About Us ~ Camel Treks Australia
IWebsite Photography by Sophie Matterson | Karen-Jane Ellis | Jessica Clark | Gordon Best | Adelaide Film Works | Media Gallery
Passion, Knowledge and Experience
The success of a tour can hinge entirely on the performance and abilities of the guides. This is precisely why Camel Treks Australia employs, recruits, and trains the very best in the industry.
Each trek is led by an experienced Head Cameleer, with the support of Senior Cameleers and experienced camp shift crew, ensuring a high level of expertise and professionalism throughout the journey.
Trained by Australian bush legends of a bygone era and further educated by nomadic camel communities in India, Turkey, Mongolia, Arab Nations, and The Sahara, the Directors of Camel Treks Australia have received a comprehensive education in the art of being with camels. In addition to expanding their knowledge and expertise in this field, their commitment to ongoing learning also enables them to incorporate culinary cuisines that are enjoyed around the campfire.
Paul & Karen Ellis
Paul brings more than three decades of experience working with camels to Camel Treks Australia, and has developed an innate ability to read them whether in the yards or out in the desert landscapes. His extensive experience has made working with camels second nature, and he takes particular pleasure in working with untouched camels straight out of the desert, observing as their unique personalities emerge.
Prior to his involvement with Camel Treks Australia, Paul owned and operated a successful camel focused business for 15 years. He developed an interest in leading and assisting camel treks after working with Rex Ellis at Bush Safari Co. in the 1980s. During this time, Paul was fortunate enough to learn from several experienced camel handlers, including Gordon Hampel, Jimmy Talbot, and Noel Fullerton. However, it was his time spent with Jim Lowe, who trained some of the first camels for Bush Safari Co., that had the greatest influence on Paul's understanding of camels and Outback Australia.
Guests often praise Paul for his naturalist knowledge and assistance with identification of flora, fauna, reptile and geology formations. He is always available for evening chats around the campfire. Within Camel Treks Australia Paul is responsible for the camel saddlery, camp shift logistics, all vehicle and Camel Farm maintenance.
Paul is a licensed microlight pilot, skilled dirt bike rider with a competitive history in motocross, qualified in Permaculture directly under Bill Mollison, an amateur bee keeper of many years and certified numerous times in remote first aid. He has a background as a professional aborist and alternative builder, with a particular interest in using natural building materials and recycled hard wood timbers. He is a keen stonemason and currently working on an exciting project to restore an 1860's stone hut in the Far North Flinders Ranges. He has travelled through much of Europe pursuing an interest in microlight craft, and multiple times through the Thar Desert in India, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and the mountains of Turkey, living alongside nomadic cameleers and gaining a deep respect for traditional camel cultures.
How it all began
Karen started her journey with camels over 27 years ago at the age of 21 when she bought her first camels named Aloka and Najara from Paddy McHugh. For several years, she worked with the renowned cameleer Lionel Keegan at the Wooyung Camel Farm, where she trained camels, led tours, participated in display camel races, and gained hands-on experience by living beside the camels without running water or power. Despite the challenging conditions, she thoroughly enjoyed this immersive lifestyle with camels.
In the 1990s, Karen received an invitation from a Member of Parliament to attend a camel race that aimed to showcase camels to visiting Sheiks from Arab Nations. It was at this event that she met Paul. Their meeting led to the development of three camel-related businesses and the formation of a family with three adult children. Eventually, they settled with Camel Treks Australia in 2013 and have been operating the business ever since.
Paul and Karen commenced Blue Sky Camel Charters in the year 2000 facilitating camel experiences, via beach journeys and camel riding on the Fleurieu Peninsula along the Sir Richard Peninsula in Goolwa, and Encounter Bay at Victor Harbour, also forest adventures within Forestry S.A. Countless events, functions, festivals, film and photography projects, both private and for the South Australian Tourism Commission were attended.
They changed their business name in 2004 to Camel Tours & Treks S.A in order to better represent the development of extended expeditions with a naturalist focus within the World Heritage listed Coorong National Park. These expedition style treks were assisted by Camp Coorong and Wilderness Lodge local Aboriginal Ngarrindjeri guides in an important area for Aboriginal communities, with middens dotted throughout the sandy landscape.
Paul and Karen, looking to incorporate a nature-focused experience and live in a place that best suited the physiology of the camel, felt a natural shift towards facilitating extended trekking journeys in Outback Australia in 2013. This decision allowed them to incorporate the rich history of the Australian Afghan Cameleers into their lives and treks, while also engaging with and supporting the Adnyamathanha Aboriginal culture and history. As a result, Camel Treks Australia emerged as a unique venture.
Life on Beltana Station
Camel Treks Australia from 2017 - 2022 lived on Beltana Station, the birthplace of camel history in Australia where they led camel treks and served as caretakers. This allowed Paul and Karen to intimately connect with the station's rich history. Beltana Station is a historical crown jewel of South Australia, established 163 years ago and owned by notable figures such as Sir Thomas Elder and Robert Barr Smith.
