The camels of Cable Beach

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There’s something magical about long trains of camels ambling along a picture perfect beach beside the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.

And there’s something even more magical if you’re actually riding one.

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Setting off into the sunset takes on a whole new meaning as I contemplate  riding off by myself into the outback on a jaunt across Australia, as others have done, most notably Alison Bird, Broome’s ‘camel lady’ who owns Broome Camel Safaris with whom we’re trekking off along the beach today.

She’s an old hand as a camel operator with over 29 years experience training these amazing animals.

She trains her camels from the wild and has trekked with them in the outback for over seven years, exploring and painting as well. She now works with them on a farm just outside Broome in North West Australia.

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We arrive at Cable Beach and we’re introduced to the camel leaders and told what to do and what not to do. For instance, how to touch the camels, how to get into the saddle and how important it is to steel yourself and lean back as they get up – or you’ll go ass over … yes!

camels-cable-beach-jo-castroThere’s a long line of camels with blue saddle blankets waiting for us. All lying down contemplating who knows what.  Each has its own Afghan name. I’m itching to rush over and hug one right now, but we have to bide our time. I hope from foot to foot. Give my shoes in, take my rucksack off.

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“Why an Afghan name and why do you give them their orders in Afghani?” I aks Matt who’s the head leader.

“Their names … because they are traditionally from Afghanistan and the instructions, well that’s  so that the tourists don’t start trying to tell them to stand up and sit down at will,” Matt explains. “That would be a disaster!”

I’m riding Malachi, a name which translates as ‘God’s Messenger’, and I walk over to pat him. He has big soft eyes with incredibly long eyelashes. His coat is coarse, but soft and the colour of, well imagine a camel cardigan.

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After I hoist myself up into the saddle, I laugh with glee as Malachi gets up throwing me first forward and then quite violently backwards.

Matt is careful with Malachi, this big lead camel, who knows the ropes and is meant to set an example to the younger camels at the back. Matt is playful with him, but respectful too and it’s evident that they have a great bond between them

“Alison has trekked through the outback with camels for long periods of time,” Matt tells us, “And she now has 42 camels at the farm. A baby camel has just been born and she’s adorable. Some camels are in retirement now, but the bulk of them work and are led from the farm daily to do two or three beach rides a day.”

Matt is from England, but he loves his work in Broome. He’s passionate about the camels and he says he doesn’t know if he can ever go back to England because by his own admission, he’d miss Malachi  particularly, and the other camels just too much.

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There is mystery and excitement as you ride these ships of the desert on Cable Beach and watch other long colourful camel trains sway in curving lines along the sand, particularly at sunset.

And it’s picturesque even if you don’t get to go on a ride.

Camels have been used in Western Australia since about the 1860s when they were used to haul mining goods and supplies across the state. They were also used for taking supplies to the various cattle stations in WA and for transporting materials used to build the first telegraph line in Central Australia.

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Matt tells us that there’s the biggest herd of wild camels in the world in Central Australia, numbering about 400,000,  plague proportions in fact. Another tour guide later calls this an epidemic.

My mind boggles. That’s a lot of camels.

We amble along the beach. It stretches to hell and gone, and is peppered now with four by four vehicles and locals who have come to watch the sunset.

There are three other camel train businesses operating along this beach, which now seems alive with camels with different coloured saddle blankets. Overall it’s quite a phenomenum.

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Later we head for cocktails at Sunset Bar, and I have an exquisite mango cocktail or two!  As we take photos of the gorgeous sunset through the palms, the camel trains make their way off the beach to start the short trek back home, and I smile as I see that each has its own little tail light.

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Disclaimer: I stayed courtesy of the Mantra Frangipani  during my trip to Broome. You can read more about The Mantra Frangipani resort here and more about Things to do in Broome

FAST FACT: Did you know that Cable Beach is rated in the world’s top 5 beaches? It has 22kms of white sand and was named after the telegraph cable that was installed between Broome and Java in 1889.

Have any of you read the international bestseller Tracks by Robyn Davidson, about Robyn’s epic trek with camels across the centre of Australia? I loved that book. I’ve just read that it’s recently been released as a film.

Or have you ridden a camel – where in the world did you do that?

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Comments

  1. Neva
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love your sunset pictures on the ocean. I’m adding a camel ride to my bucket list. May I ask why is there a peg attached to a rope in the camel’s nose?
    Neva recently posted..Mystery Rock in Feather River CanyonMy Profile

  2. DEfinitely an experience to consider, Neva and they have a peculiar gait. I’m not sure how people can ride them for days across deserts, but think that the exercise must strengthen one’s stomach muscles. The peg attached to a rope in the camel’s nose is for control – like a bit in a horse’s mouth.

  3. Leigh
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’ve recently seem camel pictures from Australia on Pinterest but little did I know that the camel rides were on Cable Beach. It looks like fun and what a beautiful part of the world to do it in. One question though – what do they do with all the camel poop?

    That book sounds like a great read.
    Leigh recently posted..Alberta Road Trip: Searching for Birds, Badlands & Buffalo JumpsMy Profile

  4. Now there’s a good question Leigh! I’m pretty sure they pick it up because the beach is pristine :) Glad you can now put two and two together – because I’m pretty sure the camel rides would have been on Cable Beach. I reckon you’d love the book. Thanks for popping by :)

  5. Great adventure…
    Muza-chan recently posted..Japanese traditions, Yakudoshi, the Unlucky YearsMy Profile

  6. Jackie says:

    I’ve seen camels in Egypt and Morocco but never thought of them in Australia!
    Lovely photos esp the sunset!
    Jackie recently posted..Mazatlan March 2013 RecapMy Profile

  7. Beautiful, Jo. Such wonder filled adventures! I once was able to take a brief walk on a camel at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Louisiana. It would be amazing to have a journey out on the beach like this.
    Mary Martin recently posted..Day 3- Where the Challenge of Success Becomes a DecisionMy Profile

  8. Camels are such interesting creatures! Great photos!
    EverywhereAmy recently posted..Photo Adventure : Dawn Patrol at the Albuquerque Balloon FiestaMy Profile

  9. I have been to Broome a couple of times but I have never been on the camel ride – not there or anywhere else. It seems a lumpy way to ride.
    What a coincidence Jo – my American Flickr friend just wrote me that she recently saw the film Tracks about Robyn Davidson and heard her speak afterwards. My friend loved seeing Australia in the film.
    I really must look for that book as I have never read it.

