Family riding holidays in Africa


Exploring a national park by 4×4 is exhilarating, but doing it on horseback brings with it a whole new level of excitement. Without the growling of an engine you can approach much closer before starting to disturb the game. Horses are not noisy, or invasive. Wild animals are aware of the horses’ presence but completely unconcerned: their smell is familiar and unthreatening. As a rider you have an elevated view of the landscape, and can spot wildlife more easily.  Horse riding also has health benefits which include exercise, core strength, better mental health, and better posture. You’re not putting yourself in danger, you can cover miles of territory per day without getting tired, and your mode of transport is completely eco-friendly! What’s not to enjoy?

Horse riding near giraffe from Ant's Collection

If you’re a beginner in the saddle, you don’t have to worry. Here are some lodges and camps which offer riding experiences for guests of all levels, from complete novices to confident horsemen. The number of hours in the saddle, distance you ride, type of horse, and the level of input from your guide/instructor can all be adjusted depending on your level of skill and confidence.

Curious about where to ride on safari in Africa? Here are three suggestions.

Ant’s Nest, South Africa

Horse riding at Ant’s Nest and its sister property Ant’s Hill is a completely family-friendly affair. There are horses and ponies for riders of every age and ability, all of which are fit, reliable and well-trained. The herd is almost 90 horses strong, so you have plenty of options to choose from! RIding amongst the rhino, zebra, and antelope is unforgettable.

Children riding horseback at Ant's Collection

If you’re a new rider you can have a taste of a riding safari with a half-day session, led by an experienced instructor and guide. Those with more confidence can hack morning and afternoon, and even take multi-day riding safaris. The pace of classes and hacks is adjusted to meet the needs of each individual, and you’ll be encouraged to improve your technique. You can choose between Western and European saddles, and helmets are provided for safety reasons.

Borana Lodge, Kenya

Borana is perched above the forested hills and valleys of a large private game reserve in northern Kenya and shares an unfenced border with the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. This is a stronghold for endangered species such as rhino, elephant and Grevy’s zebra, all of which you can encounter on horseback. Throughout your stay you can set off with highly experienced riding guides, taking each hour as it comes. The wide-open spaces are perfect for cantering and galloping across the hills, rivers, escarpments, pausing for scenic bush stops whenever you please. If you wish to explore out of the saddle, you can also choose to mountain bike, hike and of course, take expertly guided game drives, day and night.

Riding horses in hills of Laikipia near buffalo herd

If you are interested in a longer horseback expedition, you can take one of Borana’s Riding Wild safaris. These nine-day journeys are perfect for the more intrepid equestrian, as each night will be spent in a private fly camp beneath a canopy of stars. Each day is a new adventure as you explore the hills in detail – you will visit hyena dens, hidden rock pools, and discover ancient rock art, all in the company of Borana’s expert horseback guides.

Kujwana Camp, Botswana

The best way to discover Botswana’s Okavango Delta is on horseback: from the saddle you can see over the tops of the grasses and the trees. You’ll spot giraffe, herds of wildebeest and lechwe, and even rhino as you canter through the shallow waters between the delta’s numerous islands.

Riding across the Okavango Delta near red lechwe

Botswana’s watery wilderness is almost impossible to traverse by vehicle as there simply are no roads. Horses are unconcerned about the marshes, confidently striding on. You’ll have a choice of some 60 horses, so there is a mount for every type of rider, and you can gain confidence in the lunging ring before heading out on a bush ride.

A riding safari is an active way to explore Africa, but one which is completely flexible depending on your level of skill, fitness, and interest. If you dream of riding across plains through herds of zebra, or of hacking to the top of the ridge at sunrise, then its time to start planning!

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.

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Comments (9)

  1. Zoe says:

    I know a couple of families for who a riding holiday in Africa would absolutely be heaven on Earth and I’ll forward this. My riding career hasn’t got out of first gear so I’ll leave it to them.

    • Thank you for your comment Zoe and for passing on the article! The beauty of a safari is that there are so many options for activities. If you’re not a rider, many lodges and camps offer activities that you might not expect, such as mountain or quad biking, bush walks, canoeing and boat cruises (location dependent, of course, which are all fabulous other ways to explore.

  2. Lydia Haigh says:

    I like the idea of getting up high so that you can see the landscape without being on a safari vehicle. Most of the bakkies that I’ve been on have been noisy and I’ve worried about their environmental impact. Also you are following a beaten track. Like the idea too of the freedom that horses bring.

  3. Sue says:

    I can see my two teenage horse mad daughters loving this and thinking that it is a holiday of a lifetime. But my son, also teenage, is interested in horsepower of a different type and wouldn’t be seen dead on a horse. Maybe he and his Dad can go off on a petrolheads holiday whilst us girls go and enjoy ourselves.

    • Hello Sue,

      What a lovely experience it would be for you and your daughters to enjoy a riding safari! As for your son and his father, somewhere such as Borana also offers mountain biking which they might find more enjoyable. There are also opportunities to get involved in conservation activities, as well as game drives and bush walks, so there really is something for everyone.

      Best wishes,

      Laura

  4. Jen Scott says:

    I’ve not been horse riding in years but I’ve often thought how nice it would be to do it again. You’re right about the health benefits, it’s good for strengthening and of course you’re getting plenty of fresh air too. It’s certainly an interesting alternative to a 4×4 and I hadn’t really thought of the safety aspect with other wild animals not being threatened or particularly interested in the horses, which is reassuring. Having half day rides, lessons and instructors on hand is likewise reassuring. I think I’d want a little refresher and plenty of pointers to increase my confidence, especially riding around totally new territory. And of course you’ll never go on your own and get lost, you’ll always be in a pack. It must be a real bonding session as you point out it’s a great way to get a different vantage point and experience of the landscape and animals. I’d actually really like to try this!

  5. Sam says:

    I had a girlfriend when I was younger who had her own pony. Her father had a very successful business and bought this large acreage in the countryside… I thought it was a little silly, but after reading this — I can understand that there’s something natural and healthy when getting outside, having a relationship with an animal that trusts you … and you get to ride and maybe see things from a perspective you never had before. Botswana on horseback sounds like one of the best places to do that, with all that natural beauty undisturbed. With a little patience and respect, this the type of trip you’ll remember for a lifetime. Absolutely worth it.

  6. Claire says:

    The Waterberg Game Reserve is definitely on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing Laura. Ant is so passionate about his horses I am tempted to give a horseback safari a try next time I am in SA!

  7. Lane Spence says:

    Wow, I’ve never heard of a safari tour with horses as means of transportation. It’s quite fascinating and a bit daunting to say the least. I was wondering if it’s scary to be that open when in the wild, since you don’t really know how animals would react when people come near them. I’d be willing to try though, if safety is assured. I bet it will be a memorable experience.

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