Llama trekking started in the UK in the mid 1990’s and there are now almost 20 trekking centres around the country. Some trek all year round, others only on weekends during the summer months. Treks can last from a short walk around the farm to full day treks with overnight camping. Llamas are frequently used to introduce disabled children and adults to the delights of interaction with animals, being very therapeutic. They are recognised as being great stress busters (it’s called llama karma) so even overworked urban office workers can feel the benefit of spending a few hours with a llama. So whether you are just crazy about animals, or simply love walking in our gorgeous countryside, there is something for everyone.
You don’t ride llamas as they are pack animals, capable of carrying up to 25 kilos in weight. They are quiet, gentle and very inquisitive animals and leading them through the countryside is an unforgettable experience for thousands of people each year. It is a great way to discover the countryside whilst learning more about these incredible animals.
Many of the trekking centres are run alongside other rural business such as B & B accommodation or farm parks. Some also breed llamas specializing in training their young stock to become trekkers of the future. Gift vouchers for a trekking experience are very popular and most centres offer these.
Llamas become sexually mature at 2 years of age which is when they can start pack training. They are not fully mature, mentally, until they are 4 years old by which time they can carry the full 25 kilos. Geldings are generally used for trekking, although females can be walked and pack trained but in general they have more productive work to do! Entire males could be a liability and should never be used if females are trekking.
The British Llama Society have a Code of Conduct for commercial trekking that sets a standard for responsible trekking, protecting both the public and the welfare of the llamas. Centres that have signed up to this are able to advertise with the BLS, this is the place to start if you would like to try trekking, or if you think it may be just the rural enterprise you are looking to start. Leisure & tourism is a growing industry. Foreign holidays are declining whilst holidays at home are increasing so people are looking for more unusual things to do and llama trekking is certainly that!
A llama reaches sexual maturity around 2 years of age and although he may have finished growing in height and be old enough to start pack training, he will not be mature in mind and body until he is at least 4 years of age. Llamas have an extra vertebrae in the lumbar region compared to a horse or donkey, which is why height for height, they cannot carry as much as equines. Llamas should not carry their full potential of weight until the age of 4 years, which is 25kilos and not one third of his body weight as so frequently repeated. After the age of 2 years, he will put down the muscle and body weight that will give him the strength and stamina to go for longer walks and carry heavier weights. This process cannot be hurried, it cannot happen in a few short weeks or months, it takes time and during that time is when he will gain the experience he needs for the trekking years ahead.