Over the years, we’ve dedicated many column inches to the wonders of the walking safari and will espouse the magic of game viewing by canoe to anyone who’ll listen. Now, it’s the turn of horseback safaris. Atop your trusty steed, away from the reassuring grind of a Land Rover (and the comfort of an accelerator pedal!) you’re no longer merely an observer of the bush; you become part of the natural world and indeed the whole circle of life, trotting after towers of giraffe and creeping past lazing lion. Adrenalin-inducing perhaps, but for a completely different way to wildlife-watch, there’s not much that can beat a riding safari. Here are our top horseback adventures across Africa that will have you chomping at the bit…
Uncover the hidden corners of the Okavango
Starting our list of top horseback safaris in Africa with a bang are riding veterans, Ride Botswana. It’s no secret that the Okavango Delta is one of the finest wildlife destinations in the world, but to discover it from the saddle with one of Ride’s inimitable guides is awe-inspiring. Much of the great wetland is inaccessible to vehicles during the annual flood, so venturing out on horseback really does give you the edge. Think splashing across glittering channels from one hidden island to the next and cantering through the waterways alongside Botswana’s giants. In the evenings, you’ll settle down to campfire-cooked cuisine and snooze in style in the lightweight fly camp.
Take a closer look at the Ride Botswana 7-night horse safari, then play around with adding it to any of our Botswana routes for something extra special. We rather like the idea of spending a week in the bush before popping up to Victoria Falls for some R&R – this route right here will give you a good starting point.
Ride out in style in the Serengeti
If there was a land made for horseback safaris, it would probably be the Grumeti, an exclusive reserve on the western border of the Serengeti National Park. Waving grass plains and acres of pristine wilderness just cry out to be explored with a four-legged companion and the wildlife in the area is plentiful and stunning. Time your visit right (May to July) and you might also be in with a chance of galloping alongside the two-million strong herds of the Great Migration as they follow the rains. Riding here is varied and you can choose from two-hour morning rides, full-day explorations or even multi-day adventures. Accommodation-wise, you’ll also find something to suit all tastes; base yourself at the fabulous Sasakwa Lodge for a spot of luxury (and a great spa to soothe aching muscles) or up the adventure at Singita Explore Camp and do exactly as it says on the tin.
Discover the Kalahari at your own pace
For a bush experience on horseback that’s not of the saddle-whirling, adrenalin-pumping sort, try out the horseback safaris at Tswalu Kalahari. Typically, the rides last for around 90-minutes (but can be extended on request) and you’ll trek gently through the golden dunes and grassy plains, the Korannaberg mountains glowing pink and mauve in the background. Wildlife-wise, the reserve is known for its black-maned lion, sable antelope and cheetah, but these rides are more about enjoying the sun on your face and the wind in your hair than galloping around looking for animals. The perfect, laidback introduction to horseback safaris in our opinion!
Both Tswalu Motse Lodge and Tswalu Tarkuni in South Africa’s Kalahari offer horse riding as part of their day to day activities. Add either one to the route Grapes and Game Parks in South Africa and combine your wildlife-viewing with a little wine-tasting too.
Ride wild in Laikipia
According to Winston Churchill, “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle” – and that definitely couldn’t be truer when riding in the Borana Conservancy in Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau. A slice of pure wildlife heaven, the landscape is a melee of verdant forests, rolling hills and views that will make your eyes water – and the epic, seven-day ride is the ultimate way to explore. Whilst riding makes up most of each day, you’ll also have the opportunity to visit ancient rock art sites and hyena dens and take short bush walks, discovering the smaller flora and fauna as you go. At night, you’ll sleep in a simple fly-camp – but there’s a very comfortable night on either side of the ride in the thatched cottages of Borana Lodge to look forward to.
The beauty of a horse-riding safari in Laikipia is that it combines wonderfully with several other regions in Kenya. Add the Borana North Ride to the route Conservation & Culture in Kenya and spend a few days in the Samburu region after your trip, or go all out with an epic trip around Kenya’s highlights with this route.
Venture off the beaten track on a Zambezi horseback safari
Zimbabwe’s rugged Zambezi Valley is a little-known area of towering granite rock faces and deep riverine valleys that are rich in wildlife. Dig even further into the beautiful region however and you’ll find the Mavuradonha Mountains, a totally unpopulated area that’s outstandingly rugged and even more unique. With only one real road in the area, the only way to get around is on horseback and although the going is tough, the rewards more than make up for it. Here, it really is just you and your horse blazing a trail through the wilderness, accompanied only by herds of elephant and dainty antelope. Oh, and fantastic guide James Varden, who, with 23 years of experience in the area, will make sure you don’t get lost!
A five-night horse riding adventure in the Mavuradonha Wilderness Area combines perfectly with a safari in Mana Pools or Hwange or even a flying visit to Vic Falls. Simply choose your route, add your lodges and contact us for more details about adding a few days of riding into the mix.
Gallop with the experts in the Masai Mara
Experienced riders looking for something different in Kenya’s iconic Masai Mara won’t go wrong with one of Offbeat Mara’s epic horseback safaris. Operating since the 1980s, Offbeat are the best in the business when it comes to saddles and stallions, and their seven-night adventure is the bee’s knees. The endless, open plains invite long gallops, the Mara Triangle will get you up close to prides of lion and curious giraffe and, from July to October, you’ll cross the Mara River with stampeding herds of wildebeest in the Great Migration. It doesn’t get better than that.
Add Offbeat’s seven-night ride to your Kenya itinerary and then rest saddle-sore bottoms on the beautiful Indian Ocean coastline. Our Classic Kenya Bush & Beach route will get you started.
Take the whole family to the Waterberg
Drive just a few hours north of Johannesburg and you’ll find yourself in the magnificent Waterberg region of South Africa. It’s a serene and peaceful place that offers superb riding country – think pristine bushveld, gin-clear streams and a good smattering of wildlife to add some excitement! Lodges Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill both offer gentle horse rides through the private reserve they are situated in, with well-schooled horses that match rider’s abilities from beginner to expert. You can pick from a herd of 60 horses and even take a refresher lesson before riding out into the bush. Kids are also very welcome and as the entire area is malaria-free, it couldn’t be a better choice for a family horseback safari!
Add either Ant’s Nest or Ant’s Hill to our family safari route in South Africa and enjoy quality time together in the bush before heading off to Mauritius for some real R&R.