Safari goers watch a wildebeest herd on a horseback safari at Simalaha Wildlife Conservancy in Zambia.

Go on an African Horse Safari

Imagine being out in the wilds of Africa, away from the sound of engines and far from any roads. You see a herd of zebras in the distance and move toward them at a gentle gait—not on your own feet, but carried by a horse who knows the savanna and is comfortable helping you explore it.

From this high vantage point, you look down at the waving grass and spot a small gazelle. The gazelle continues grazing, unconcerned by the presence of another herbivore—your horse. The zebras seem not to care, either, content to let you watch as their foals gambol playfully in the grass.

A horse safari is a classic way to see Africa. It immerses you in the wild, giving you a true sense of connection to your surroundings.

Preparing for a Horse Safari

Whether you are an experienced rider or a total beginner, options abound for exploring Africa by horse.

Many places offer short excursions for beginner and novice riders. A single outing by horse can offer a totally different perspective on the landscape and wildlife. For this type of outing, you don’t need to pack special clothes or do a lot of advance preparation. Your guide will give you instructions on handling the horse and provide anything you might need. 

Intermediate and advanced riders have the option of multi-day safaris that take place completely on horseback, or include a mix of horseback, game drives, and even canoe trips and boat cruises. Multi-day horse safaris may be based at a lodge, allowing you to explore a different nearby area each day. Or you can go on a point-to-point safari, starting at one location and stopping each night at a different lodge or campsite on your way to your final destination.

For these more intensive horse safaris, you will answer questions about your experience with horses and your comfort level with riding prior to embarking on your safari. Your lodge or guide will match you with a horse based on your answers, then take you out on a short ride your first day to see how well you work together. If you’re not comfortable with the horse, you’ll be paired with on that is more suitable.

More experienced riders will want to pack their own riding clothing, such as chaps, gloves, boots, and riding hat or helmet.

Riders explore South Africa’s coast by horse.

Horse Safari Safety

Reputable lodges and guides put safety first on any horse safari. They allow beginners and novices to ride in areas free of large predators and other potentially dangerous animals. Depending on the area, beginners and novices may expect to see safari animals such as zebras, antelopes, giraffes, jackals, and birds galore.

If you want to ride in areas where lions or elephants roam, you need advanced riding skills. You should be able to guide your horse confidently even in stressful situations and know how to maneuver away quickly when necessary.

You’ll probably never have to use these defensive riding abilities—riding guides know the landscape and how to avoid dangerous situations. They will let you know how to behave around larger animals and how to keep a safe distance, allowing you to watch these magnificent creatures openly and safely.

And, of course, riding guides are equipped with emergency equipment such as radios, medical kits, and bull whips. The bull whips are not used on animals. Rather, they emit a loud crackle when snapped into the air. This sounds like a gunshot and scares away predators in emergencies.

Where to Go on a Horse Safari

Horse safaris are available in a few national parks in Africa. But most parks limit this activity, so horse safaris frequently take place on private reserves—natural areas that are maintained by a private owner, non-profit, or tribal or community groups. These reserves are often adjacent to famous national parks, and wild animals roam freely between the parks and private reserves.

Darley Newman of the public television show Equitrekking works with her horse while on a horseback safari of Botswana. Photo by Visite Botswana.

Botswana

Two popular destinations in Botswana for horse safaris include the Okavango Delta and the Tuli Block.

The Okavango Delta  is a huge oasis in the middle of the Kalahari Desert with abundant wildlife. A multi-day horse safari allows you to see a variety of landscapes and animals.

The Tuli Block, also know as Northern Tuli Game Reserve , is a collection of private game reserves along the Limpopo River in eastern Botswana. It has a beautiful rocky landscape and an enormous elephant population, and is replete with trails that accommodate both riders and bicyclists.

Riders explore the foothills of Mount Kenya. Photo by Alidin Hussein.

Kenya

The Masai Mara in southern Kenya is a dream destination for advanced horse riders. This area is an important rest stop on the Great Wildebeest Migration  and home to the Big Five.

Do you enjoy dramatic mountain scenery? Laikipia County in central Kenya is perfect for you. Despite being right on the equator, it has pleasant weather most of the year thanks to its higher altitude in the foothills of Mount Kenya. Many private reserves are located here, providing riding opportunities for all skill levels.

In northern Kenya, we recommend a horse safari at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which has played a critical role in saving Kenya’s white rhinos from extinction. This conservancy is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to more than seventy mammal species (including the Big Five) and 350 bird species.

Caption: A horse and rider enjoy wading in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique. Photo by Frontier International.

Mozambique

Southern Mozambique offers two wonderful locations for horse safaris: Vilankulo on the mainland, and Benguerra Island in the Bazaruto Archipelago. This area is ideal for beach safaris. In Vilankulo, the focus is exploring the beautiful coastal scenery, visiting local fishing villages, and heading inland to trot along rivers and lakes to view abundant bird life. Despite being only seven miles long and three-and-a-half miles wide, Benguerra Island is home to beaches, forests, savanna, and freshwater lakes.

