Now that travel restrictions are beginning to lift and people are thinking forward to trips they would like to take, one not to be missed is a horseback safari — it’s the next big thing!
By Isabel Juby
Why is Horse Safari the Next Big Thing?
In a world where travel is becoming increasingly accessible and tourism is on the rise, travelers are seeking more; they want unique, authentic and remote adventures. Set in some of the last true wildernesses on earth, horseback safaris provide just that. You will struggle to find a more unique experience than setting out with a group of fellow adventurers, both two and four-legged, and taking on the African bush with its stunning scenery and exciting wildlife.
Before I first discovered the freedom of horse safari, I was lucky enough to have spent a lot of time on safari in Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana. However, up until then, safari had always been from the confines of a vehicle, with the engine running while you take in the wonders around you. This did nothing to stop me from falling in love with the bush, but I always felt like a spectator, without the true connection to what was around me.
The Experience: ‘Safari of Old’
It was in Botswana that I first experienced a ‘safari of old’: wildlife without the engine. It is hard to explain the burst of excitement that sweeps through you as you swing your leg into the saddle and ride out of camp, just as the sun is rising over the horizon. What will you see today? Where will your guides and faithful steed take you? You drink in the stillness of an African morning, excited for a day of adventure. The golden light shining through the grasses and the birds partaking in the dawn chorus.
There is nothing that quite gets the heart going like creeping up to a group of elephants drinking, with only the soft hooves of the horses to interrupt your appreciation of the game. Cantering over the brough of a hill to see a group of zebras grazing, quickly to find them take up the pace and start cantering alongside you – they’re not going to be left behind for whatever you must be ‘running from!’ Or even feeling the adrenaline that courses through your veins as you see a lion casually slinking across the horizon, watching you and the horses.
Horseback safaris are growing in popularity as more and more people are seeking adventure and activity holidays. For many, gone are the days of simply wanting to lie on the beach. Travelers want to end each day with that beautifully exhausted feeling only achieved after a day of activity. A day spent in the saddle, cantering across jaw-dropping landscapes and breathing in Africa’s wonderfully clean air. The feeling of contentment as you sit round the campfire, sipping your first (or third) G&T or tucking into a delicious alfresco dinner, are amplified – you’ve earned them. Everything you have experienced that day has been thanks to your own adventuring – and of course that of your four-legged friend! It is that feeling of accomplishment, teamed with spectacular scenery, incredible wildlife and thrilling adventure, that really makes horse safari an unparalleled experience.
Aside from being by far the most fun method of horse-powered travel (although maybe we’re a little bias!), traveling on horseback also has a low environmental impact. Traversing vast expanses of land with the wind in your hair, not because you’re trundling along at 30kmp, but because you’re cantering along, weaving in and out of the scrub. Your horse is the ultimate off-road transport, allowing you to step off the well-worn dirt roads and into the undergrowth, without leaving harmful tire tracks behind.
Riding through these pristine areas helps provide a reason to conserve them. With each guest that takes on such an adventure, revenue is brought into these stunning landscapes, helping to protect them and the wildlife that calls them home. Our horse safaris range in levels of simplicity, from a luxury tented-camp to a cosy camp-bed stretcher set out under the stars. All of them play a huge roll in conserving the environment through which you ride.
There is a horse safari experience out there to suit everyone. Whether you are a solo adventurer looking to set out on a daring adventure into the unknown or an active family looking for a fun-filled holiday, Africa will deliver. Saddle up for your romantic escape, friends getaway or mother-daughter adventure. Not only are there horse safari experiences to suit all types of traveller, but also there are experiences that suit a range of riding abilities. The trails that take you through areas where you can come across what we call ‘potentially dangerous game’ – lions, elephants and buffaloes – require a high level of riding experience. You need to be able to react to situations quickly, and even gallop out of trouble if needed.
For less experienced riders and younger families, there are several incredible lodge-based options. These are set in vast game reserves which are home to an abundance of wildlife, but no lions or elephants. Most of our lodge-based trail rides, in reserves or out in the open, can easily cater to non-riding spouses, partners, friends and children. Often even the most avid riders like to have a break from the saddle and enjoy some of the other activities on offer.
Africa is Calling
There is something about Africa that cannot be explained until you have felt its dirt between your toes. There is an indescribable magic, that once you’ve felt it, is hard to let go. It is why your first horse safari, will very likely not be your last. We warn everyone that riding in Africa is one of the hardest drugs going, and an easy addiction to pick up! It is the perhaps the contentment, peace and mindfulness, teamed with the irresistible thrill and taste of adventure that being in the raw wilderness brings. This in itself pulls you back time and time again, but then add horses into the equation, and you’ve got a combination out of this world.
Isabel Juby is the Marketing and Sales Manager at African Horse Safaris, an online agency specializing in horse travel across Africa. When Isabel is not helping riders realize their equestrian and travel dreams, you can find her on a horse somewhere on the African continent. Be in galloping down the polocrosse pitch in Zimbabwe or cantering through the flood plains of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Isabel started African Horse Safaris in May 2016 from a lodge in Zimbabwe, an exciting journey which has led to her traveling and riding in much of Eastern and Southern Africa. Now living in Cape Town, she and her team enjoy long trail rides through the winelands and gallops along the beautiful beaches when not out on safari.
African Horse Safaris focuses on Africa and offers the largest portfolio of expertly guided and unique horse experiences on the market, hand-picked by our safari specialists. We live and breathe Africa and our riding holidays are exciting, vibrant and unforgettable experiences. We are a small, dynamic company, aiming to get others as addicted to Africa as we are! We have ridden on nearly all our rides and love sharing our personal experiences and adventures across the African continent.