Riding safaris are an extremely popular and exhilarating way to experience Africa's incredible scenery and wildlife, and little compares to the thrill of cantering alongside graceful giraffe or galloping amongst the great wildebeest migration.
On an African horseback safari it is possible to cover significant distances over remote regions, past that of even some of the sturdiest 4X4 vehicles. Experienced riders can enjoy getting closer to nature as they ride next to herds of game, the horses blending in with their shape and movement. Many riding safari companies offer short half-day rides; however serious equestrians can choose from specialist horse riding safaris lasting days or weeks, fly-camping out under the stars and tacking up at dawn for up to six hours in the saddle.
There are also opportunities to experience a very different way of living in rural Africa. On a farm you will see horses that are a part of the daily routine, being used to muster cattle and for impromptu games of polo. You can choose to ride if you want or just enjoy a different way of life. With some top class horses and guides, and our expert knowledge, there is an African horse riding vacation to suit every need.
Please contact us to discuss your thoughts and ideas and we will start putting ideas together for you.
Aardvark's African riding specialists
Charlie has ridden since he was four, working his way up from a five year old on the lead rein to breaking in young horses in Botswana and playing polo for Scotland. He worked at African Horseback Safaris in Botswana for six months and has also ridden extensively in Kenya, South Africa and Namibia. He describes as his funniest moment one young horse standing its ground to a mock elephant charge, but promptly bolting away from the scary warthogs. Outside of work, his great love of polo means most summer weekends (Scottish weather permitting) are spent playing, while foreign polo trips have seen him play in Argentina, Australia, America, England and Kenya.
John has also ridden extensively throughout Africa, and although a little rusty on a horse these days, he agrees with Alice that riding is one of the best and most exciting ways of seeing game up close. His areas of riding expertise include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya and Malawi.Alice owns two horses and rides on a daily basis. She has a great love for hunting and competing, which she tries to fulfill as often as possible. Alice worked for a riding safari outfitter in Zimbabwe for a year and has ridden in Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, South Africa and Zambia. She described a recent riding holiday in Kenya’s Masai Mara as ‘trip of a life time’ and regards game viewing from horseback as one of the best ways to experience the African bush.
Jo rides whenever she gets the chance (only the logistics of keeping her horse in London prevents her from riding daily) and spent her childhood immersed in the Pony Club and hunting. More recently, she has worked with eventers and race horses. Her African riding experiences include safaris in Kenya, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. Her greatest memories of these trips include galloping with giraffe along grassy plains, swimming through the waters of the Okavango Delta and being mock charged by a white rhino.Francis has been riding since childhood, and has fallen off all over the world. He rides his wife’s eventer at home as often as work permits, and has ridden around the world in countries including Morocco, Australia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana. He reckons that for exhilaration, fast riding in Africa is hard to beat. Riding is also a superb way to get close to big wildlife, and to see the land from a different angle. One of his favourite memories is of sitting on a horse high on the Nyika Plateau in Malawi surrounded by a herd of roan antelope.
Lucinda grew up in the pony club, hunting and eventing and still rides whenever the chance arises. More recently she has helped bring on some young polo ponies. One of her favorite memories of her recent trip to South Africa was riding with white rhino in the Waterberg. She also believes that having the opportunity to be able to see game from horseback is one of the most wonderful things to do, with a sense of freedom that is hard to beat.Charlotte also has three horses, one of which she competes at Riding Club level, while the other is a promising youngster ridden by event rider Harry Meade. Charlotte has ridden extensively on holidays throughout South Africa, Kenya and Namibia, often with her children in tow so is a good person to talk to when planning a family riding trip.
We would be delighted to chat through the different, varied rides and requirements that will help to create the perfect holiday.
Q: I used to ride a lot but haven't done much riding for years, will I be ok?
A: Some riding safaris in Africa are only suitable for experienced and fit riders while others would suit less experienced and “rusty” riders or even people who have never ridden before. With our expertise, we can advise which options will suit your riding ability and requirements.
Q: Is riding in Africa safe?
A: All the camps and lodges that we use are run by experienced guides and horse handlers who put safety first. We do recommend that you are honest about your riding ability and fitness so that you are matched with a horse suited to your abilities. We also recommend, for your own protection, that you wear a riding helmet.
Q: I am an experienced rider and I
don't want to be held back by beginners
A: We can plan riding safaris that are geared to experienced riders. You will ride a well schooled horse and will have the opportunity for plenty of fast riding and many hours in the saddle. Past guests on our riding safaris include international event riders and point to point jockeys, who have all found it an exhilarating experience.
