Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Camel Safari offers a truly exotic adventure.
BY MEGG MUELLER
In a corner of the harsh desert landscape some 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas, a camel, armadillo, porcupine, and llama walk into a yard.
If you’re waiting for the punch line, you might want to go hang out with the sloth, because there is no punch line. That’s just the type of scene you can find when you visit the Camel Safari in Bunkerville.
Owner Guy Seeklus has created—perhaps somewhat unwittingly—a mesmerizing menagerie of exotic animals in an unlikely setting. A few short years ago, Guy was a dog owner living on a farm in Bellingham, Washington. His daughter begged him for llamas, and on a whim he bought two alpacas for $100 each. Alpacas are part of the camelid species, and after becoming acquainted with his new pets and learning all about them, Guy started reading about camels. So naturally, he bought one. Little did he know his fledgling hobby would become a passionate business.
WALKING ENCYCLOPEDIA WITH A TEDDY BEAR HEART
“The wild Bactrian camel is the hardiest mammal on the planet, but there are more pandas than camels because of loss of habitat and human predation,” Guy explains. “These things are big. There’s a lot of meat on them.”
From the minute Guy starts his tour, there’s a seemingly ceaseless flow of arcane and fascinating information. Ask any question about his animals, and Guy has the answer. He’s a voracious student of all his creatures, and they are a part of his family now.
With names like Fabio, Norman, Camilla, and Raider, the camels are certainly the stars of the tour, and they eagerly come when Guy calls to them. His rapport with each of his animals is astonishing. Consider this: an African crested porcupine named Thorn responds to his call and allows him to pet and play with her.
How a Canadian business owner with an MBA came to play zookeeper in the wildest of Nevada’s wide-open spaces may seem an odd tale, but meeting Guy makes everything crystal clear. The soft spot in his heart for these animals is as big as the Great Basin itself. When animals from a failing nearby zoo required homes, he didn’t hesitate to take in all that he could.
“People contact us all the time,” he says. “’I’ve got such and such an animal, can you take it,’ and if I can, I do.”
The current roster of animals visitors can see on the tour includes Bactrian and Dromedary camels, zebra, a two-toed sloth, wooly opossum, a zedonk (yep, a zebra/donkey mix), armadillo, alpaca, llama, and a bearded dragon. There are goats, pigs, dogs, and an amorous emu, too.
BECOME ONE WITH THE ANIMALS
Tours begin with a little history lesson. Guy or one of his equally passionate staff members gives guests a lesson in all things camel. The talks can include such topics as where they originated, what they were used for, how much milk females produce, the intense weight-loss of a bull in rut, and of course, a discussion on which is better, one hump or two? The fascinating information one walks away with after just the first few minutes of the tour is worth the price of admission alone (who knew camel milk sells on Amazon for close to $155 for six one-pint containers?), but that’s only the beginning.
Depending on your interest level, tours can take you on a meet-and-greet of the safari’s denizens, or they can get you high upon the back of one of the camels for a stroll along the base of the Virgin Mountains overlooking the Virgin River. If you need more, there are hands-on encounters available, too. With each adventure, the educational facts and interesting tidbits are dispensed freely, with no extra charge, to learn that camels live 30-35 years, or that African crested porcupines are nocturnal creatures. Hanging out with Ambien, the sloth, you might just learn they have very slow digestive processes, and their survival strategy is based on staying still.
THE SEARCH FOR SOMETHING COOL TO DO IS OVER
Guy is determined to make the Camel Safari not just a cool thing to do, but a must-see adventure for anyone visiting southern Nevada. For those looking to do something off the chart, Camel Safari fits the bill. Word about this unique experience offered in the remote corner of Nevada has gotten out: ABC’s “The Bachelorette” came to the safari this year to film an episode, and actor Seth Rogan hosted a bachelor party at the safari, renting the facility for a weekend.
These experiences are not just for the glitterati, however. Guy notes Camel Safari will be offering the ultimate bachelor and bachelorette parties this fall.
“Folks will be able to rent our whole facility for an all-inclusive weekend event where guests stay in 100 percent authentically furnished Mongolian gers (a type of yurt),” he explains. “Even off-road Segways are included.”
High adventure is on the menu, and with Guy’s passion and determination the Camel Safari may just be the thing that puts Bunkerville on the map in an extremely positive light. Hanging out with a sloth, taking pictures of a playful porcupine, and hearing the songs of the camels may not be on the top of some bucket lists, but that’s a shame. Learning about these creatures in a personal, humorous, and engaging atmosphere is truly an unforgettable experience that works for couples, families, solo travelers, and anyone else on two legs. Taking a ride, feeding an exotic animal…these are all cool reasons to visit, but it’s Guy’s hope—and mission statement, even—that people will leave inspired to appreciate and respect wildlife and nature.
The knowledge guests leave with goes a long way toward fostering the safari’s goal of wildlife conservation, education, and recreation. And who knows, it might just help out on trivia night; did you know sloths climb down from their perches just once a week to do their business? That’s one such tidbit that will stay with you long after a visit to the Camel Safari. Save it for your next party, and impress your friends.
A RIDE WITH A VIEW
Thanks to soaring temperatures in southern Nevada, the Camel Safari is only open from October-May (approximately) so call before you schedule your vacation.