It is World Earth Day and today we celebrate the amazing continent we are lucky enough to call home. We are unashamedly addicted to Africa and the incredible landscapes and wildlife that can be discovered here on horseback.
To anyone that has set foot on African soil, you know the feeling – it completely overwhelms you and somehow you wake up each morning feeling like you’ve already had a few mimosas! Sometimes it feels like Mother Nature created the world, but she lives in the heart of Africa. Here’s a tribute to some of the amazing places that you can discover on horseback and how you, the intrepid traveller, are helping conserve these last known wilderness areas! To every single person that has come on safari with us – thank you for helping us keep this dream of ours alive and for sharing in our adventure – you are part of creating a legacy. For those who haven’t yet – you have so much to look forward to – Africa is waiting!
Botswana – Okavango Delta
There are very few places on earth where you can spend a week without seeing any humans faces besides your fellow adventurers and safari hosts. While you will have incredible wildlife encounters throughout Africa, Botswana’s unique tourism model severely limits the number of visitors. This means that the wildlife roam freely in one of the most unspoiled wilderness areas in the world. We have 3 rides in this area, run by passionate teams that love Africa. Camps and lodges are built in concession areas, set aside for conservation. All the lodges are built in an eco-friendly way, using natural materials, and powered by the sun.
Known to many as Africa’s Eden, the Okavango Delta in Botswana is a favourite with riders and is famous for its annual flood and abundance of wildlife; the area provides a haven for a huge array of wildlife. In the Okavango Delta flood months, these horseback safaris offer the unique experience of cantering across flooded plains, grinning from ear-to-ear as you get drenched in splashing water. Home to the big five, as well as endangered wild dog, cheetah, hippo, letchwe, giraffe and many, many more; an Okavango Delta riding safari is bound to leave you in awe.
Botswana – Makgadigadi Pans
In Botswana, the national currency is Pula, meaning “rain” in Setswana. It is because rain is very scarce in Botswana and therefore seen as a blessing. This vast area of the Kalahari is protected by the government and wildlife is free to roam. Very few lodges and camps sites are allowed in the National Park and the bordering concessions, meaning that it remains as wild as untouched as nature intended.
Rain dictates life in the desert. In the dry season it is the desert you imagine: a shimmering whiteness envelops the scorched landscape, like a mirage floating over the crusted salt, and you will spot nomadic herds in the distance, as if an illusion. This is the time of year for galloping across the natural racetrack, sleeping under the stars, and enjoying the pans in their most iconic state. When the rains start to fall in November, the Makgadikgadi Pans are transformed into a watery grassland, almost unrecognizable from the previous months. A layer of emerald-green grass stretches out in every direction, pink clouds of flamingo and flocks of migratory birds arrive to nest, and Africa’s second-largest mammal migration of wildebeest and our black and white striped friends floods the plains. The green season in the desert is one of Africa’s, great unpredictable spectacles, and a magical time to visit.
Botswana – Tuli
The Tuli Block, known as the ‘Land of Giants’ due to its large elephant herds, is found on Botswana’s eastern border, next to Zimbabwe and South Africa. Here you will find the Mashatu Game Reserve, covering around 120,000 hectares in the remote, north-eastern corner of Botswana. It offers some of the most exciting game viewing in Africa, as well as stunning scenery which is ideally suited for exploration on horseback. The area is famous for its wildlife and is home to lion, cheetah, leopard, large herds of elephant, a multitude of plains game like zebra, wildebeest and giraffe, as well as over 350 species of birds.
Through its contribution to wildlife conservation and tourism, the Mashatu Game Reserve is now also the largest employer within the surrounding community, the Bobirwa district. It provides a sanctuary for some of the largest herds of elephants on privately owned land in Africa, a sustainable predator population, a healthy population of endangered cheetah, large herds of vulnerable giraffe and lesser-known animals such as eland, bate-eared fox, brown hyena, bushpig, honey badger and the African wild cat.
Eswatini – Mllilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Formerly Swaziland, visiting the Kingdom of Eswatini is like travelling back in time. From the moment you enter the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), there is no mistaking as to why the Swazi King fought so hard to gain independence of these pristine mountains, rainforest and valleys. Eswatini is like an island without a coast: it’s surrounded by South Africa on three sides (north, south and west) and Mozambique to the east. This tiny landlocked country is known for its wilderness reserves and colourful Swazi culture. The diverse landscape and plentiful wildlife have resulted in this unique country becoming an increasingly popular horseback safari destination.
The Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and 2 other privately owned game reserves in Eswatini offer an incredible wildlife paradise in this tiny country. Set up in the 60’s when conservation was frowned upon by farmers and ignored by politicians, Ted Riley had a vision. Driven by a passion for the natural world, he turned to the Swazi Monarchy and his own family to help establish conservation in Swaziland.
Kenya – Chyulu Hills
Riding in the Chyulu Hills of Kenya is what dreams are made of. Unrestricted by roads and vehicles, you will forge your path through the diverse landscapes that Kenya has to offer. Tuning yourself to the rhythm of your horse and the surrounding bush, taking in its awe-inspiring natural beauty. You will be more likely to cross the tracks of a pride of lion than that of a human! Set in the heart of the Chyulu hills, between Tsavo and Amboseli, you will ride along old elephant paths and encounter some of the magnificent tuskers that make this such a special destination. Each ride set to the stunning backdrop of Mt Kilimanjaro on the skyline. Down in the wide-open grass plains, ride among inquisitive Maasai giraffe, herds of zebra, wildebeest and antelope such as the eland, impala, oryx and Grant’s gazelle. You may even see cheetah relaxing in the shade of a nearby tree!
Ol Donyo is part of Great Plains Conservation. It exists to conserve and expand natural habitats; using sustainable eco-tourism protect and restore critical habitats, conserve wildlife and benefit local communities. They have conserved nearly one million acres of land for Africa’s wildlife across community conservancies, former hunting concessions, and key wildlife migratory corridors. By staying at Ol Donyo, you are directly helping to protect Africa’s wild spaces. A Conservation and Community Levy is added to each stay, which means that every traveler is not only helping to conserve and expand natural habitats, but also contributing to conservation and community development through projects such as conservation education and Rhinos Without Borders.
Kenya – Masai Mara
Return to a ‘safari-of-old’, journeying in the style of Africa’s original pioneers and experiencing the freedom and joy of cantering across wide open plains, alongside the accompanying game and sleeping in a canvas tent under a canopy of stars. Riding in Kenya’s Masai Mara offers arguably unparalleled game viewing. This adventure will take you past elephant, buffalo, giraffe and maybe even lion and leopard, and give you the once in a lifetime experience of cantering alongside herds of wildebeest and zebra, as you navigate the vast Masai Mara.
With immense pressure on nature, the rides are set up as sustainably as possible, treading lightly on the land that they love. The camps are entirely mobile and leave a minimal imprint on the land, being on horseback reduces the carbon footprint and using solar lighting means that the experience is as eco-friendly as possible without compromising on the experience. The teams work closely with the local communities, providing jobs and scholarships, supporting schools and training local guides and grooms.
Mozambique – Benguerra Island
Benguerra Island was declared a National Park in 1971 and is the second-largest island in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago. It is famous for its unspoiled white sand beaches, incredible riding and remarkable bird life. Enjoy breath-taking rides along the soft, white-sand beaches, wading through the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Ascend towering sand dunes with stunning views of the inland lakes below where large flocks of flamingo can often be seen. You can also dive into the water and experience the magic of the incredible ocean life.
The lodges built in this paradise have created some unique conservation programs including, Oceans Without Borders, and are collaborating with local communities to preserve this amazing paradise for generations to come. Employing and empowering local craftsmen and using sustainable building materials, the lodges have minimal environmental impact.
Namibia – Damaraland
Virtually inaccessible, the Damaraland of Namibia is a fascinating and spectacular setting for an unforgettable horse riding safari. Ancient craters and prehistoric remnants dot the absurdly wide and distant horizons and these ancient landscapes are painted with contrastingly delicate and detailed patterns of colour. This is true wilderness; out in the middle of these remote primeval lands, stretching out in all directions as far as the eye can see and with only the African wildlife for company. This horse riding holiday will take you from the Twyfelfontein to Cape Cross on the forbidding Skeleton Coast with its museum of shipwrecks that dot the beaches – a journey you will never forget.
Here you will discover desert-adapted animals, including possibly seeing rhino, elephant and lion! These animals are uniquely adapted to the harsh environments and there is something truly awe-inspiring to see them in this dry desert landscape. This is an expedition ride, with extra horses running freely beside you and 2 trucks with camp gear, food, water and supplies. Some of the campsites are set out in remote areas and other times you will stay at locally run campsites, including the one set up by the Save the Rhino Foundation.
Namibia – Namib Desert
Over 20 years of experience guiding horse riding safaris across the hauntingly beautiful Namib Desert, has led to the creation of the best horse riding in Namibia, for those who love all things wild and free. These true adventures take you through some of the most unique and breath-taking desert landscapes on earth. This is an expedition ride, with extra horses running freely beside you and 2 trucks with camp gear, food, water and supplies.
Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution, and the government has reinforced this by giving its communities the opportunity and rights to manage their wildlife through communal conservancies. The team supports the Wild Horses Foundation, Save the Rhino Trust, Desert Lion Conservation, Giraffe Conservation and Vultures Namibia.
South Africa – Waterberg
We have 2 incredible family-focused rides in the malaria-free Waterberg area of South Africa. These offer excellent riding, free-roaming horses, breath-taking views and exceptional game viewing. These are ideal for those looking to combine riding with relaxation or couples and families with non-riders. Trips are tailormade and activities are seemingly endless. Besides amazing riding, experience game drives, walking safaris and cycling, and in the Ant’s Reserve you can do guided rhino tracking.
The Waterberg area is sparsely populated and has minimal infrastructure and offers a unique opportunity to create a safe haven for rhino where they can live and breed free from poaching. Both black & white rhino populations occur here and thrive in the pristine bushveld habitats. Due to the rhino poaching crisis, the exact numbers of rhinos in the area are kept secret – but it is estimated that between 1200 & 1500 rhinos need to be cared for and protected. In the Ant’s Reserve, you can get incredibly close to these amazing animals on horseback and viewed from the observation deck – an experience that will leave you changed forever.
South Africa – Wild Coast
Experience the freedom of coastal riding and fulfill every horse rider’s dream; cantering down vast empty beaches, with the sun on your face and the sea breeze in your hair. Explore the rugged, un-spoilt natural beauty of the Wild Coast. Rolling hills, deep gorges, and cliff tops that plunge into the ocean ensure that this is not just a beach ride; it is an adventure on the edge of Africa! An area easily accessible and malaria-free, the Wild Coast offers some truly ‘wild’ riding experiences. All rides are led by experienced guides who follow the tides for exciting but safe riding, including exhilarating gallop and river crossings.
While not a National Park or officially a protected area, eco-friendly tourism such as horse safaris ensures that it can remain unspoiled and undeveloped in the future.
South Africa – Greater Kruger
To the East of the Kruger National Park, you will find a number of private game reserves that create havens for wildlife. In years to come, the hope is that these reserves will become open to the park to create large swaths of land for wildlife to roam freely in a unique wilderness area. Our Big 5 Horse safari is situated in a 8500ha reserves and has various ecosystems ranging from open plains, woodlands, hills and rock formations, to riverine and gullies. The region is the home to wildlife such as elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo, cheetah, wild dog, hyena, giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, hippo, crocodile, bushbuck, kudu, nyala, waterbuck, impala, warthog and many different species of birds as well as critically endangered pangolins. Seeing these ancient creatures in their natural environment from the back of a horse, without disturbing the fauna and flora is absolutely unique.
Besides conservation, the team is also passionate about the local community and have helped found Daktari. Every week local underprivileged children get the opportunity to discover, learn and become passionate about wildlife and conservation – their heritage.
Meaning “endless plains” in Masai, the Serengeti is the Africa most people dream of. The Serengeti is a protected area that includes approximately 30,000 km2 of land, including the Serengeti National Park and several game reserves. The Serengeti hosts the second largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world, which helps secure it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, and as one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world. All of this is protected with the help of conservation fees and community involvement.
You will return to the “safari of old” following the herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle as they embark on their annual migration. These rides are scheduled to offer riders the best chance to see this incredible spectacle on horseback. Explore some of the last true wildernesses on earth, as you become part of a herd of cantering zebra, creep up on a munching elephant or gaze up in wonder at a tall giraffe. If you are lucky, you might be able to witness the miracle and drama of calving season with thousands of wobbly calves born in a matter of weeks, and plenty of big cat sightings as they are drawn by the smell of new life.
Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls area
While Zimbabwe has been mentioned often in the news regarding their tense political climate, it is still one of the most beautiful and wild countries in Africa. Here you can not only ride is some of it’s beautiful reserves bordering the mighty Zambezi River, you can take some time out to discover one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World – the Victoria Falls! Known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders” the falls will literally take your breath away during high water. The noise, mist and views overwhelm the senses and it’s not hard to imagine what the early explorers must have thought.
Based in the Stanely and Livingstone Reserve, you will often encounter some of Zimbabwe’s endangered black rhino as well as other wildlife on horseback. Alison, the lead guide here works closely with the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust and Anti-Poaching unit to ensure that these incredible creatures remain protected. On horseback you can venture off the beaten path, deterring most poachers and keeping an eye out for possible snares. Your conservation fees directly go back into training trackers, rangers and anti-poaching teams.