Cruising on the ship of the desert

camelsFor many people camels are associated with the Sahara Desert, or they conjure up the image of Lawrence of Arabia being bounced over hot sands on his trusty beast.  However, it’s a little known fact that Australia has the largest population of wild camels in the world.  Although the camel is not native to Australia, camels were considered the best form of transport across the wide Australian deserts, so were imported in the 1800s to help develop the country.

Beltana Station, in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, was one of the first places to utilise the camel to transport good in Australia.  In Australia the word station is the equivalent of the American word ranch.  Like many outback station, Beltana is large, being 1876 square kilometres (460,000 acres) in size. It is a working sheep and cattle station, but camels are also kept there too.

Beltana Station is run by Russell and Ros Osborne, both of whom have a fascination for camels.  They have spent a number of years researching camels and studying their behavioural patterns, feeding habits, temperament and the best ways to handle them.

These days the Osbornes offer the world’s only Camel Expedition Course, which helps participants to plan and complete their own expeditions by camel.

However, if you are not planning to travel the world by camel, but are interested in going on a camel tour, the Osbornes are prepared for you also.  Beltana Homestead also runs camel safaris which range in duration from 2 to 5 days.   These safaris take you into the remote Lake Torrens area.  Everything is carried by the camels, and each night a camp is erected, and all food, equipment and bedding is supplied.

Russell and Ros assure their clients that camels really do like humans, and that many participants do bond with their camels, particularly if the camels are pretty.

And, in case you are wondering, the camels only carry equipment, not passengers.  To undertake a camel safari you must be fit enough to walk at least 10 kilometres a day – and remember some of the terrain is quite tough, and the weather can get very hot.

Camel trekking may not be your idea of the perfect luxury break, but if you are the type of person who is up for a bit of adventure, are reasonably fit, like animals, and just want to do something completely outrageous at least once in your life – a camel safari may be just perfect for you.

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