The Thar Desert extends between the Aravalli Hills in the northeast, the Great Rann of Kutch along the coastline, and the alluvial plains of the Indus River in the west and northwest. Most of the desert is covered by huge shifting sand dunes that receive sediments from the alluvial plains and the coast. The sand is highly mobile because of strong winds that sweep across the open expanse at the onset of the monsoon. The Luni is the only river integrated into the desert. Rainfall is limited, only 100–500 mm per year, quenching the thirst of the sand between July and September.
The Serai, our Relais & Chateaux luxurious tented camp is set on a one hundred acre private estate of indigenous desert scrub. The Serai draws inspiration from the royal caravan sites of Rajputana; blending the dash and vivacity of this Land of Kings. There is no better place from which to venture into the mystical environs of Jaisalmer to discover its fabled golden fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and to explore the sands of the Thar. Evenings are spent under the vast expanse of the desert sky, punctuated by the stars and ancient melodies of Manganiyar folk musicians whose songs have haunted these dunes for centuries.
The movement of the desert: Watching the sand dunes migrate like a living being is utterly fascinating. The wind blows sand piles up in the desert into hills and ridges known as a ‘sand dune’ or ‘giant ripple’. During a major desert storm, the dunes can move as much as 10 meters! In order to move a sand grain, the air must be moving at least 17 miles per hour. While the sand accumulates, it does so by forming a steep slope. A pile of such loose sand is capable of holding a slope of about 34 degrees. When the slope gets greater than 34 degrees, the gravity steps in. Gravity pulls the pile of loose sand down. Small avalanches occur and the sand dune moves forward, across the landscape like a tank tread!
About 85% of the Thar Desert is in India, and is known to be one of the most inhospitable places in the world. Yet fascinatingly about 40% of the entire population of Rajasthan lives in this desert making it an extraordinary culture to explore.
The dunes that surround our desert camp The Serai, Relais & Chateaux are soft, golden hued and warm. One of our most memorable experiences is to enjoy our Camel safari into the desert, travelling the traditional way into the dunes as the sun is setting and your cool glass of champagnes is ready to surprise you! Camels are the lifeline of the desert and are intrinsic to the lives of communities settled in the region. Other excursions include Desert Drives in our customised jeeps and desert walks- both offering unique ways to explore the mysteries of the Great Thar desert.
Words by Manish Khede, General Manager, The Serai, Jaisalmer. Images by SUJÁN & Anjali Singh