David Bristow details unforgettable African adventures and landscapes by horseback, including our Botswana and Victoria Falls Horseback Safari.
Walking is a good way to experience the African bush, but riding a horse is so much easier. If you can ride a horse. You can go so much further than when walking. And you can trot and canter and gallop, splashing through high grass or water like a crazy wild animal, running with herds of antelope, giraffes, zebras, and for a while being one with the wild beasts.
It’s a hard call, but for my money the best place to spend your money on a horse safari is Botswana, where there are two basic options. The first is in the “land of water” that is the Okavango Delta, arguably Africa’s best all-round game destination. This is not an option for people who need pampering, or are as scared of spiders as they are of elephants and lions – because you are likely to see, if not have close encounters with, all of the above. But the thrill of cantering through the waterways where crocodiles and hippos lurk and fish eagles cry to gods unknown in the crystal sky above, is hard to top.
Horse safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana at Macatoo Camp
The other “Bots” option is a dry-land ride in the much drier Limpopo River valley in the southeast corner of the country. Mashatu Game Reserve is famous for its elephants and big cats, but the riding is mostly out on the open bush where you are less likely to become prey. The reserve is named after giant mashatu (or python) trees that line the river courses, but it is the fantastical baobabs that most distinguish this area.
Horse safari in Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana
Arguably the best riding in East Africa is to be done on the plains that abut the Chyulu Hills, which Ernest Hemingway immortalized as the “green hills of Africa”. From Ol Donyo Lodge the vistas sweep across the Amboseli-Tsavo plain all the way to Mount Kilimanjaro which dominates the horizon in the distance. The landscape is highly varied, and the wildlife includes elephants and lions, but mostly you will see giraffes, zebra and eland, as well as some very large tuskers that hang around a waterhole near the lodge.
Spotting elephant on horseback at Ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills, Kenya