Namibia Desert Ride
Claiming to offer ‘the ultimate riding experience in the most hauntingly beautiful place on this planet’ is pretty bold. But that’s exactly the promise Namibia Horse Safaris make on their website. Would they, I wondered, as I joined their Damaraland ride a couple of months ago? The answer, absolutely yes – they deliver in spades.
Setting off across the desert
In 11 years with Aardvark Safaris I’ve travelled all over sub-Saharan Africa but little has come close to this in terms of an adventure and the sense of achievement in accomplishing what’s a pretty extraordinary journey. If you are a confident rider and fit enough to spend up to five hours a day in the saddle then it’s one to consider.
Co-owner, host and lead guide Andrew Gillies runs an incredible operation. His team is among the best I’ve encountered on a riding safari and they go a long way to making these safaris so successful. Andrew is an expert at matching guests to horses from the herd of 80 they run, and we were all besotted with our own at the end of the 380km trip.
Getting to know Rupert
While you won’t see the wildlife you do in Kenya, Botswana or South Africa, the scenery more than compensates with terrain ranging from dry river beds, canyons and wide open plains, to dunes and ancient volcanic craters. There’s plenty of space for fast riding – the eight minute gallop on day three was a real highlight. If you’ve been to Namibia you’ll understand when I say the views are out of this world, if you haven’t then you need to go! We did see elephant and plains game in places and following lion tracks one morning was pretty exciting.
Great terrain for fast riding
Apart from the first and final night of the 10 day trip we slept under the stars (tents on hand if it’s really cold or rain is in the offing). That was a first for me. Comfy bedrolls with cozy duvets kept out the cold and gazing at the shooting stars in the brilliant night sky was incredible.
Sleeping out in the open in surprisingly cosy and comfortable camp beds
For such a remote trip everything worked very smoothly. A huge truck leaves base with the horses, food, water and equipment and on the couple of nights it couldn’t follow us, supplies were loaded onto 4x4s and camp was pitched from them. While not luxurious, we were very comfortable with good bucket showers and delicious safari food.
The truck packed with everything for the trip
After nine days riding through the desert, arriving at the Atlantic Ocean on our last day was quite emotional. It was almost as though a spell had been broken – we’d barely seen another person, had ridden through exquisite scenery and enjoyed time as a small group far removed from the real world. I think it’s probably the best mobile riding safari I’ve been on.
Jo and Rupert on the Skeleton Coast at the end of their epic ride
Have a quick look at the video Andrew took while we were there – It really brings the whole thing to life.