How to Avoid Camel Spit and Other Crucial Lessons from an Australian Camel Ride

When my husband first suggested that we add a camel ride to our Australian itinerary, I'll have to confess that I was a little surprised. Until then, I hadn't realized that there were camels in Australia. But as it turns out, there are hundreds of thousands of them, originally imported from India and the Middle East in the 1800s to work in the Outback, but then released into the wild in the 1920s and 1930s when trucks took over their transportation responsibilities. Many now run feral, but others have been rounded up for milk, meat, export (often back to the Middle East), and (apparently) camel rides for tourists.

My family is a fairly adventurous bunch. Having already handled crocodiles and sting rays and sampled both kangaroo and crocodile meat on this vacation, and ridden elephants and giraffes on others, riding a camel seemed like pretty tame stuff. And while it isn't exactly dangerous, there are a few key things I learned that helped make my camel ride more pleasant:

Don't Let a Camel Spit on You
One of the first things we learned before hopping aboard our dromedaries is that camels spit when they are agitated, so you need to do your best to avoid giving them stress. Akin to a cat that hisses, camels spit as a warning to stay away. And to make their spitting more impressive, they actually mix their saliva with whatever's in their stomach at the moment. If they haven't eaten in a while, it is mostly stomach acids. But if they have, what comes out of their mouths is essentially vomit. Since just hearing about the possibility of having camel vomit on me made me feel a bit stressed. So I was careful to stay away from the camel's face (and have my kids do the same), lest it sense my fear and decide to let 'er rip.

Stay behind the camel's head to avoid camel spit
Victoria Otto Franzese

Lean Back When the Camel Gets Up
We mounted our camels while they were seated on the ground. Since camels stand up with their back legs first, we were told to lean back to counteract that motion. With only the horn of the saddle to hold onto, it was pretty clear that if we didn't do as instructed, we'd be thrown off in front of the camel, where we might encounter both its mighty hoofs and the aforementioned spit. You can see in the photo that we were pretty careful to do as we were told!

Lean back while the camel stands
Victoria Otto Franzese

Expect Discomfort
I'll confess that I'm not much of a horseback rider. I don't like the rocking motion and I get saddle-sore pretty quickly. But even if I was an accomplished horsewoman, I'm not convinced that I would have been comfortable during my camel ride. The camel's motion seemed jerky and uneven. I never felt like I adjusted to the camel's rhythm even after an hour in the saddle. Thankfully, I had been told in advance to expect this and just stay loose without any attempt to control the camel's gait.

Focus on Your Surroundings
So how did I distract myself from worrying about my aching tailbone? I focused less on the camel ride itself and more on my surroundings as we traveled through Australia's beautiful, wild desert near Uluru.

Daytime view of Uluru
Victoria Otto Franzese

Victoria Otto Franzese is a proud New Yorker who owned, operated, and wrote for a successful online travel guide for 15 years. Now, thankfully, all of her travel is purely for fun. See where she's going next at@VOFranzese.