Our Thar Desert Jeep Safari – what an experience
One of the adventure activities in Thar Desert Jaisalmer that everyone wants to do is desert jeep safari. Most people go out in a desert jeep in couples, small groups or families. I love to see them piling into the back, smiles on their faces, chattering and organising themselves, sitting or standing, who’s in front, who’s on the side, selfie sticks stretched out already taking pics before the jeep has even departed. So excited!
Our driver has already arrived, roared into the carpark before jumping out of the cabin and beating the backs seats with a rag to banish the desert dust. Now he scouts around the jeep, checking we are all secure, shuts the door at our back, locked in tight. He jumps back into the driver’s seat and slams the door. We’re ready to go on our jeep safari.
A modern version of pulsating traditional Rajasthani music pulsates from the cabin and the excitement goes up a notch. I can’t help feeling the buzz as the grin breaks across my face. And we’re off. We steam away from our luxury desert camp, around the corner and on to the road on our way to the dunes. The music races with us, my friend Raj starts singing, and all our grins get wider, the wind throwing my hair around as we fly down the road. The anticipation and excitement just continue to grow.
We veer off the main road, heading along a narrow road, the one that takes us to the famous Sam Sand Dunes of the great Thar Desert Jaisalmer. Abruptly another desert jeep with thrill seekers sidles up and overtakes us, Punjabi boys with colourful turbans in the back whooping, laughing and waving. We follow in pursuit as our jeeps head into the sands. As they glide out over the soft golden sands, I can feel our jeep starting to slither. The two jeeps gliding together but apart, ahead and behind – it feels like a dance, a party, like we are all in this thrill together and I start to laugh as well.
Our jeep starts heading upward and I can hear the extra effort it has to apply to grip into the soft shifting sands. At last, entering the dunes, upward toward the pure blue desert sky, the desert jeep working hard. And then we peak atop, a view of the sand dunes before us.
Here we are on our desert jeep safari, one of the premier Jaisalmer adventure activities – no jungle elephants or tigers here. We look across the wonderment of treeless, undulating golden sand dunes, their peaks cutting into the blue, cloudless sky. The jeep pulls forward, accelerating over and down as we hoot and holler, arms raised as though we dare the wind to pull us out. Down into the sandy valley and up the other side, the desert jeep, its four wheels in drive shoving the shifting sands and somehow jeep and all thrusts up the next incline. Dune bashing, wheels slipping, we feel the jeep shift a little this way and a little that way, the bumping and jostling part of the thrill and fun, all the while knowing we are safe in the hands of an experienced driver and a sturdy jeep built for the desert, allowing us to be fully immersed in the adventure of the roller coaster ride.
All too soon, the driver draws to a stop and parks. We step out, our shoes sinking into the velvety sands. And so we throw them off allowing the sand to sprinkle between our toes, leaving formless footprints as we walk to the ridge and our gaze moves from the horizon where the sun is setting to the pristine golden slope dropping below us.
Raj lets out a shout and plunges down the incline, feet sinking uncontrollably into the slippery sands and I laugh as he stumbles to the bottom. We race up and down the slopes, leaping, running, tumbling and generally being silly, because, we’re in the middle of Thar Desert Jaisalmer in the faraway and famous Sam Sand Dunes, and why not!
The sun continues to lower itself in the sky, its golden globe seeming to almost explode in its glow as the brilliance of the day starts to change to subtle tones of dusk. As it does, we discover a chai wallah sheltered in a dusty, straw hut nearby and we take a seat on the cot as he hands us a small cup of hot spicy tea. We sip it slowly, taking our time to enjoy the tea and a rest before returning to the dunes to watch the sun gently settle on the horizon, spreading a beam of orange and golden hues across the skyline and darkening the dunes.
As the sun disappears and daylight grows dim, we rejoin our jeep driver and pile in. Music up and he takes off down the slope, slipping and jostling across the sands as we make our way down to flatter terrain. This time, I’m in the cabin between the driver and Anika, my legs hooked around the gear stick, where I have a frontal view of the sandy path we scoot along lit by the jeep’s headlights. The descent into the darkness of the desert is as much fun as the ascent in the late afternoon.
Our driver takes us back onto and along the road, past well-lit desert camps, their colourful flags on tall poles fluttering in the night breeze, crooked signs perched periodically along the roadside. Soon we pull up to Queen of Thar Desert Camp. As we walk to the camp’s entrance, we are welcomed by the rhythmic beating of the dhol drum by a costumed musician, and a beautiful dancer in silver, red, yellow and black Rajasthani costume blessing us with welcome tikka on the forehead – a moving completion to an exhilarating sunset experience. And the evening is just beginning. Soon, after a rest and refreshment in our luxury tent, we will settle into a box (booth or cabin) around the camp’s dancefloor to enjoy the evening Rajasthani culture program.