Northeastern Brazil, looks just like Northern Africa

(Ellison Alves)

Genipabu is one of the most beautiful beaches on the northeastern Brazilian coast. It is located in the town of Extremoz, in the State of Rio Grande do Norte; the location surrounds a tourist park including a complex of sand dunes, a pond, and an environmental conservation area. It is considered as one of the main picture postcards of the region. The paradisiacal environment began to change in 1998, when a couple of entrepreneurs decided to offer camel rides over the dunes, a service similar to the one offered in desert areas in Arabian countries and also in the Magreb region in Northern Africa.

In the beginning of the 1990s, when Philippe Landry, Swiss, arrived in Rio Grande do Norte and he was reminded of a trip he took to Morocco. “Gee, just the dromedaries are missing” he said at that time. The idea of offering camel tours stuck in his head for some time, until he met Cleide Batista, a tourologist, who transformed the project into a reality. But, the process was quite complex. “The first importation was not difficult. It only took us about nine months. But the following importations were much more bureaucratic, because the requirements were tripled”, remembers Cleide. “Nowadays, it takes you over two years to perform the importation process, as Brazilian legislation has changed radically”. As Brazil did not accept the animals from Africa, the couple had to import them from Spain.

Since then, there have been another two shipments of dromedaries. Dromedunas is the name of the company administrating the tours; there are already 20 animals, 13 born in captivity. “We already have Brazilian dromedaries”, she celebrates. Cleide reveals that she intends to reach the target of 50 animals in the next few years and to do this, we need to take the tour to other Brazilian states. “We are going to lose exclusivity in South America and we will become pioneers because we were the first in Brazil”, she laments. The entrepreneur refers to her friend Edinaide Souza, who is already exploiting this tourism segment at the Canoa Quebrada Beach, in Ceará State, neighboring Rio Grande do Norte, and now it is adventuring into the field of dromedary tours.

“We are searching for a new tourism attraction for Canoa, in order to increment tourism even more. We already had a travel agency, dune buggy ride, and we were searching for something new. One day, I saw a TV report from Pará State, where people ride buffalos”, she tells. “In the beginning, we thought about offering the same, but we could see it was unfeasible due to the temperature factor. Then, we thought about the possibility of bringing dromedaries, because we had already tried once, some years previously”. Edinaide states that dromedaries were selected, due to the climate in Ceará State that is very similar to Northern Africa, where the animals come from. “Brazilian legislation is a little bureaucratic, even though dromedaries are not considered as wild animals. We have been in the importation process since May 2014”, she says. “The first time I traveled as a tourist and I had the help of a local travel agency. That agency introduced me to a person who raised dromedaries and we spoke about the business. I returned some months later to close the business deal”, explains Edinaide, who has taken several trips to Morocco to continue the importation procedures and she even contracted a specialized company in import-export of animals. “Many times, we even thought about giving up, as the process is so complicated, especially in Brazil”.

(Divulgação Dromedunas)

The saga of the dromedaries is long. They come by plane from Morocco to São Paulo. After that, they are shipped to Fortaleza, the capital city of Ceará. After that, they travel a few hours to the beach of Canoa Quebrada, a total journey of 10,500 km. There are four males and two females, one of them became pregnant in captivity, during the importation process. “We are contracting a veterinarian who has experience in large animals and bringing a handler from Morocco to give us support for 90 days”, tells Edinaide. “They come already domesticated, prepared for work”, says the entrepreneur, who is now preparing to publicize the new service in the tourist trade. Meanwhile, the tour at Dromedunas continues as a reference for the tourism sector of Rio Grande do Norte. “I can say our company is one that generates the most media for the State”, jokes Cleide Batista.

“The majority of tourism already know about the tour because they have seen several television programs showing it”, tells the tour guide, Priscilla Medeiros. “Brazilian tourists are the ones who like the tour the most. Foreigners are rarely interested, as they have already visited and taken tours on camels in other countries”.

Dromedário, Abu Dhabi (César Martins)


Hiany Teixeira, a civil servant was surprised by the animals. “I was looking for a calmer beach and I discovered Genipabu. I got on the sand dunes and to my surprise, I saw dromedaries there with their trainers”, she tells. “I couldn’t resist taking a photograph”.

A 15 minute ride costs R$50. And a half hour ride costs R$75.

The dromedary or Arab camel (Camelus dromedarius) is a mammal native to the Northeastern region of Africa and the western part of Asia, it belongs to the Camelidae family, as it is the closest relative of camels. There are three physical differences between the two animals, the main one is the number of humps. Camels have two humps, while dromedaries have only one. The humps are important storage areas for fat making it possible for the animal to travel long distances and for many days without drinking water. Besides that, dromedaries are fast and strong animals and can run 16 km/hr. and up to 18 hours nonstop.