RIDING ALL OVER AFRICA

July 13th 2014  |  Riding Safaris, Unique Experiences  |  by  Charlie Swanson
RIDING ALL OVER AFRICA

Fast and Furious

Having ridden since I could walk and being something of an adrenaline junky, some of my favourite riding safaris fall into the fast and furious category. One of the most amazing memories I will take from my time in this pristine wilderness is galloping alongside a pack of spotted hyena through the shallow floodplains of the Okavango Delta. A moment of pure ecstasy that I can still picture so vividly. Another is charging through a mopane forest with some crazy Swedish clients on the Sand Tongue (a dry finger of land extending into the Okavango Delta), jumping everything that crossed our path, surrounded by three herds of buffalo that numbered in the thousands. Outside the Delta you can ride with David Foot safaris in the Makgadikgadi, flying over the seemingly endless salt pans on horseback. Kenya also has much to offer riders looking for the ultimate rush on horseback. From jumping Masai village walls in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro with Ride Kenya to riding alongside the great wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara with Offbeat Safaris. Kenya and Botswana are home to just a handful of the faster riding safaris. Where experienced riders can enjoy remarkable game viewing and riding through some of the most beautiful and wild places Africa has to offer. You are riding almost shoulder to shoulder with dangerous game on many of these riding safaris, so it is important to be comfortable in the saddle at all paces.

Family friendly

Ant’s Hill and Ant’s Nest, in the malaria-free Waterberg region of South Africa are great places for a family riding safari. The two beautiful bush homes are in a large private concession where game roams. Often grazing with the sixty boerperd horses that inhabit the bushveld here. There are no lion or elephant on the reserve making it a much safer place to ride, and also allowing the horses to graze freely without becoming part of the food chain. Due to an on-going habituation programme, it is possible to approach game such as white rhino, giraffe, sable and buffalo on horseback, where it would not be possible to in the wild. The beauty of riding here is that it is safe, the pace of the rides is flexible and dependent on the ability of the rider. There is a wide range of horses to choose from that will give anyone from the most confident rider to a complete beginner a good ride. Another option for families is Horizon Ranch, also in the Waterberg region. Horizon is a family friendly, relaxed equine paradise. Guests can immerse themselves in a wide range of riding disciplines. Such as polo cross, swimming with the horses, trail rides and western games. Borana in Kenya is another safari lodge that is suited to a family. Children can ride Rose Dyers’ utterly bomb proof ponies out on a trail, swim by the waterfall and pool or enjoy game viewing from the safety of a Land Rover.

Best for non-riding partners

One of you wants to go on riding safari but the other doesn’t ride. Sosian Ranch on the Laikipia Plateau, Kenya, is good for both riders and non-riders. A stay at Sosian is comparable to staying with friends who own a large estate with all the toys. Here, aside from riding, you can track wild dogs on foot, swim in the river, camp out under the stars, fish, go on game drives and game walks. Or relax by the pool and do nothing. Motswiri Camp in the spillway, found to the north east of the Okavango Delta is another great option for both horse-lovers and the horse-averse alike.

Something a little different

There are many riding safaris that don’t fit the mold of game viewing from horseback. In Namibia I went on a ten day horse ride down the Fish River Canyon with the Namibia Horse Safari Company. Encountering some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever come across, but barely any game for the whole ride. This outfit also take rides through the Namib Desert. Which is perfect for those looking for something different and a real challenge. You can expect to ride for up to 45 miles a day at all paces over sometimes uneven terrain, so it’s not for the faint hearted. One of the most interesting rides I went on was in the Western Cape with Carl Swinges. This ride was not all about game viewing or scenery. But rather exploring the wine lands, unique ecosystems and history of the Western Cape from horseback. Carl is a European who has lived in the Cape for the last 30 years. He has a wealth of knowledge about the culture, geography and history of this region that he is happy to share with guests.

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