• Derek

Riding a camel in Australia

Oakfield Ranch has itself a great business on Birubi Beach, near Port Stephens in NSW, Australia. They offer camel rides on a beautiful, tranquil beach; it's literally like you've been teleported out of Australia to a desert in Egypt, except that there is water. $35 per person for a 20-minute ride isn't exactly cheap if you've got a big group (there are enough camels to cater for 24 people at a time), but in my opinion, it's well worth it for a potential once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you fancy the sunset ride (60 minutes), it's 90 bucks each, but if you've got kids under 10, you're out of luck. Check their website for operating days / times too, because rides aren't available 365 days of the year.

These guys have created a pretty Covid-safe environment, something we never had to consider until recently. For starters, the risk is relatively low because you're outdoors, and they do have hand sanitiser and the Covid QR code (they have to). Social distancing whilst waiting for your ride is at the discretion of the people around you, but there is plenty of room on the beach to wait, far away from other people. Two people share one camel, but usually that's in family groups, so I don't think you need to sit in close quarters with a stranger on the same animal. The staff do sanitise the saddle and helmets quickly between the rides, but as usual, just use normal hygiene precautions.

The ride is truly magnificent. Over sand dunes, along the beach, and even into the water. You'll get beautiful videos / photos along the way. Half-way, one of the guides will stop the camel train, and take photos for anybody who asks for it (just remember to clean your phone or camera after handing it off to them).

We went on a weekday, outside of the school holidays, and the wait was acceptable. Remember only 24 people can ride every 20 minutes, so if there is a long queue (which I would expect on a weekend or holiday), be prepared to wait. And there is no shelter from the sun nearby. Bathrooms are up on the hill near the cafe. You can't book in advance (except for the sunset ride), and you can't pay until the group waiting has departed, which is a bit of a nuisance and adds a little friction to the experience. That is, if you get there and there is a long line, you can't pay for the ride (which might be 3 cycles away)- you actually have to wait until it's your turn next. Credit card is accepted, which is essential these days because who uses cash anyways?

Did I mention that the ride is awesome? It is truly magical, and suitable for almost anybody. It is leisurely; sure the camels aren't exactly the smoothest riding animals out there, but there shouldn't be much of an issue for 99.9% of people who can sit in a car long enough to get here.

Our family loved the ride thoroughly and we highly recommend it as a must-do experience if you are nearby. You can always go for a swim on the same beach afterwards. There is also a cafe, and located adjacent, there are more adventurous experiences like sand boarding and 4WD rides.

Let me know if you've ever been here, and if you have, what you thought of the cute camels.


D