  10. I am so glad that you did a post about the camel train as that was on of my favorite parts of your “Things to do in Broome” post. I think I would likely fall off when the camel stood up, no matter how well I held on. That’s very clever to teach the camels their instructions in Afghani. I wonder if they’ve done that from the start or did they have some English instruction disasters at first. I’d love to ride a camel myself some day. I
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Reality versus Expectations on The Great Barrier ReefMy Profile

  11. Marcia
    Twitter:
    says:

    I had no idea you had camels in Australia, Johanna, and that many wild ones.
    And they speak Afghani. Cool!
    Marcia recently posted..On the Warren County Winery Train to Villa Milagro VineyardMy Profile

  12. I was also surprised, Marcia.

  13. I know, Michelle I thought about that in retrospect too – but was too busy paying attention about how to stay put in the saddle to ask if they’d had those sort of disasters! I’m glad you came back to read the camel story :) Thank you.

  14. I think you’d love the book Jill – it’s quite introspective in places, and the tale of one woman, camels and the outback is amazing. What a co-incidence though that your friend in America has just seen the film Tracks. I can’t wait to see it.

  15. Thanks Amy! Yes they are soooo interesting – quite amusing too.

  16. Thanks Mary. I hope one day you also experience a beach camel ride :)

  17. Glad you liked the sunset Jackie. It was a pretty one, and even more interesting when the camels started walking back in front of it :)

  18. Thanks, Muza-chan … glad you enjoyed it!

  19. Marie says:

    Great article. Been to Broome many times and enjoyed the camel rides. Matt is a great leader for the camels.
    Regarding the question about their droppings – they all wear little dropping bags under their tails to catch the poo. You don’t really notice them and they keep the beach pristine.

  20. I have always wanted to ride camels by the beach. What a great experience for you and thanks for virtually taking us along. These pictures are beautiful and I love the close-ups of the camel. That is one spectacular sunset.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..5 Free Things to Do In Salzburg with KidsMy Profile

  21. Mike says:

    Great pictures, Johanna! Like Marcia said I had no clue they were in Australia. I remember my aunt going for a camel ride at the Pyramids in Egypt. She said they were quite….ummm….shall we say “obnoxious”. I’m glad you had a good time! :)
    Mike recently posted..Taking My Golden Retriever, Phoenix, To The Vet For A CheckupMy Profile

  22. Ha Ha Mike, I can imagine how they could be ‘obnoxious’ ;) The handlers were very respectful of the camels in Broome and you could understand why. Having said that, the camels were great characters and quite lovely.

  23. I hope you get to ride camels by the beach one day, Mary, but glad you enjoyed your ‘virtual’ ride and a Broome sunset! Thanks for popping by.

  24. Thanks, Marie – now we know. Good to know that you’ve been to Broome many times, and hope this has inspired you to return again :) Thanks for stopping by and giving us this insight :)

  25. Tracey
    Twitter:
    says:

    I didn’t know the Australian camels originated from Afghanistan. We did come across a couple of wild camels on our trek but 400,000 – that’s heaps of humps. I guess if anywhere’s got the space, it’s Oz. You’re photos make me want to go back there. “Tashakor” – thank you
    Tracey recently posted..Afghanistan: Why Go?My Profile

  26. Hmmm and after this someone may pipe up to tell me otherwise;) After your amazing trek in Afghanistan I feel a little humbled, and writing about a beach camel ride seems a little, well, tame. ‘Tashakor’ for your comment :)

  27. Nancie
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’ve ridden a camel in Egypt. Did a desert trek and stayed overnight at a Bedouin camp. Loved the experience, but will never be a camel fan. I was just too far off the ground for my liking :). Your camel is beautiful.
    Nancie recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday — October 16, 2013 — Must see Asian TemplesMy Profile

  28. Wanda says:

    Seeing the camels along Cable Beach is a wondrous sight indeed. Thanks for enabling us to see them through your eyes. You might be interested in a book I bought called Australia’s Muslim Cameleers; Pioneers of the Inland, 1860s-1930s. The book has tons of great photos and loads of interesting historical information.

  29. I would probably love the book Australia’s Muslim Cameleers, Wanda, especially as I’ve just been to Kalgoorlie and reading up about their working during the gold rush and how much they were needed back then. Thanks for the shout out :)

  30. Hi Johanna,
    What a wonderful adventure and delightful photos. I read Robyn Davidson’s book Tracks back in the 1970s when she wrote it and it has remained one of my favourites all these years. I first rode a camel near Alice Springs, also in the 1970s and again near Jaisalmer, India in the 1980s. It sure is a bouncy ride – I agree it must strengthen the tummy muscles. Australia’s inland history is fascinating and largely unkown. Thanks for a great post. Jane
    Jane St Catherine recently posted..5 Utah national parks in winterMy Profile

  31. Thanks Jane, great to hear you enjoyed The Camels of Cable Beach and also to know that you too enjoyed Tracks. I can’t wait to see the movie too. Was interested to hear that you’d ridden a camel in Alice Springs too, we missed each other there by a few years it seems ;)

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