Horse riding safaris
When you think of seeing game in the bush, most people think their only option is a game drive, or perhaps in some countries, a walking safari. However, horse-riding is another great way of experiencing the majesty of the African bush.
Quite simply, being on horseback means that you can get much closer to the wildlife. While most animals are used to Jeeps (they seem to treat them as another species, albeit a smelly, noisy one), when you’re on the back of an animal, the wildlife are even more unconcerned.
Added to that, you will really appreciate the silence when you’re on the back of a horse - the only sounds you will hear are the creaking of the saddle and the sound of your horses’ hooves as you tread through the bush, enabling you to notice smaller creatures and to be more in tune with the sounds around you.
In order to ensure the safest and most enjoyable horseback adventure, you must choose the exact riding experience for you. Some safaris will cater for people with little or no experience of riding, providing mounts that are quiet and placid enough for nervous riders, beginners and even children. These rides are sedate affairs, taken at a walking pace, with plenty of time to look around and see the wildlife that presents itself.
For experienced riders, the pace is far different. They must be riding fit and confident at all paces, as days in the saddle can be long and the horses (often thoroughbreds) can be challenging to handle.
There will often be fast and thrilling gallops alongside giraffe, zebra and antelope and time will be taken to quietly stalk bigger game such as buffalo and elephant. There will also be the opportunity to indulge in some of the best bird watching in the world.
Whatever your level, experienced guides know the bush well and will enchant you with stories about the ever-changing landscape, its trees and plants. They also have an incredible ability to spot even the best-camouflaged animal. Keep an eye on your horse too, they have finely attuned senses, often sensing animals before humans see or hear them. Also when the horses drop their heads to graze, this sends a signal to other animals in the area to relax and go about their normal daily routines, thus enabling you to blend in with the bush.
Many countries in Africa allow you to do horse-riding safaris but each one provides a unique experience. In Botswana, riding can often take place in the waters of the Okavango Delta, in places inaccessible to vehicles. In Kenya, riding in the Masai Mara is often for the more experienced rider while in South Africa, it’s possible for beginners or nervous riders to go on a horseback safari.
There is simply no better way to savour the African bush and experience its unparalleled wildlife population than on horseback. Cantering alongside a herd of zebra is an experience you will never forget!