Feeling blue? Fighting covid-19 depression? Bored with watching endless Netflix movies and remodeling your remodels? Craving some distraction and a bit of adventure? If you’re in the mood for an afternoon or overnight getaway that will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, hit the highway and head to the Camel Safari.
Only 80 minutes by car from Las Vegas, the 176 acre ranch that is home to a variety of exotic animals and an ever increasing herd of camels is the passion and joy of retired internet security expert, Guy Seeklus. Originally from Bellingham, Washington, where an alpaca and a camel caught his eye then his heart, Seeklus saw an opportunity to expand his fascination with ungulates and other exotic creatures with the purchase of a large parcel of land bordering the Virgin River in the Great Basin area of Mesquite, Nevada.
A Beloved Sloth is No Sloth at All
Neither Seeklus nor biologist and tour guide Alex Aimbach had to trek to the darkest corners of Asia or Africa to acquire their unusual inhabitants. Most were donated or purchased locally from now defunct zoos or habitats. A typical day tour at the ranch might begin with a peep at slumbering sloth, Ambien. Aimbach is loath to wake the sleeping cutie too often during daylight hours: evening tours are available for visitors to enjoy the nocturnal animals as well as campfire dining and stargazing. “Ambien is a two-toed sloth,” our guide explained. “She has two toes each on her front feet and three toes on each back foot. She’s about ten years old and we got her three and a half years ago.”
Sloths have the lowest metabolic rate of any mammal which accounts for their bad rap and their slow digestive systems. They have a huge and permanently full four-chambered stomach which is supported by 46 ribs (23 pairs). Try hanging all that upside down from a tree. Slow to anger or defensiveness, it’s still wise to be respectful of these well clawed big-eyed smiling creatures. “Sloths can be opinionated herbivores with those claws and teeth,” Aimbach noted as she gently set Ambien back in the habitat. She pointed out that the trendy looking green streaks in Ambien’s fur aren’t a fashion statement. They’re a fungus that serves as camouflage in the wild and also helps reduce the number of parasites common to the breed.
One Hump? Or Two?
Considering that the camel has been a domesticated beast of burden for thousands of years, two misconceptions still abound among most North Americans and others unfamiliar with Middle East environs. “Be careful! Camels spit!”, is the most common. According to Guy Seeklus, that is not spit. It’s more like vomit. “They aren’t going to just walk up and spit on you,” he claims. “They don’t spit unless provoked. They can be kind of like a teenager, is my analogy.” One can understand that analogy once you witness the innocent love and affection these huge, ambling desert creatures obviously have for their owner and the genuine gentle curiosity with which they greet visitors such as me.
When asked if camels have a favorite spot to be petted such as ears, noses or under the chin, Seeklus shrugged. “They really just want to be loved on,” he pointed out as I was snuffled, nuzzled and gently nibbled on much to my delight by five dromedaries (the one hump camel) in a nearby corral. “They are smelling and recording you,” he added. “You’re a combination of your shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, coffee, what you ate this morning. All together that scent is (singularly) you.”
Camel misconception number two is the inability to differentiate between a camel with one hump or two. The dromedary, which is the most common of camels, has one hump. The Bactrian sports two humps. According to Seeklus, the Bactrian is the camel most likely to spit at you. “They just have a different temperament,” he stated. Since camels will be camels regardless of one hump or two, Seeklus’ herd increases incrementally. You’re bound to see more than one contented camel calf while on a tour. To date twelve of the four hundred Bactrian camels in the United States reside on the ranch.
Rustic with a “Glamporous” Touch
Despite Las Vegas showrooms being shut down you can still enjoy a brilliant display of stars during an overnight glamp at Camel Safari. Enjoy a sleepover in an authentic climate-controlled Mongolian Ger. Felt insulation made from camel hair and other pelts is supported by wooden lattices secured with camel hide pegs. A circular opening in the roof provides a canopy of stars to sleep under. A resident professional chef oversees dinner cooked by the campfire and breakfast for guests. “To this date, Gers are still used by Mongolian nomads,” says Seeklus. “Even in the capital city there is a ‘Ger district’. Many traditional Mongolian homeowners have Gers in their backyards.”
There is a tour package available for just about everyone. Guests can tour the ranch in golf carts or a vintage open-air Army truck. Bookings are available for families, weekend getaways, weddings, bachelor/ bachelorette parties and corporate retreats. The ranch offers a wonderful opportunity to hang out with exotic animals and explore the wonders of nature. Don’t be surprised if an inquisitive camel wanders over to the campfire at night to sniff at your s’mores. Be sure to spend some time with the six-banded armadillos, Piper and Brooklyn, and let Kettle, the African Crested Porcupine, know how much you admire her sweeping quills.
A unique, unforgettable experience.
The Camel Resort is a restricted private property. The staff and the owner take the conservatorship of these exotic animals seriously. RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED FOR ADMITTANCE to the ranch. Call (800) 836-4036 for reservations or book online at Camel Safari