Sir Thomas Elder was a practical supporter of exploration who believed that camels could solve the transport problems of the outback. He imported breeding camels of different types for speed, stamina, and strength, and hired Afghans to manage them. The camels bred at Beltana proved their worth in several historic expeditions, including the overland telegraph line from Adelaide to Darwin and Peter Egerton Warburton's 4000-mile journey from the center of Australia to the western coast. Sir Thomas financed these and other expeditions, lent camels and drivers to genuine explorations, and helped open up much land through his ardent interest in exploration. It is reputed that over 60,000 camels were bred on Beltana Station.
Tours in the Zoo
While operating Camel Tours & Treks S.A, Karen also took on a role as an independent keeper at Monarto Zoological Park. As part of an agreement between Camel Tours & Treks S.A and the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, Paul and Karen provided a team of camels. While Paul managed the coastal camel experiences, Karen trained the team to walk alongside various arid zone animals exhibits, including rhino, cheetah, zebra, and giraffe. This training took several months before riders could enjoy the three-hour guided tour. Karen learned a lot during this period, especially while working closely with the rhino. She had to pay close attention to the angle from which the camels approached based on the wind direction before visual arrival. The visually disadvantaged rhino often reacted with sudden turns that startled the normally sedate camels.
Inspiration and experience
Karen's interest in camels led her to work across a wide spectrum of cameleering, and she continues to expand her understanding of camels and their behaviour. Until his passing in mid-2014, she was mentored by Jim Lowe in a relationship that mimicked that of a father and daughter. Karen had her first camel ride with him as a young child with her parents and sisters, and he remained the greatest influence on her cameleer journey, passing away in her arms within a stone hut in the Flinders Ranges. Devastated for a very long time afterwards, Karen has strived to continue forward with his gentle, quiet approach and he is ever living in her heart and mind.
Karen also collaborated with the legendary Noel Fullerton who was a master at communicating with people and camels alike. Together they set about recording his life and knowledge of camels, with the intention of producing a camel training book. They intensely spent the last three months of his life putting his voice into recordings, just prior to his passing in September 2015. She intends to collate this information into a camel handling guide, including her own successful treatments for worms, mange, and bot fly, along with suggestions for improving gut health in camels. Karen is grateful to remain in contact with the legendary Rex Ellis of the long established Bush Safari Co. who has generously offered his guidance and support to pursue the facilitation of longer desert expeditions with guests.
Karen and Lionel Keegan, whom she started learning about camels with in 1996, still talk at least once a month and share a deep connection built on trust. They lived and breathed camels for several years, establishing Lionel's Wooyung Camel Farm in Northern New South Wales, and created wonderful memories of discovery and pioneering.
Paul, Karen, and their children have worked in a long-term partnership with the Ngaanyatjarra Camel Company, training and exporting camels to the United Arab Emirates. Karen has accompanied camels on flights and provided professional handovers for the Sheik's staff. She has also presented at Australian government-supported conferences in Arab nations, sharing her knowledge of camel handling and welfare guidelines for importation. In addition, Karen has been a guest of several UAE Sheiks, visited numerous international camel facilities and dairies (including the Al Ain Dairy Company in Dubai, the International Camel Research Centre & associated dairy in India and Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy also based in Rajasthan, India ), and served as a competition judge several times at the Bikaner Camel Festival in India. Paul and Karen have also formed close relationships in India and with many other families in countries with a strong camel culture.
Travel and education
Karen has extensively travelled to camel communities in India, Mongolia, the Sahara, and Turkey to learn about their culture and camel handling practices. She is a certified Eco Guide and has participated in multiple remote first aid trainings. Karen has also trained numerous aspiring cameleers, including Sophie Matterson, who completed a transcontinental trek across Australia. Karen's approach to mentoring involves extended periods of camel handling and many cameleers can trace their camel careers and journeys back to being with Paul and her, learning within Camel Treks Australia.
Before camels Karen trained as a Professional Artist specialising in performance and teaching. This later lead to Australian and on-going International studies of Classical Yoga and Vedic Philosophies which she incorporates into her regular visits to India. She holds qualifications in teaching, performing arts, kinesiology and guiding. Today she is devoted to her camels and working with them for best camel - human relationship outcomes.
Paul and Karen both enjoy spending time together in solitude and reflecting in remote landscapes, with their most recent journey taking them into Himalayan caves. They have featured and assisted in many filming and photography projects. Please refer to the film page for further information.
Head Cameleer Guide
Head Cameleer Ed is naturally suited to life off the grid, with an easy going nature and meditative outlook, the camels and Ed seem to be at one together!
The team is delighted Ed is now 'Head Cameleer' and mentor to new cameleers in training. Ed assists Karen with camel training and together they have trekked for four years with plans to film camel education and kind handling lessons for global enthusiasts. Ed will also be assisting Karen on the Camel Treks Australia International Journeys program this 2023 and 2024 visiting India and Mongolia.
