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A horseback safari is a big trip and so it is easy to feel overwhelmed or pressured by the task of getting the decision exactly right.

If you are finding more questions than answers; talk to someone that lives, breathes, and rides Africa. We were featured on The Haynet and had to share.

For most horse lovers, the idea of galloping across the wide-open African savannahs, following ancient elephant paths and coming across unique wildlife is high on their bucket list. But, planning a horseback safari can be daunting. If you’re most people I know, there will be a hundred browser tabs open as you try to navigate the black hole on the internet to find the perfect horse-riding holiday. You can easily lose yourself in the web, finding more questions than answers and giving up feeling overwhelmed.

Chat to one of our safari gurus to help you choose the perfect horse safari for you. We showcase selected rides that combine unrivalled adventure, professional guiding, quality accommodation and horses that are as important as the guests.  You also get unbiased comparisons of different rides and personal first-hand advice. We warn you, Africa is highly addictive and exploring it on horseback is an unforgettable experience.

Here is our advice to choosing the right horse safari for you:

Horse riding in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

Riding experience and levels

Most importantly, be honest about your riding experience. We have a guide to riding levels on our website, but we always arrange a phone call to chat about your riding experience to ensure that all riders are on a similar level and that the rides are suitable for you. Whether you have been riding since you could walk, or are new to the sport, there are many brilliant options for all levels and even some perfect family horse riding holidays.

If you are an intermediate rider, don’t choose a ride that is too demanding. You might become anxious or hold up the rest of the group. If you are less experienced, we recommend safaris that combine shorter rides with other activities such as game drives and nature walks.  Here you will have a more laidback introduction to horse safari, riding in areas with giraffe, zebra and many antelope species. For the more advanced riders, there are some fast-paced rides over varied terrain that make for some thrilling time in the saddle. When riding in areas where you may encounter big game such as lion, elephant and buffaloes, you will need to be well balanced in the saddle and able to react to all eventualities, even galloping out of trouble if required.

Sleeping lion seen through a horses ears

Expectation for your horse safari

Do you dream of galloping over endless savannahs with herds of zebra and giraffe? Have you always imagined yourself riding alongside the giant tuskers in East Africa or splashy canters in the Okavango Delta? Are you looking to strip back to basics like the explorers-of-old and sleep out under the stars? Or do you prefer the life of luxury, where you can enjoy a relaxing massage after your morning ride? Knowing how you imagine your bucket-list horse safari makes it easier to turn that dream into a reality.

Most rides can be classed as either lodge-based or trail-based. The benefit of lodge-based rides is that they can be tailor-made to suit your schedule and they offer a variety of other activities such as game drives and nature walks. Some are fairly simple, while others rival the luxuriousness of the best hotels. Trail-based rides are for the more adventurous, covering more ground and offering a true wilderness experience.  Many of these rides offer varied accommodations along the route, from treetop sleepouts to more permanent tented camps. Others offer fly camping in remote wilderness areas or sleeping out on stretchers under the stars.

horses galloping in Okavango Delta

Destination and time of year

Africa is a kaleidoscope of different terrains and beautiful landscapes, many of them only accessible on the back of a horse. The movement of wildlife is dictated by rain and some destinations are more seasonal than others. If you have always dreamed of riding with millions of wildebeest on the plains of the Masai Mara, then the best time to travel is between July and October. Likewise, if you dream of cantering through the marshy waters of the Okavango Delta, it is best to travel when the floodwaters are at their highest. The Makgadikgadi Pans transform from dazzling white salt flats to shallow lakes filled with flamingos after the Summer rains so riding in the dry and wet season are very different. If you have your heart set on a specific experience, it is worthwhile mentioning when planning your trip.

The long and short of it is that there is no bad time for safari. Each season offers a different experience. The winter months are often considered brilliant for wildlife sightings as the bush is dry, the grass short and the wildlife must stick closer to the available water sources. Competition is therefore fierce, and you can get incredible predator sightings! If you love the heat of summer, you will be rewarded with dramatic thunderstorms, lush green landscapes and many new-born animals finding their feet – but you might need a sense of adventure as the rain can cause last-minute changes to the itinerary.  Spring and Autumn are considered shoulder season, and our personal favourite time of year to travel. These are the transformational months, with vivid changes in the landscape, excellent game viewing and migratory birds that bring a splash of colour.

Horse riding with giraffe

Who you’re travelling with

Whether you are a solo adventurer or looking for a family holiday, there is a horse safari for everyone. Most trail-based rides have set schedules and are ideal for solo travellers, couples or groups of friends. Sometimes travellers feel like they are penalized for travelling alone, like paying extra or sleeping in substandard rooms. Unlike many holidays, horse safaris are generally pretty flexible, and many are designed with solo travellers in mind – over 50% of our bookings are single travellers.

There is a selection of wonderful family-friendly destinations across the continent, some suiting a mix of riders and non-riders and others for groups of riders of all ages and abilities.  Most lodge-based trail rides can easily cater to non-riding spouses, partners, friends, and children. Even some of the riding guests like to have a break from the saddle and take advantage of the wide range of other activities on offer.

Copper bathtub in the middle of the forest with lanterns

Price range

There is no denying that a safari is expensive and often a once in a life-time experience. It is for this reason that choosing the right horseback adventure is so crucial.  It is worthwhile doing some basic research into the costs of safaris and flights so that you can set a realistic budget for yourself. All our rides are all-inclusive, so from the moment you touchdown in the airport, you will spend very little.

Again, expectations have a big role to play in deciding which ride best for you. If you are seeking adventure above all else, then often the more experiential horse safaris are more affordable. If you want luxury accommodation but have budget constraints, try travelling in the low or shoulder seasons when prices are lower. If you want to splurge, then perhaps extending your safari and spend some extra time exploring different destinations in Africa such as Victoria Falls or Cape Town.

It is important to find a balance between your preferred type of weather, your budget and your chances for the best wildlife viewing. Chat to us, as we know the destinations in and out, and some countries are generally more expensive than others. Much of this has to do with the costs of park fees and conservation levies – but remember, by paying these you have a direct impact on preserving the African wilderness and wildlife. For this reason, East Africa tends to be more expensive than Southern Africa, but if you want that quintessential Lion King scenery, then it might be worth saving up another year.

Ready to start planning your adventure? Chat to one of our safari gurus