Horseback safaris are a fast-growing trend in Africa, giving visitors the opportunity to be immersed in Africa’s wildlife and environment, in unique and diverse safari experiences. Here are some of the top destinations and offerings to consider.
This county, located on the Equator in Kenya’s former Rift Valley Province, offers pure, untouched wilderness of mostly open grasslands. Stretching from the foothills of Mount Kenya to the shores of Lake Baringo, the Laikipia Plateau is probably one of the lesser-known wildlife areas in Kenya.
According to Ruth Chege, Head of Sales, Marketing & Product at Sense of Africa East, horse riding safaris are a nice extension to a regular safari booking, however, they can also be enjoyed on their own with the chance of a five to 10-night riding safari.
“A number of hotels and lodges have riding stables that offer short rides in and around the property, but mainly for inexperienced riders,” says Chege. This she says is true for most of Kenya. “There are also horseback safaris that cater specifically for qualified riders wanting a safari experience and a long horse riding journey in one trip, combining adventure, natural beauty, wildlife and luxury.”
According to Chege, Kenya is an ideal horseback safari destination thanks to the large areas of land available for multi-day safaris. “The variation in landscapes for different riding experiences only adds to the allure,” she says.
Several horseback safari companies operate out of the Laikipia region, including African Horse Safaris that offers an eight-day safari that can be tailored to suit the needs of guests.
They say chances of seeing spectacular game are far higher for horse riders than those of other tourists. Game that can be seen in this region ranges from endangered wild dogs to zebra, hartebeest, reticulated giraffe, ostrich, oryx and gerenuk. There are also thriving populations of elephant, lion, leopard and cheetah in the region.
Amboseli and Chyulu Hills, Kenya
Kenya’s variation in landscapes offers great opportunity for different riding experiences. Often the experiences are extremely exclusive as horse riders become one with the herds, says Chege. “These are truly up-close experiences with wildlife.”
Equitour offer an 11-day safari from the famous Amboseli National Park to Chyulu Hills, a distance of about 145km if one was to travel in a straight line.
Not only does one get close to a variety of animals including giraffe, zebra, eland, wildebeest, Thompson’s Gazelle and buffalo, but Africa’s highest mountain, the snowcapped Kilimanjaro is a constant backdrop during this adventure.
According to Chege when opting for a horseback safari in East or Southern Africa, it is important to ask about rider experience.
“Some of the safaris are best enjoyed by experienced riders who can put in several hours in the saddle at a moderate to fast pace over a number of days,” she says. Also, when traveling with children, there could be age restrictions.
Masai Mara, Kenya
Africa comes to life when galloping through one of Africa’s most iconic safari destinations. With safari experiences ranging from two-hour excursions to a couple of days at a time, riders are always accompanied by qualified riding guides.
According to Chege, much effort goes into finding and using only good quality, well trained horses.
She says there are several benefits to horseback safaris including that multi-day itineraries usually cover different routes each day. “With horseback safari’s accommodation is usually tented, traditional safari showers with limited or no internet access,” she says. “These facilities are very highly comfortable and often come with personalised services. All riding tack and equipment is usually provided by the riding operator.”
Many consider a horseback safari in the Okavango Delta as the ultimate safari experience. Offering tourists the opportunity to get close to a variety of game these safaris are extremely unique giving first-hand insight into the diversity of the delta’s landscape. At Okavango Horse Safaris rides take place in a private concession area of over 2500 sqare kilometers making the odds of seeing anyone else while out riding about zero. In Botswana horseback safaris are also offered in the famous Makgadikgadi salt pans situated in the middle of the dry savanna of north-eastern Botswana.
Says Chege: “Horseback safaris are great as they offer tourists the chance to also do other safari activities such as hiking, game drives, bush meals, birding and cultural interactions.”
Experiencing Mozambique’s beautiful beaches on horseback is a unique and unforgettable safari experience. Mozambique Horse Safari takes guests on inland trails, where they can see local African villages and fresh water lakes. Birdlife is abundant along these rides, offering riders the opportunity to see eagles, herons, harriers, rollers, pelicans and kingfishers.
A variety of horseback safaris is available. The Great Lake Ride and Canoe Trip safari allows riders to stop at Govuro River and paddle through the waters in a canoe; while the Benguerra Ride travels through the Bazaruto National Park to experience a motorised dhow ride at Benguerra island; then travel to Magaruque Island, with the guide explaining the flora and fauna along the way.
Travellers can also experience a Fishing Village Ride, which takes riders to the ‘Finger Print Of God’ – a panoramic view overlooking the Bazaruto Archipeligo. The ride is completely authentic, and rich in cultural experience as guests interact with locals.
A further Beach and Bush Ride takes riders along the coastal main road, passing rural villages, through the woodlands, and to a deserted beach where they can gallop along the shore.
Other horseback safaris are available.