"I first heard about Camel Treks Australia from my brother, so I sent an email to volunteer for three months. I didn't know what to expect when I started, but I was thrown into the experience and have loved every second of it. I didn't know a single thing about camels and never really thought about them before this journey, but years later, I can proudly say I led a string of camels next to Sophie and Karen. I have been able to connect with the camels and understand each of their behaviors, as well as their personalities. I have learned many important skills and life lessons while working with the camels, ranging from navigation, camel handling and training, guiding guests, learning about the outback, off-road driving, cooking for groups of people, and challenging myself. This job is a lifestyle for those who love the outback and want to discover the natural beauties this country has to offer in a unique fashion of the olden days." - Ed
Sophie Cody ~ Head Cameleer Guide
Sophie Cody initially encountered the Camel Treks Australia team in 2019. Since then, camels have played a significant role in her life, leading her to develop exceptional skills as a proficient cameleer. Sophie possesses commendable hands-on experience in animal husbandry and station life. We are delighted to have had her company as a valuable team member in the 2020 - 2023 trekking seasons.
Anna Martin ~ Cameleer and Camp logistics
We are excited to have welcomed new team member Anna who has a background in animal well-being in her homeland of Scotland. Anna is educated and passionate about animal science and optimal welfare. She is strong, practical, and caring with an eye for efficiency and detail. Already an Outback Pro driver in the Land-cruiser 4x4 vehicles, Anna is embracing Australia's lifestyle, landscapes and people. We are certain all guests and student groups will benefit from Anna's company.
Marcus Tree ~ Senior Cameleer
Cameleer Marcus - Quote ~ "I am a local indigenous Adnyamathanha man from the Far North Flinders Ranges of South Australia".
Growing up in the bush Marcus was very much influenced by his beloved Grandmother, best known in her local community as 'Aunty Pauline' and a much respected Adnyamathanha Elder. Aunty Pauline and Marcus's extended Adnyamathanha family have cared for his learning with opportunities to understand the land, plants and wildlife.
Marcus has known the Camel Treks Australia family for many years, working as a full-time Cameleer in the 2017 and 2018 trekking seasons. He has returned each year since to visit and connect with the camels, cameleers and the landscapes. He has built a great relationship and understanding of working with camels. Having kept in constant contact with the camels and team, he is regarded as part of the family and we are delighted to see Marcus return this 2023 trekking season.
Professor Rafat Al Jassim
Camel Treks Australia is proud to have Professor Rafat Al Jassim as our dedicated camel advisor. With over two decades of experience in nutrition biochemistry and gut microbiology, Professor Al Jassim is a respected authority in his field.
He is currently an Honorary Associate Professor at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Camelid Science. Recently, he was elected as the Chairman of ISOCARD, the International Society of Camelid Research and Development. With his expertise and guidance, we are committed to providing the highest standards of camel health and welfare in the Australian camel industry.
Carolyn Holton-Magor - Administration
Carolyn is a passionate teacher, traveller and mother. Her many years in the education industry, as well as experience as a recreation assistant and youth/support worker, make her a very effective communicator who is always keen to experience and enable adventures!
Carolyn and her husband Josh have travelled extensively sharing National and International rock climbing journeys together. Carolyn is also Karen's youngest sister and has been visiting the camels since the companies inception.
The Camel King
Rest in Peace Noel Fullerton
Born: 1934 Adelong, Temora NSW - September 6th, 2015 Quorn, SA.
Noel grew up in the Northen Riverina at Temora. His family were fruit carters refered to as ‘bucket men’ because they sold fruit in buckets. Noel drove road trains for years and moved to the Northern Territory. It was here that one of his sons married an Afghan, Sallay Mahomet’s daughter, Desray. His next door neighbour was old Roy Morgan who looked after a few hundred camels for Elders and Gool Mahomet used to live with Noel's family. Noel commenced his camel life in earnest from his 40's and was a living link to the Australian Afghan community and the last Australian man to be taught by the Afghans. Gool’s father came out in 1872 to work with camels. Gool carried on with camels until the 1930’s. Another mate of Noel's was Arthur Liddle, Arthur’s father, Bill Liddle opened up Tempe Downs, Angus Downs and Kings Canyon. Noel told me he learnt much also from the Liddle's.
Rest in Peace James Sanderson Lowe Known to all as Jim, Dad and Grandpa - 23/11/1933 - 28/6/2014. We miss him so very much, Jim Lowe was Camel Treks Australia's guiding light, a down-to-earth practical man with a multitude of skills and a wealth of horse, donkey and camel experience spanning over 60 years. Wagons, desert trekking, carnivals & weddings, movies, commercials and a camel beach rides business for over 30 years. Jim walked thousands of kilometres with camels, across the Nullabour Plain and Lake Eyre to south of Adelaide. He has led camels and driven teams of donkeys & horses in parades and festivals. Jim's patience and skill allowed him to create everything required to complete the task, animal training, building saddles, wagons, harnesses, halters, packs & ropes. In his younger days, a professional rodeo & buck jump rider, Jim abounded with stories of fun, joy, challenges and how to make the most out of life.