Ships of the Desert | Oasis Camel Dairy

One of the beautiful camels at Oasis Camel Dairy

One of my favorite modern-day adventure stories is the tale of Aussie-outback explorer Robyn Davidson. In her beautiful story Tracks, which charts her epic adventure, she details her solo journey from the middle of the continent to the coastline with nothing but four camels and her dog. It's a journey many thought impossible for even seasoned adventurers, but she is quoted as believing that "ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things."

Robyn Davidson with her camel. Credit: Nat Geo photographer Rick Smolan.

Issue Magazine has a stunning array of Rick Smolan's photographic documentation of Davidson's journey for National Geographic here. A gorgeous and inspiring movie was made about the journey, which I highly recommend; view the trailer here:

While camels are widely-known to be excellent load-bearing workers in arid climes, I wanted to learn more about their behavior. Enter the first camel dairy in the United States, which happens to be located in our very own backyard: Oasis Camel Dairy

Did you know: camels consume half as much hay and water as horses do.

During open tour days, Gil and Nancy will tell you everything you'd like to know about camels - and in pretty entertaining fashion, too - starting when they met decades ago when Nancy had a bird show and Gil bought four baby camels on a whim. Since then, they have rehabbed countless camels, turned their incredible milk into bath and beauty products, and provided tens of acres of arid Ramona land for these beauties to roam about.

 The soft, curly fur on a camel not only makes soft sweaters - it keeps it cool in the hot sun.

These are what are known as dromedary camels (one hump). One of the most fascinating things about them is the fact that they are the only mammals with oval-shaped red blood cells, instead of round. When temperatures rise, those cells can shrink down and still move effectively through veins and arteries, delivering much-needed oxygen and nutrients despite an internal temperature of as high as 108 degrees.

The apparent scabs on their knees and chest are just big calluses to protect them when they rest on hot, rocky ground.

Another interesting camel fact: since they have no natural predators in the wild, they do not startle or "spook" like a horse can. That is not to say that they are unable to express displeasure, though. They can still do that.

They don't actually spit, but they can yell!

But when you or your children are having a little Ramona-based adventure riding one, it's nice to know that the camels are undisturbed by your presence on their back and even enjoy it... especially when extra treats are given around riding time. 

This is our middle daughter riding Camelot. He's the tallest of their camels.

Our other two children riding Cleopatra.

Me with Camelot. He was so sweet!

Because Oasis was the first camel dairy in the nation, their biggest challenge was obtaining legal authorization to sell camel milk for consumption. The benefits of camel milk are many; nonetheless, the State of California has yet to allow it. Instead, the dairy makes skin and beauty products from the milk, adding lavender, honey, and pomegranate for variety.

Another challenge faced by camel-keepers is access to a veterinarian qualified to treat camels - their issues are much different from other farm animals like horses or cows. Oasis has even taken in camels that had been given up on for health reasons, and with time and patience, nurtured them back to health using experience and gut instinct... no pun intended (these are ruminants, after all!)

  Come on out to Ramona and patronize this sweet local farm.

You might even make a new friend!

Thanks for looking - xo :)


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