Some countries have certain activities associated with them, and there’s no doubt that in the case of Tunisia it is pretty synonymous with camels.
While some tourists will choose this country for its beaches, others might take a more cultural view and opt for it because of experiences like camel trekking which can really set it apart.
Camel trekking isn’t something that has just arrived courtesy of tourists though. On the contrary, this was a principle mode of transport and if you turn to something like Silk Road (which we will talk about more later), there was once a time where upwards of 20,000 camel caravans a day were passing by.
As such, it’s no surprise to see that it’s on a lot of people’s Tunisia bucket lists. Of course, with so much popularity comes a lot of operators offering the experience, and to ensure that you get the very best as per your requirements, we have put together this guide. We will now take a look at just what the typical camel trekking experience covers, as well as some must-read preparation advice that can make the day so much easier for you.
What’s the best advice to take on board before going?
Before we dive into the meet of what you should expect during one of these treks, it’s important to understand what is expected from you (or your body, to be precise).
The first point probably won’t come as much as a surprise; the temperature deviation can be substantial. In the middle of summer, the heat in the Sahara can be bordering on unbearable. It’s because of this that you really need to take precautions to protect yourself; ensuring that your head is covered and you are continuously applying sun screen. In relation to your head, a really good piece of advice is to turn to a head scarf – which can also be used over your eyes if the sand starts to bluster around.
While some of you might expect the heat, something which is a little less stereotypical is the drops in temperature. If you are opting for a long-term camel trek, at night the temperature really can fall in the Sahara. This means that you need to plan for both extremes – with layered clothing being one of the best solutions as this allows you to adapt at a whim.
An important point to note for these tours is that they can be exhausting – and this isn’t just for the camel. There will be occasions where you may have to get off and guide the animal, and a small degree of fitness will naturally be required here. We’re mainly talking about cardiovascular training and just a basic run will serve you well – and potentially reduce some of your weight that will be on the camel.
A lot of people don’t realize the strain that your body comes under whilst riding a camel though. You will be sitting in the same position for hours on end (stops can be at a premium), and this can cause immense tiredness. You need excellent posture, a strong core and also strength in your legs and hips.
While there are absolutely scores of exercises that you can use to fine-tune the above areas, you really don’t need to turn to something overly complex. Ab crunches are an easy one to boost your core, while the hip extension exercise can work wonders and you don’t even need access to a gym (just a chair will suffice).
As we’ve already documented, you don’t have to go super-advanced with this. You can start your training a few months before your big expedition, with three sessions a week being enough.
What is camel trekking in the Sahara all about?
Perhaps a common misconception about this experience is that it’s all about the animal. While this is true to a large extent, what a lot of people don’t understand is that the tour operators providing these experience include a lot of other attractions. For example, they will take you along routes that incorporate oasis, or small villages – just so you get something extra out of the tour. Considering the fact that some of these treks are more than two weeks long, this is pretty important and ensures that people don’t leave the expeditions bored.
On the subject of the long-term treks, let’s talk about accommodation. This is the element that a lot of people like, for the simple reason that a lot of the experiences will allow you to camp under the stars. Sure, some people may have done this in their own country, but in an area as unique as the Sahara it certainly brings a little extra charm. If you are along a trek that is particularly long, you will probably be provided with a mixture of this and hotels – with the latter usually having impressive facilities to at least retain a little luxury and style.
The activities that are on offer will naturally vary depending on the location of the trek, as well as the tour operator you have selected. However, some are certainly more popular than others and one of the favored ones is Houidhat Erreched Lake. When this attraction is offered, you must grab it with both hands, as it allows you to trek to one of the most beautiful parts of the Sahara and benefit from the likes of hot water lakes and huge sand mountains. This is one of those attractions where you will be given plenty of time to relax as well, and you’ll generally be able to swim in the lake and just enjoy the picturesque surroundings.
While we could also talk about the oasis’ and other “standard” Sahara features, a mention should also be given to the Silk Trade Route. For those unaware, this is a historic trade route – which used to see tens of thousands of camel caravans trek through on a daily basis. Suffice to say, it’s another one of those attractions you should do your upmost to see – even if it doesn’t perhaps possess the beauty-qualities that the likes of Houidhat Erreched Lake has.
Closing words on camel trekking in Tunisia
Hopefully, all has become clear about camel trekking now. It’s something which is utterly cultural and if you do happen to take advantage of one of the longer tours, you really are bracing yourself for an unparalleled experience. It’s not just about the animal – these longer tours really do bring everything from history to culture to the table.
Another takeaway should be the importance of preparation. Again, this is only relevant for the longer tours, but a combination of the sun and the physical excursion on your body means that you should be looking to prepare for one of these longer tours at least several months in advance.