Europe, Wanderlust

A camel ride through the dunes – Maspalomas, Gran Canaria

Plodding through the dunes, the only sound was our voices as the camels padded slowly across the sand, the sun shining above us in a cloudless sky.

Casting humped shadows on the gold, we could have been in the heart of the Sahara – until you caught a glimpse of Maspalomas beyond the windswept dunes. Besides, unlike mine, I don’t think many Saharan camels are called Richard…

gran-canaria-maspalomas-camel-ride

Me and Richard…

The dunes of Maspalomas are a natural wonder, unspoiled, protected and covering around 400 hectares, providing a home to plants found only in the Canary Islands. Camels, meanwhile, have been on the islands since the 15th century.

Touristy it might seem, but one thing I wasn’t going to miss was the chance to ride a camel through this mini desert. I have a soft spot for camels, after riding them in Egypt and Jordan, and I’d far rather clamber onto one than a donkey (all barking) or a horse. For starters, camels don’t generally bolt whey they see an unexpected leaf.

They might be a bit smelly, mine always seem to have at least one extra pair of knees compared to the others gliding smoothly across the sand, but I can’t help being fond of them. Even the sneaky one behind me in the camel train who seized every opportunity to nibble in my direction – any doubts I’d had about the makeshift chickenwire muzzles (which still allow them to munch plants) evaporated once I realise it would stop them munching me.

Camello Safari Dunas is the main company on Gran Canaria running the mini camel trips of around half an hour, just long enough to get a taste of the dunes and some extremely shaky video.

You can take kids as well – aged three and up, they’re technically supposed to have their own seat (and are charged accordingly) but my friend’s petite four-year-old was very happily left on her lap. I was distinctly dubious about whether Minnie would like the idea of riding a camel – I suspected she’d think it would be a fabulous idea in theory, then when confronted with a real live large camel, she’d change her mind.

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In the end, she insisted she wanted to ride one and we got as far as sitting her on my lap before the camel lumbered up in their jerky fashion (like deckchairs snapping open, I always think) before she decided she was done. Fortunately for once, I could simply hand her down to my husband and relax back to enjoy the ride.

It’s actually a great way to see the dunes with children though. I’d have loved to have spent a bit longer clambering over them afterwards but thanks to a satnav which kept trying to direct me through no entry signs on our journey there, we’d run out of time by the end of the safari.

I suspect it’s also another thing which sounds fun in theory but is less enjoyable for a toddler once they test the reality of large heaps of slippery sand.

When you dismount, there are baby camels to see – the company also runs a breeding programme – and a shop selling camel toys. Before I could be talked into buying one, we managed to escape and Maspalomas is just a short walk away with restaurants, the promenade and some distinctly child-friendly sand on the beach.

Need to know
Camello safari is open seven days a week from 9am to 4pm with rides running every 15 minutes and lasting 30-35 minutes. Adult tickets are 12 Euros, child tickets cost 8 Euros for three to 12-year-olds. Under threes go free and need to sit on an adult’s knee.

You can buy tickets in advance but no reservations are needed so it’s just as easy to turn up and buy them at the camel station for the next ride. You’ll need to pay in cash.

The safari station is on Avenida Oceania, not far from the beach and the Charca de Maspalomas (the pond near the beach). After driving around in circles and putting our car in a car park on Avenida Touroperador Tui, we found it by walking along until you could see the camels but there is a map on the website.
Images and video: copyright MummyTravels

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