Gallop alongside journeys of giraffes and splash through the waterways of some of the most pristine wilderness areas in Africa. Whatever your ability; novice or an experienced equestrian, Africa’s diverse landscapes welcome all those who seek the thrill, spills and incomparable freedom of wildlife viewing on horseback.
Venture along paths less travelled, where intrepid explorers of yesteryears have gone before, with hoofbeats drumming a new rhythm of the bush on a horseback safari.
Horses and Africa
Archaeological evidence suggests horses were employed during Egypt's Thirteenth Dynasty, but it was only during the colonial period 500 years ago when they were introduced to sub-Saharan Africa by European settlers. Horses played a major role in agriculture and transport, and were used for leisure riding. For this reason, plains game such as zebras, wildebeests, giraffes and even elephants are not disturbed by their presence and you will often find yourself accepted into herds, allowing close interactions. In the 1970s, a man with just three horses at Kenya's Ngong Hills conceptualised the first safari on horseback. This unique experience quickly picked up popularity and spread across the continent’s major safari destinations.
Now, a horseback safari in Africa is at the top of many riders’ bucket lists. The sense of achievement and the level of intimate connection you get with your horse after multiple days of true adventure is indescribable.
Our Riding Safaris
Although each itinerary is unique and no two days are the same, a typical horseback safari of 4 to 7 nights starts by spending the afternoon on the day of your arrival getting to know your four-legged travel companion, and an orientation ride to familiarise yourself with your steed and the landscapes you will be exploring over the coming days.
On the first full day, you will wake up an hour before dawn to take full advantage of the best game viewing hours. The morning ride will last about 3-4 hours, before returning to camp for lunch followed by a siesta. In the afternoon, you will head out for another ride (or game drive, or bush walk at some camps) and return back to camp as the sun sets, regaling one another with stories of your day in the saddle as you sit around the campfire before turning in for the night.
Typically on day 3 or 4, you will have a full day of riding, enjoying 4 to 7 hours in the saddle, covering 25 - 45 kilometres depending on terrain and the number of animal sightings as you move between camps. To feel like a true pioneer, opt for an itinerary that includes a fly-camp experience. Regardless of your specific itinerary, you can be sure you’ll take in some of Africa’s most compelling landscapes and species – all framed between two ears. Days in the saddle and unfamiliar terrain means that a multi-day horseback safari may not be for the faint-hearted, but through the thrills, spills, highs and lows, you will feel inextricably bonded to your mount, the creatures great and small around you, and the extraordinary African wilderness.
Breeds will vary from native Batswana bush ponies to striking Appaloosas in Southern Africa, and thoroughbreds, Friesians and Percheron crosses in East Africa. The South African Boerperd which is one of the few recognised native breeds to Africa is known for its superb temperament, endurance and versatility. Regardless of breed, all the horses in our partners’ stables have been specially chosen for their temperament and suitability for safaris. They are fit, responsive, reliable, and most importantly adapted to the surrounding environment. Your guides will know each and every horse’s character, and great care is taken to match the appropriate horse to a rider, ensuring that the rider will have a comfortable ride and the most enjoyable experience.
Some operators offer a choice of both Western and English tack, so please let your specialist know if you have any preferred style. Your guide is not just a skilled horseman but will also be exceptionally knowledgeable about the flora and fauna, and well versed in horseback encounters with predators. So rest assured you will be in safe hands at all times.
Whether you may want to go for a short ride from your lodge or for a multi-day riding safari, A2A’s safari specialists will select and design the best suited destination and itinerary based on your ability and preference, ensuring an unforgettable horseback safari of a lifetime.
Here are some of our favourite riding destinations:
KenyaA great option for less experienced riders and families, as the landscapes are open, allowing you to see wildlife from far away and plan your approach. Enjoy the adventure of your life as you explore the greater Masai Mara, with hoofbeats as your soundtrack, and the exclusive unfenced private conservancies bordering the Masai Mara Game Reserve as your backdrop. Time your visit during the great migration for a chance to ride alongside hundreds of thousands of wildebeests – you’ll truly become part of the herd. Kenya is also an excellent option for novice and non-riders who wish to go for a short horse ride and enjoy the rest of their safari from a game vehicle.
BotswanaWhether it be riding across the floodplains of the Okavango Delta or the lunar Makgadikgadi salt pans, Botswana is an excellent riding destination. Spend day and night with your horse in the Okavango, with an occasional rest to take a tranquil journey in a mokoro. On the mystical Makgadikgadi, San Bushmen walks and meerkat interactions are bonuses to the surreal experience of riding as the sun sets behind you, while the sky slowly shifts to darkness with only the light of the stars, moon and your distant campfire to guide your way. The pans also make an ideal natural racetrack for those that wish to go full blast! We recommend advanced riders who are prepared to spend up to six hours in the saddle a day, to join horseback safaris in Botswana.
NamibiaExpect thrilling and challenging rides through Namibia’s wide and varying terrains, covering up to 350 kilometres of inimitable landscapes in ten days. A multi-day horseback safari in Namibia, while soul-nourishing is not for the faint-hearted. Ride within the world’s oldest desert to the dramatic Atlantic coastline - the contrasting scenery will take your breath away. In harsh desert conditions, you may encounter elephants, rhinos, oryx and even lions, all of which have adapted to this inhospitable environment. Due to the severe nature of the Namibian climate, horseback safaris are usually scheduled in the cooler winter months between May and October.
South AfricaThere are more riding safaris and holidays in South Africa than anywhere else on the continent. The country has such a diversity of scenery and offers a wide variety of rides, horses, guiding and accommodation. Riding in big game areas is typically restricted to experienced riders but there are plenty of trail rides for less experienced riders. Cape Town and its stunning beaches and neighbouring Cape Winelands are home to several riding outfits that offer shorter rides of one to two hours.
Riding safaris are a great way to experience Africa's incredible wildlife, stunning scenery, rich culture and warm hospitality. Most countries will have riding companies, with horseback excursions varying from a few hours suitable for all levels to several days out on the trail for the keen equestrian.