Horseback riding safaris in Africa are the epitome of the most exciting and interesting equestrian adventures in the world.
It is thrilling to gallop with zebra, wildebeest or giraffe in the most remote parts of the African bush far from any lodges where vehicles cannot go. On horseback one can also move quietly and often view herds of game while sitting silently on your horse without disturbing them. Whether you are cantering with the animals or just observing them you are sharing the experience with your horses which are also highly interested in the wildlife. The word safari is derived from the Arabic word meaning to travel and they were the first to explore this part of the world.
Karen Blixen’s wonderful book, OUT OF AFRICA and the popular film of the same name with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford captured the imagination of many Americans and tempted them to visit Kenya with its fascinating, abundant wildlife for themselves. Much of the magnificent landscape in the film is where the Masai Mara safari takes place. The African continent is three times the size of the United States and far more diverse. In some areas there are still huge herds of game free to migrate for hundreds of miles. The Mara and the adjacent Serengeti in Tanzania form one such area where hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra migrate with the seasons in search of the best grass.
Both these safaris have mobile camps and cover 20 or 30 miles in a day. The camps are quite elaborate and include large standup tents with beds covered with sheets and blankets. There are nearby toilet and shower tents. When you ride into camp in the evening well-chilled beer and soft drinks are ready, as is hot tea if you prefer. The meals are delicious with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. The staff is highly attentive and offers excellent service. As well as terrific game viewing from horseback there are game drives by vehicle which often allow better opportunities for photography. This is luxury camping at its best.
Another place where the wildlife is free to roam over wide areas is the green and fertile Okavango Delta in Botswana, often called “the jewel of Africa” which is flooded every year by rains in hills to the north and teems with wildlife of many kinds. This ride offers luxury permanent camps with excellent food and wine and homebred horses. There is also the Discover the Delta safari which uses more modest mobile camps and offers a less expensive option. The waters of the Okavango Delta drain into the pans of the Kalahari Desert where one can have thrilling canters and close encounters with the charming meerkats which have become habituated to humans. Another fine ride in Botswana is the Tuli which has great game viewing both from horseback and vehicle. One can have long, fast canters over great footing for the horses, often near game. Since the base camp is the riding center it is one of the most reasonably priced rides of this kind.
Another noteworthy safari is the Ride to the Sea in Namibia. This is the ultimate endurance ride which covers 250 miles across the austere beauty of the Namib Desert before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. There is wildlife, but the parched terrain does not support anything like the numbers to be found in the Okavango Delta or the Serengeti. You will have tremendous respect for the strength and surefootedness of your horse by the time you reach the Coast. A less ambitious ride on the other side of Africa is this one on the Indian Ocean in Mozambique where you can canter on limitless miles of uninhabited beach.