel for at least a few days with a camel caravan in a desert some day. And I definitely recommend riding a camel next time you have the opportunity. Also, if you get an opportunity to ride an elephant, do that too! I’ll share my stories and tips about riding elephants in a future blog post.