Halls Gap is set for a tourism boost after Northern Grampians Shire Council approved a planning permit for a camel riding business
Grampians Camel Rides has been granted permission to operate between the hours of 10am and 5pm during public holidays, school holidays and weekends at 12 Heath Street.
Cameleer Kamahl Druesne is excited to share his passion, knowledge and expertise with the residents of the shire.
Working with camels for more than 20 years, Mr Druesne's first experience with the mammals was when he was engaged to film a movie about them.
"I was smitten," he said. "I got the camel bug. It wasn't just the animal it was everything they encompassed.
"I love travelling with camels. I love everything they have to offer mankind - especially their history."
Mr Druesne said the history of camels within Australia has been lost over time.
"Two-thirds of Australia was developed by camels," he said.
"They are probably the most underrated and disrespected mammal in Australia in relation to the development of our country. I don't believe Australia would be what it is today without camels and their effort."
In 2005 Mr Druesne was invited to film and trek with Bactrian camels from Ladak, through the Himalayas, to the famous Pushkar camel fair in India.
The opportunity led to an opportunity of producing and broadcasting an SBS commissioned documentary called A Camel Odyssey which gained half a million viewers.
WATCH THE PROMO VIDEO HERE
"It was the most insane adventure," Mr Druesne said.
"It was totally mental. We were the first people to take two humped camels to the capital of India, Rajasthan and the Pushkar camel fair.
"It took me about two years to get over it. It burnt me out a bit and I started travelling around the world meeting people and connecting through camels."
In 2010 Mr Druesne met his partner Marie Asselin, a Canadian psychology graduate and post graduate student of Chinese medicine.
Mr Druesne asked Ms Asselin to meet him in India to do another camel trek.
"She was brave and came along," he said.
"We came back to Australia and travelled around and met up with connections I had with camel people who I was in contact with after seeing the movie.
"We ended up in Alice Springs which is where we bought a herd of wild camels."
Together the couple trained the camels and organised the camel trek The Compassionate Camel Caravan.
Mr Druesne and Ms Asselin raised enough monies to fund 160 swags for the homeless. The Compassionate Camel Caravan consisted of 10 camels which they procured wild and then trained for the journey.
In 2016 their interest and passion for camels brought them to Victoria.
"We fell in love with the Grampians and feel very settled here," Mr Druesne said.
"We've bought our first home together and are raising our camels which some were born on the trek.
"The latest camel born was Matilda, born on Australia Day last year."
Camels in Halls Gap
Mr Druesne said the equipment used on site will be packed up and taken with him, along with any other traces of the camels.
"We're hoping this brings another attraction to the region and support the existing businesses in the area," he said.
"While working in Geelong once someone came all the way from Horsham for an eight minute camel ride.
"I believe in the research I have done and can see this is real positive for tourism is the region."
Mr Druesne and Ms Asselin have started putting protocols in place ready to start their business during the coronavirus pandemic.
"You take a lot of cues from other businesses as well," he said.
"The opportunity we have is we can bring in the best measures everyone is taken and combine them into our business.
"I believe the pandemic will slow the income down when were are up and running. Tourism will take a hit and will take some time to recover. As long as I can cover my costs and feed for my camels that's all I'm interested in.
"I just want to share my passion, love and knowledge with people."
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