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Alice Springs is one of the stops on The Ghan route from Darwin to Adelaide (and vice versa) and a great spot to take a camel ride through the outback. Camel riding is one of a number of excursions offered to passengers on The Ghan. However, you don’t need to travel on the train to go camel riding. If you are visiting Alice Springs independently, you can book a camel ride direct with Pyndan Camel Tracks.

Pyndan Camel Tracks riding
Camel riding near Alice Springs

Camel riding is a particularly good activity to opt for in Alice Springs as it gives you an opportunity to see the beautiful country surrounding the main town without having to go hiking through the outback in the heat. Pick up and drop off is included in the tour or, if you have a hire car, you can drive yourself. However you decide to get there, it only takes 15 minutes to reach Pyndan Camel Tracks from Alice Springs.

Pyndan Camel Tracks camel
One of the camels at Pyndan Camel Tracks

After a warm welcome from Marcus Williams, the owner and operator of Pyndan Camel Tracks, it was time for our group’s information and safety briefing before the ride. Marcus has been a cameleer since 1982 and his love and respect for the animals in his care was obvious from the moment we arrived. If you are nervous about riding a camel, there is nothing to fear. The camels on our tour were well trained, gentle and predictable. It is easy to see how they earned the name ‘ships of the desert’. Camels gently roll from side to side like a galleon sailing across the ocean, it is very relaxing. I always feel far more comfortable on a camel than I do on a horse. They seem more solid, safe, and dependable plus you don’t need to know how to trot when you ride a camel.  Just sit back and relax, it’s easy.

Marcus Williams doing our briefing

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When it is time to climb aboard, listen to the instructions from your cameleer: hang on tight, lean back as far as you can and the camel will stand up. It can take a few seconds for the camel to rise from the ground so don’t loosen your grip thinking he or she has decided not to get up. The camel is just getting him or herself ready to stand. The camels at Pyndan Camel Tracks are tethered to each other in a camel train with a cameleer leading them, either by walking alongside them or riding the lead camel, so you don’t need to do anything except sit there and enjoy the ride.

Climb on the camel at Pyndan Camel Tracks
Pyndan Camel Tracks riding
Lean back then up you go on a camel ride

After the camels leave the holding yards at Pyndan Camel Tracks, they walk through the neighbouring property known as White Gums Station. Once you get onto the open plains, keep a lookout for kangaroos and wallabies and large lizards scampering across the ground below. Iron Bark and Mulga trees dot the clay pan flat, adding splashes of green to a backdrop of bright red earth. The landscape is sparse yet vibrant and encapsulates the beauty of the Australian outback. I would love to do a sunset tour out this way.

Pyndan Camel Tracks riding a camel
On our way, walking through White Gums Station

After around 15 minutes spent travelling across the plains, the camels walk up a (very) slight incline and stop at a vantage point offering sweeping views across the MacDonnell Ranges through Temple Bar Gap. Your cameleer will offer to take your photo from here and you should definitely take him up on it. After the photo opportunity, the camels head back to Pyndan Camel Tracks where there are chilled refresher towels, a cool drink and some Middle Eastern inspired snacks waiting for everyone.

Pyndan Camel Tracks owner
Chilled towels
Pyndan Camel Tracks snack
Refreshments after the ride

We spent some time enjoying the refreshments, exploring the gift shop and looking at some of the camel memorabilia Marcus has collected over the years before the trip back to Alice Springs. If you want to explore Australia off the beaten track, this well-priced tour is a top choice for travellers of all ages.

Camel riding tips

Take the transfer to and from Alice Springs. It’s nice to have a chat and get to know your cameleer before the ride and you can enjoy the scenery instead of checking directions.

Wear a broad-brimmed hat or a cap and, ideally, something draped around the back of your neck. Even though you are only outside for an hour, you will feel hot and uncomfortable without something on your head to shade you from the hot outback sun.

Put sunscreen everywhere that will be exposed. Don’t forget the less obvious spots like the tops of your feet if you’re wearing sandals.

Bring a small backpack and wear it on the front of your body for easy access to your camera, water bottle, etc.

Get a photo taken beside your camel at the end of the ride. I am really sorry that I forgot to do this so don’t make the same mistake.

Give your camel a rub and a scratch before you head back to Alice Springs. Each camel has a favourite spot for scratches and pats; ask Marcus and he will tell you what they love best.

Disclosure: The writer travelled to Alice Springs as a guest of Great Southern Rail.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.