You are planning a trip to the south or east of Africa and a safari is on your bucket list. You are surfing the internet and studying the guidebooks in order to find out, what safari tours are the best ones: where you can go to see lots of animals and what game reserve has the most scenic landscapes. But the right question for us is not “where”, but “how”: it really depends on how you explore the game reserves. Saying that – we had great fun and made the most of our time doing safaris on horseback.
The whole idea sounds crazy at first. You might think “I might get eaten together with my horse!” Naturally, the horse safaris are offered in the areas where the predators who are capable of attacking people simply don’t habituate. The big minus is that you won’t have a chance to see the big predators – but the chance of seeing a lion or a cheetah during a car safari is not that high either. But there are zebras and antelopes in abundance.
With this main obstacle solved, there are only advantages to horse safaris.
1. You are exposed to the world around you. This is probably the feeling motorbike riders love their motorbikes for and prefer them over cars.
With a ‘normal’ safari it looks like this: you are stuck in a cramped car for many hours, hitting the roads of a game reserve. You are not allowed to exit the car – also for your own safety. If you don’t live inside a game reserve, you would probably spend some time driving to it, then driving around the game reserve, then driving back to your hotel. A day spent in a car is not my favourite idea of fun on vacations.
2. You are free to go where you would like to. You have a more extensive choice on which roads – or paths – you want to take. Doing safaris in a car you have to follow the roads meant for the cars. Sometimes you spot a sort of traffic jam – then there is probably an elephant, a herd of zebras or a lion on the tree somewhere nearby. You join the group. You twist your head in all directions and try to figure out what everybody is looking at. It actually gets funny when you stop your car just to consult the map and then the other drivers join you thinking you spotted an animal.
3. On a horse, you are much higher up than people sitting in their cars – so you do have a considerable better view. The animals also feel less threatened by approaching horses compared to the noisy cars.
4. Doing horse safaris you get the chance to learn something new and get a new skill – if you have never tried horseriding before. The places that offer horse safaris usually have an understanding for the ‘absolute beginner’ level of the riding skills of their clients. The horses are usually well trained so that they will follow the leading horse and you don’t have to worry about your horse running away into the savanna with you on its back. On the other hand, it was also possible for us to go faster – there were just two of us and a guide during the horse safaris we did in South Africa and Swaziland and we could decide on the tempo.