Q: I've been on a riding vacation before and the horses were slow, old, badly treated, (or all of these)
A: We have personally been on all of the rides we offer and have a close relationship with the owners of the camps and lodges, so we know the horses are well cared for. We only offer riding safaris on which the horses are well treated, well fed and well loved. Aardvark Safaris are keen supporters of the International League for the Protection of Horses and take the welfare of horses very seriously. For each destination we can tell you exactly what kind of riding to expect and the breed and size of the horses. Our aim is to find the riding safari that most closely matches your riding ability and requirements, so that you come back with nothing but praise for an enjoyable and exhilarating holiday.
Q: Aren't riding safaris in Africa
A: Not necessarily. A week's riding safari can be no more expensive than an equivalent beach or skiing vacation. The price you pay in the US before you travel will normally include all your internal flights, transfers, accommodation, activities and some drinks, so there will be very few extras on arrival to pay for in Africa.
Q: What about my partner, he/she
A: Charlotte and Alice both have non-horsey husbands and all of our riding specialists have designed safaris that keep both riders and non-riders happy. Some of our rides are suitable for beginners or novices; however if your partner really doesn't want to get on a horse then we can guide you to places where there will be lots of other things to do such as game drives, walking and fishing to name just a few.
Q. Is there a minimum or a
maximum age limit for a riding safari?
A. There is no official minimum or maximum age for any riding safari; however different operators will have different rules. Faster rides generally specify a minimum age of 12. There is no maximum age as long as riders are happy to gallop out of trouble, should it be required. On the quieter rides, the age and proficiency of riders is less critical.
Q. Can we combine a riding
safari as a small part of a longer trip to Africa?
A. Yes, you can do exactly what you want, that's the beauty of a tailor made safari. Try two weeks solid riding with no interruptions; ride for a week and then spend a week on the beach; or just ride once on holiday and see other safari locations and islands in the Indian Ocean. We customize every trip to Africa to your requirements.
Q. There will be a few of us;
can we arrange a private riding trip where we don’t have to be a part of another
A. Private riding safaris are one of the most enjoyable ways of seeing the African wilderness. Private groups of four people or more are very popular and we can advise you to which areas and times of year work best.
Q. Am I safe to travel on my own and
if I do will there be a heavy single supplement?
A. Most of our rides welcome single travelers and there are often other like-minded single travelers on the same trip so you are made to feel very welcome. If you are willing to share accommodation no single supplement is charged.
Q. What sort of tack will be used?
A. Each riding operation uses a combination of tack – you should expect to see English, trail saddles, McClellan saddles and Australian stock saddles. Most horses are ridden in snaffle bridles.
If you are looking for a "once in a lifetime" heart racing, riding safari experience, this is it. The riding safaris vary between 5-7 days depending on vacation you choose. Each safari features thoroughbreds or experienced polo ponies where you can anticipate being in the saddle for about 6-7 hours each day. The excitement never ceases as you swim your horse through a river in the heart of the Okavango Delta, gallop alongside zebra and giraffe, or even experience a mock charge from a young bull elephant. These riding safaris are offered in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa and Namibia.
If you would like something slightly less demanding, medium paced riding safaris may be for you. Able riders and intermediate riders will enjoy exploring the African wilderness, while still experiencing a ride through herds of big game. These riding safaris are perfect for those who are looking to combine game drives or other activities and are offered in Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Malawi and Namibia. You will have a wonderful riding experience on very well trained horses.
Whether you are looking to add some variety to your safari vacation or you are a horse lover who wants to saddle up at least once in Africa, a relaxed riding safari is just as the name suggests. There are plenty of African camps, lodges and ranches that offer riding as an activity to do as frequently as you like. Many of these are suitable for children and are a favorite with families or larger groups where the love of horses is not universal. Most African countries can offer well trained horses for a relaxed ride.
Matching you to the right African riding vacation is dependent on your riding ability. Please follow the helpful guide below so that you can correctly inform us.
Definition of riding ability:
A Beginner rider has limited experience, is unable to post to the trot and does not canter.
A Novice rider is capable of mounting and dismounting unassisted, capable of applying basic aids, comfortable and in control at the walk, moderate length trots and short canters.
An Intermediate rider has a firm seat, is confident and in control at all paces (including 10 minutes of trotting, two-point canters and gallops), but does not ride regularly.
A Strong Intermediate rider is all of the above and is currently riding regularly and is comfortable in the saddle for long hours.
An Advanced rider is all of the above, plus has an independent seat, soft hands and is capable of handling a spirited horse in open country.
Africa is a truly vast continent with many different altitudes and seasons. This means that the weather varies enormously and throughout the year there is somewhere to ride with the warm sunny days most people hope for when on holiday.Because many of the lodges and camps we use are small, space does get limited over busy periods, particularly summer and Christmas holidays. The more notice you can give us, the better chance we will have of arranging your first choice riding safari
January to March
April to June
July to September