8 Tips On Riding Safari Planning

February 25th 2016  |  Riding Safaris  |  by  Alice Gully
African Horseback Safaris - riders or a riding safari wading on horseback through the Okavango Delta, Botswana
African Horseback Safaris

1. Plan ahead

You may have a specific riding safari you want to join, or there’s a group of you who want to travel together. The best riding safari groups only take a few riders at a time and fill up far in advance, so you need to be booking a reasonable amount of time ahead of your proposed holiday.

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Riding in Africa, Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

Scheduled riding safari dates and flights are typically launched a year ahead and starting your planning soon after this will increase your chances of getting on the trip you want; the flights will be less expensive too.

2. Ask yourself some questions about your riding and holidays

I’ve helped plan riding safari holidays for over seventeen years and the best way to start making suitable suggestions is to find out more about the riders (and non-riders) going on holiday.

  • If you’ve been to Africa what did you do on that trip?
  • What did you like/dislike?
  • What other countries have you visited on a riding holiday?
  • What did you like/dislike?
  • How much riding have you done?
  • Are you currently riding fit?
  • Are you confident to gallop in open spaces?
  • Are you taking a spouse who rides less than you?

Have a look at my article on the 10 African Riding Safaris For Different Abilities

  • Who are you travelling with?
  • Are you taking your children?

Have a look at my article on the 10 Best Family Riding Safari Holidays Africa

  • Would you like riding to be the main part of the holiday or just a small section?
  • What time of year are you thinking of travelling to Africa?
  • What sort of accommodation do you want to stay in (hotel/lodge/tented camp)?
  • Do you want to add a beach holiday to your riding safari?
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Plenty of sea breezes to cool off, Grootbos Riding, Garden Route, South Africa

3. Or have a riding safari planning brainstorm

Another approach might be to get anyone about to travel to list 5 or 10 things they want from their riding safari. These might be as different as: – I want the chance for long canters over open plains – I’d like to see elephants from horseback

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Freedom is galloping across the plains alongside game with the sound of thundering hooves. Offbeat Safaris, Kenya

If you’ve got 15 minutes take a look at my article on the 16 Top Safari Horses in Africa – I would like to have ice in my gin and tonic before supper – I’d love a comfortable bed as I’m sure I’ll be tired after a day of riding – Any chance of a massage after a day in the saddle? – I want my non-riding spouse to enjoy their safari too.

4. Produce a list

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African Horseback Safaris, Botswana

Once you’ve brainstormed I suggest pulling together a list of ‘riding safari holiday priorities’. We can then make sure we surpass all your expectations and match you perfectly to the right riding safari. I’ve been sent photos of Post-it notes with different ideas on them and these are really helpful to me to help plan a riding safari for you. The point of ‘tailor made’ is that it’s for you and not simply a standard holiday. If you need some inspiration with regards to what’s possible check my Best Riding Safari Photos

5. Find an African riding safari expert you can talk to

Find a riding safari expert – one who is well known for planning good riding safaris. – Who do your riding friends recommend? – Has the expert been to all the riding safaris and do they ride on a regular basis in the UK? – Is there a company whose name comes up on Google if you look for ‘riding safaris’? (Make sure you look in the ‘organic results as anyone can pay to be in the adverts) – Who is mentioned a few times in the travel sections of the newspapers, or in horse magazines? Typically they will be African specialists who understand the logistics of holidays to the continent as well as knowing how to plan a riding safari. Some will have taken their own families with a variety of riding abilities and perhaps a non-riding spouse. Ask them where they’ve been and what they’ve done – a true expert will be happy to share their personal experience with you. Take some time to have a chat. A company’s website can give you an idea about them, as can an interchange of emails, but picking up the phone and chatting will give you a real feel for whether this is the person you want to plan your riding safari.

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Borana riding, Kenya

6. Give your ‘riding safari expert’ an initial brief and see their ideas

At the start you should be doing the talking, give them all the info you’ve gathered in the stages above, let them ask questions and then see what they come up with. In some cases they might be ready to make suggestions of specific riding safaris on the phone, or it might make better sense for them to email ideas. That way they can link you to websites and you’ve got something easy to share with your riding companions.

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Galloping through water, African Horseback Safaris, Botswana

Once in a while, I find even an initial chat means I can jump in and send through an itinerary for a particular riding safari. However, even then I recognise my plan might not be right for your holiday, so I’m very happy to make lots of amendments until it’s the perfect riding holiday for you.

7. Phone, email, face-to-face

Long gone are the days when I started planning riding safaris and followed up a phone call with brochures in the post. I still like to speak to prospective clients so I can understand their wishes and make sure my suggestions match their holiday expectations. However, most communication nowadays is by email with references to the riding safaris’ pages on our website or to the websites of the various riding operators in Africa.

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African Horseback Safaris, Okavango Delta, Botswana

If possible I always prefer to meet people and as safari specialists we take stands at a number of shows throughout the summer, so you may see me at Blair Horse Trails or in the Country Living marquee at the Burghley Horse Trails, Badminton and Bramham. Equally our whole team is happy to meet people face-to-face in our offices or at their home. These visits work particularly well when you have a group as it avoids one person having to act as chairman sending out the paperwork and combining the holiday thoughts from everyone else. Overall this speeds up the planning process so you get the perfect holiday itinerary sooner than you otherwise might.

8. Get on and book

While is it possible to hold some spaces on a riding safari provisionally while the rest of the holiday is planned, they can’t be held forever and in the meantime flight prices are probably rising. Once you’ve found a riding safari that suits you, I suggest you book it so it’s all confirmed and the price guaranteed. Now’s the time to have a look through my riding safari packing list to see what you’ve already got and what you need.

Any questions?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have, or you think there’s something more about planning a riding safari holiday that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What Next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a riding safari holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Please just send us an email or give us a call.

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