Desert Homestead Lodge on the edge of the Namib Desert offers overnight horse safaris through the Namib Tsaris Conservancy. Photo courtesy of Desert Homestead.

Namibia

The most arid country in southern Africa, Namibia offers stunning desert landscapes to explore by horse.

With its beautiful rock formations and wealth of prehistoric art, Damaraland is ideal for exploration. The region is also home to fascinating desert-adapted animals, including desert-adapted elephants, lions, and rhinos.

On the Khomas Highland plateau outside the capital city of Windhoek, explore the rolling green hills and arid savannas while looking for giraffes, kudus, wildebeest, and perhaps a leopard or cheetah.

The red dunes of the Namib Desert are truly breathtaking, and exploring it by horse at a slower pace is a perfect way to keep attuned to Namibia’s Little 5 safari animals. At the Namib Tsaris Conservancy, which is at the edge of the desert near the Naukluft Mountains, you may also see oryxes (aka gemsboks), springboks, zebras, jackals, and bat-eared foxes.

Park visitors enjoy a horse ride through Golden Gate Highlands National Park in South Africa.

South Africa

Horse riding opportunities for novices abound in South Africa, including in the Cape Winelands region and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site that is home to hippos and astounding bird life.

Two national parks that accommodate horse riding are Table Mountain in Cape Town and Golden Gate Highlands National Park in Free State. Golden Gate Highlands is noted for its dramatic sandstone cliffs, and is home to large grazers such as elands, zebras, blesboks, black and wildebeest, rare birds like bearded vultures and bald ibises, and the sungazer lizard, a threatened species that is also known as the giant dragon lizard for its heavily armored appearance.

The Waterberg region in Limpopo Province centers on a giant massif ranging from 600 meters to 2,000 meters high. With marshes, savanna, and deciduous forest, it attracts giraffes, white rhinos, warthogs, blue wildebeests, and antelope such as impalas, kudus, and klipspringers. Lodges here offer multi-day horse riding safaris for intermediate to advanced riders.

Flamingos are plentiful at Lake Natron, a popular Tanzanian destination for horse safaris. Photo by Christoph Strässler.

Tanzania

Tanzania allows horse riding in some of its national parks. Arusha National Park is a great option teeming with wildlife. The park is relatively small but covers many ecosystems, and can be well-explored over the course of a few days of riding. Day rides are also a possibility here.

Lake Natron, a pink soda lake that is the only breeding ground in East Africa for lesser flamingos, offers a beautiful backdrop for a horse safari. The wildlife is sparser here, but the scenery is outstanding. And the sight of so many flamingos during breeding season is truly breathtaking. Nearby is Ol Doinyo Lengai, the only active volcano in Tanzania. Take a nighttime hike to see the lava that bubbles inside.

And, of course, there is the famous Serengeti ecosystem to explore. We suggest timing your horse safari in the Serengeti region to coincide with the Great Wildebeest Migration.

The Nile River is the most popular spot for horse safaris in Uganda. Photo by Venture Uganda Travel.

Uganda

Horse safaris are less common in Uganda. But one place you can experience Uganda’s beauty by horse is Jinja, a town close to the source of the Nile River that is known as the Adventure Capital of East Africa. Here, you can take a short morning, afternoon, or sunset ride along the river. Or you can opt for a multi-day ride that takes you through tea plantations and Mabira Forest, home to nine species of primates.

A horseback rider gets an excellent view of a herd of giraffes on a horseback safari at Simalaha Wildlife Conservancy in Zambia.

Zambia

With Chobe National Park to the south and Kafue National Park to the north, Simalaha Wildlife Conservancy is part of the Kaza Transfrontier Conservation area stretching out across Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. This is the largest transfrontier conservation Area in the world, and it protects important wildlife migration routes. On a horse safari here, you may see wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, Cape buffalos, and antelopes like lechwes, puku, impala, and waterbuck. Because there are no predators in the area and the flood plains are so flat, it makes for amazing riding terrain.

For novices, a short ride along the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls is a wonderful option. Day-long rides, which start at Chundukwa River Lodge, can be arranged for more experienced riders. Expect to see beautiful scenery, butterflies, hippos, antelopes, small mammals like mongooses and vervet monkeys, and perhaps an elephant or two!

Zimbabwe

As in Zambia, you can find excellent horse-riding opportunities on the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, particularly in the Stanley and Livingstone Private Game Reserve. Situated between Victoria Falls National Park and Zambezi National Park, this reserve offers riders a chance to see the Big Five for novices are three hours, with longer rides (including multi-day options) for experienced riders.

Horse safari at River Crossing Lodge on the Khomas Highland plateau, Namibia. Photo by John Faul.

Plan your dream safari

Ready to explore your options for a horse safari? Ujuzi can help you plan your trip on horseback—or by water, safari vehicle, or even hot air balloon. Check out the other activities you can include on your safari, and contact us to make your travel dreams come true.

 

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