Game viewing on horseback
The guides are extremely knowledgeable with well-trained eyes, but often they will take their cues from their horses. Game viewing on horseback gives riders an advantage as the horses will often sense wildlife before their riders, giving away their presence with pricked ears. Most of the horses live out and are completely habituated to wildlife. Likewise, the wildlife often does not see horse riders as a threat, so riders can have very intimate experiences, even with large animals such as elephant and rhino. Plains game such as zebra, wildebeest and antelope accept horses into their herd and will peacefully graze with riders just a few meters away. Giraffe, elephant and buffalo often pay little notice to horse riders, and you can watch them in fascination while the animals contentedly graze or bathe. Rhinos are often extremely curious about the horses, allowing some unforgettable close encounters.
Safety on a horseback safari
While there is always some risk when out on safari, the guests’ safety is paramount, and all our operators have an excellent safety record. The risk is kept exceptionally low with expert guides and exceptional horses. For any rides where you might come across big game, we only take intermediate plus riders and up – meaning they have been riding for many years and are well-balanced in the saddle. Our safari operators have been riding in these areas for many years and know the land like the back of their hands. The guides are highly trained, most of them with at least 10 years of horse safari guiding experience before becoming a head guide. Their bush experience, teamed with incredible lead horses, means they are experts at reading animals’ body language and negotiating the wilderness. They know when to move away and when to stand their ground when it comes to larger animals.
Riders can come across predators while out riding but they very rarely pose a threat to the horses. Horses are large and fairly unnatural prey for big cats, plus they have odd-smelling humans on them. When big cats are spotted, riders come together as a group. The cats usually get intimidated or get bored and wander off to find a nearby tree to snooze under. Guides also carry a bullwhip, this makes a sound like a gunshot when it is cracked and scares off anything too inquisitive.
Accommodation on your horse safari
Most horse safaris can be classed as either lodge-based or trail-based rides. The benefit of lodge-based horse riding holidays is that they offer brilliant horse riding and a variety of other wildlife activities such as game drives and nature walks. This means that they offer a great safari experience for riders and non-riders alike. Trail-based horse safaris are for the more adventurous and experienced horse riders, 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 mobile camping in remote wilderness areas or sleeping out on stretchers under the stars.
There are very few places on earth where you’ll see more wildlife than humans. Whether you opt for the more experiential based trail rides or the more luxury lodge-based rides, you have the rarity of being in places very few people get to experience. These are purposely built with horse enthusiasts in mind, catering for small, intimate groups of like-minded travellers. Based in private concessions or reserves, they have unique rights to be able to explore the wilderness on horseback, guided walks, and safari vehicles.
Famous places to see wildlife on horseback
Historically the Okavango Delta has been the main area for horseback safaris in Botswana. Known as the river that never reaches the sea, the immense inland delta is perfect for exhilarating splashy canters alongside the wildlife. It is one of Africa’s unique treasures and is one of the most important and beautiful wildlife sanctuaries on the continent. The Tuli Block is known for its dramatic landscapes, huge baobabs, and large herds of elephants. Riding along the ancient elephant trails offers some great game viewing from horseback. The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans is home to a variety of desert adapted wildlife. In summer months, the pans fill up with water attract the second largest migration of zebra and wildebeest. And in the dry winter months, the open salt pans create the perfect natural racetrack for adrenaline inducing gallops.
Zimbabwe is remerging as an incredible wildlife safari destination with some fabulous rides available. Follow in the footsteps of David Livingston and explore the great Zambezi area on horseback, or venture deep into the heart of Hwange National Park. Hwange is famous for its large herds of elephants, vast open vleis and stunning birdlife – Just a short hop from Victoria Falls, a week here is perfectly combined with a few nights visiting the great waterfall.
South Africa offers some fantastic horse riding with scenic landscapes, endless beaches, and many private game reserves rich with wildlife. Some of these reserves have large numbers of plains game such as giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and antelope which means that children and less experienced riders can get their first experience of a horseback safari. Other reserves close to the Kruger National Park are home to the Big 5 and offers some exciting wildlife sightings on horseback such as rhino, elephant, buffalo and even lion.
East Africa is vastly different to Southern Africa, with seemingly endless savannahs creating an Eden for wildlife. Far from civilization, the sense of space and freedom is overwhelming. In Northern Tanzania, head out on a horseback safari, riding alongside towers of giraffe in the shadows of Mt Kilimanjaro. For the intrepid riders, take on the vast Serengeti, galloping across this beautiful wilderness area, and possibly witnessing the great migration on horseback. The horseback safaris in Kenya are operated in the most game-rich wilderness locations on the continent, in some of the largest unfenced expanses in Africa. These areas offer great diversity in wildlife species, birdlife and scenery. Horse riding in the Masai Mara is a journey-of-a-lifetime, taking in the wonders of the African bush and all its wildlife, from towering giraffe and enormous elephant, to millions of wildebeest during the annual migration. Ol Donyo and Borana Lodge take you through incredible scenic areas, and offer brilliant game viewing from horseback, including riding with some of the largest tuskers known to man.
Wildlife out of the saddle
When not exploring on horseback, you can head out for informative and exciting game drives. These are perfect for epic wildlife photography and for late evening excursions to see the more elusive nocturnal animals. You can also join your guide on foot to hone your tracking skills and see the lives of the smaller creatures and unique flora. Some safari destinations offer unique wildlife viewing such as paddling down the “Venice of Africa” in the Okavango Delta, Hot Air Balloon flights over the Masai Mara or quad biking in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Not to mention the tradition of sundowner drinks, always taken in the most scenic spot – nothing quite beats sipping that well deserve gin and tonic as you watch the sky turn pink and gold.