Manvar Desert Camp
Fly to Jodhpur, 2 hours drive to desert. 1 night stay (March 2014)
Many people had recommended the Manvar Desert Camp to me and I wanted to give our children the opportunity of experiencing the Indian desert in a short and sweet way instead of days spent on horse or camel safaris. While most of the trips and tours available sound exciting and even romantic the reality is that children, while adventurous and keen to explore, only have a limited attention span – especially young children.
At Manvar Desert Camp they do a great job of combining accessible desert jeep and camel safaris with comfortable accommodation.
Thanks to Deepa at WIYO Travel we were met at Jodhpur airport by a driver and car (a standard Toyota Innova), which were to be ours for the week and were ultimately going to take us onto Udaipur.
Only 2 hours from Jodhpur airport it’s an easy drive. We arrived at Manvar Resort just off the main road where we transferred from our car and driver to a jeep with our luggage for the remaining few kilometers on a dirt track to the desert camp. It was late afternoon and still quite hot but it was great being sat in the open air at the back of the jeep and the wind blowing us all about. The kids thought it was brilliant!
I had of course Googled Manvar Desert Camp many times both their website and TripAdviser to try and understand as much as possible what we were to expect. Many friends in Mumbai had told me of their experiences, which were very helpful. On arrival the friendly staff greeted us and immediately the children started exploring the camp, which involved digging in sand, running around the large area and sitting on the hammock. Peacocks roam the area and you could certainly hear their calls (especially during the night!).
There were two sections to the camp. On one side, in a circle there were standard sized tents (all with en suites) and the main tent where the evening meal was served. On the other side the deluxe tents in a line and a separate tent where breakfast was served. A small sandy path ran between the two – you had to be careful for grass seeds which were little prickles that either stuck to your feet or your clothes (even after a wash I discovered some still stuck to my big baggy Indian pants – which incidentally I thought were really comfy for travelling in and riding a camel!).
The tents are semi permanent structures in that they have a concrete base and the canvas tent is erected on top. At the end of April they dismantle the whole camp until the weather cools at the end of September. There is matting on the floor and we got a deluxe tent, which was slightly bigger than the standard tent so we could all fit including our trusty Phil & Teds travel cot. In our original booking we asked for 1 extra bed, which they provided and one child was to sleep with us in our bed, however, once I saw the room, I knew we could fit 2 beds and they were very obliging. I felt our children were too young to be in a separate tent to us and I didn’t want them waking in the night and wandering around the desert on their own! But perhaps older kids would enjoy being in a separate tent to Mum and Dad – budget depending of course!
With a small terrace equipped with 2 planters chairs it was the perfect place to sit with a sundowner and watch our little travellers digging in the sand, making words and pictures and kicking a ball around.
Once dark they light torches around the camp and have a fire in the centre of the main area which makes a dramatic backdrop for the evening performance of musicians and dancers, you can even have a dance yourself and the kids really enjoyed it while you can sit on divans on the sand in a semi circle around the fire pit. Also provided in our tent was a torch which the girls really enjoyed using on the walk between our tent and the dinner tent.
If you have your children on a strict mealtime routine, you may want to bring some snacks/food of your own, as dinner wasn’t until after 7pm and the main meal being served after 8pm which is buffet style, mainly Indian dishes, although there was a pasta dish. The food was simple but good.
We all slept well in our little tent, however, my husband and I thought it was quite noisy with all the desert animals, peacocks, dogs, and goats. It was also the eve of Holi festival so we could hear jeeps and local communities celebrating until late.
We had a wake up call at 6am with tea in order to get ready for our sunrise camel ride. I think this was one of the highlights of the entire week in Rajasthan. To see 2 camels waiting for us outside our tent all beautifully decorated and peacefully waiting for us to get dressed and organized. My husband, eldest daughter and baby boy were all on one camel (you can see the backpack in action in the photos), and I was on the other camel with our 5-year-old daughter.
Off we set off down the track and I honestly felt like I was going to fall off! I had camera round my neck and my iPhone stuffed in my bra as I’d forgotten a little bag and my baggy Indian pants didn’t have a pocket! After the first 10 mins I started to relax and it was much easier. It was just a 40 minute round trip ride up a hill and back again, we past a few homes and farms, goats and children (but I think the adults had over done it the night before).
As our trip was during Holi festival, our travel agent Deepa (WIYO Travel) recommended we stay inside our hotel on this particular day. I think she was concerned about the paint being thrown with our children. However, as it worked out we would be staying at the Manvar Desert Camp on Holi day itself so we were free to continue our holiday as normal – less Holi activities in the rural areas, although we still saw evidence of plenty of “colour” being thrown around!
After our camel ride and a few photographs, we had a nice breakfast, cereals, toast and masala omlettes for my husband and I. All good. Although I did bring cereals (I always travel with Weetbix/Weetabix for my son. It just makes one meal a guarantee hit and I don’t have to worry that he has not had sufficient to start the day).
Straight after breakfast we all climbed into a Suzuki Jeep and started out 1.5-hour safari around the local area. We went up and down sand dunes, some really steep, some flat. Across scrubland, farmland and saw castor growing (which makes castor oil!) amongst many other things – who knew?!
We saw goats being herded and cricket matches being played. Most importantly we saw antelope, which were huge, compared to antelopes I’d see before. Also many local deer, the type that Bollywood actor Salman Khan allegedly killed when illegally hunting in Rajasthan some years ago – but don’t worry Bollywood fans, he seems immune from being caught for doing anything illegal. But I digress…
We visited a local family, their home was bright colours of white and green. Simple layout with a little outside area all walled with rooms and kitchen around it. The family were very friendly and their craft was making shoes, although the Father sat down to show us how he made the shoes in an area which didn’t look very convincing and I did wonder whether this was purely for the tourists benefit. They looked more like farmers to me. Nevertheless we gave them a small donation and continued on our safari.
Up and down dune, and bumps all over the place, but the air was clear and perhaps it was these factors that led to 2 of our 3 children sleeping during this jeep safari! Well it was an early start…
We packed up our things and they drove us back to the Manvar Resort where we had a buffet lunch and a quick dip in their pool before driving 2 hours back to Jodhpur, seeing lots of evidence of Holi celebrations along the way!
We really enjoyed our desert experience, Indian style. The children loved the outdoor space and it was very quiet with almost no one else on our side of the resort. I would highly recommend this as a family holiday but only for 1 or 2 nights, it was a great taster.
- Bring your own torches for the children and glow strips, which could be fun.
- Bring a sand toy or a ball, as there is lots of space to play outside.
- Bring food or snacks for children as dinner is served after 8pm.