Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya’s Stunning Wildlife on Horseback
Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Galloping with the Great Migration
There's nothing quite like galloping alongside millions of wildebeest and zebras as they make their annual trek across the Serengeti Plains. This epic migration is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth, and experiencing it on horseback provides an unforgettable up-close perspective.
Riding among these thundering herds, you'll be transported back in time to an era when horses were the primary mode of transport in Africa. Your hardy steed allows you to keep pace with the migration in a way that's impossible in a safari vehicle. You can weave through the masses, getting within just feet of the animals. It's a rush of adrenaline, dust and primal energy that you won't soon forget.
Many riders describe a spiritual connection formed with their horse during the ride. The ability to cover more ground means you can witness the migration's endless river crossings, stalking predators and newborn calves. Your elevated vantage point on horseback also enables you to spot and approach wildlife that vehicles would startle. Leaping across the plains with the freedom of the wind in your hair creates memories to last a lifetime.
Holley and Brian Sorrell, avid horse enthusiasts from Texas, checked riding with the migration off their bucket lists in 2019. They recount, "Galloping alongside thousands of wildebeest and zebras made us feel immersed in the ancient rhythms of Africa. Our surefooted horses carried us right into the heart of the action."
Kentucky native Richmond Sutcliffe echoes similar sentiments after his 2022 horseback migration safari, saying, "I've ridden all my life, but riding through the migration dust was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Being on horseback gave us unbelievable access while still feeling safe."
Safari companies like Offbeat Safaris offer guided migration rides ranging from several hours to multiple days. Their horses are highly trained for riding among wildlife. While previous riding experience is recommended, they can accommodate all skill levels. Travelers with a passion for horses, wildlife and adventure will be hooked from the first gallop.
What else is in this post?
- Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Galloping with the Great Migration
- Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - An Intimate Look at the African Plains
- Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Horses Allow Access to Remote Areas
- Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - See Predators Up Close on a Horse
- Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Connect with Local Cultures on Horseback
- Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Multi-Day Horse Safaris for Total Immersion
- Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Horseback Riding for All Skill Levels
- Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Planning Your Epic Equestrian Adventure
Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - An Intimate Look at the African Plains
Vast expanses of open grassland. Towering acacia trees dotting the horizon. Dust kicking up from thousands of hoofed mammals on the move. This is the iconic African savanna that people dream of experiencing. While many safari-goers relish sighting wildlife from their minivan perch, horseback riding enables a far more intimate look at the landscape.
Swaying atop your saddle puts you right into the environment and its moods. Your senses come alive to the smallest details: the scents of sunbaked earth and wild sage, the ripple of wind through the grasses, the choreography of flapping wings as a flock of guinea fowl takes flight. Riders describe feeling immersed in the natural rhythms and patterns of the land.
Horses grant you access to remote areas beyond the standard tourist routes. Cantering through untouched plains and woodlands, you feel immersed in the wilds. Your elevated vantage provides panoramic views of the sweeping scenery. Riding within a herd of zebras transports you to a place free of engines and modern encumbrances.
Many find that horses provide a deeper connection to the land and wildlife than vehicles can offer. Their relaxed presence calms animals versus startling them. This allows surprisingly close encounters with giraffes, elephants, antelope and more. Horses enable riding right among herd animals like zebra and wildebeest. Adventurers cherish memories of trotting alongside ostriches and having lunch in view of a pride of lions.
Oklahoma teacher Amy Northcraft still gets goosebumps recalling her ride among giraffes in Kenya: "I felt like I was joining their herd. We got so close I could have reached out to touch them." Virginian Kendall Jones says of her horseback safari, "Riding across the plains, I felt a primal connection to the landscape and its inhabitants that can't be matched."
Beyond wildlife, horses reveal insights into local cultures. Extended horse safaris visit traditional Maasai villages where riding is a way of life. Meeting their community on horseback establishes a common bond. Maasai often invite riders to join them trotting with their cattle and goats. These interactions offer a profoundly authentic African experience.
Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Horses Allow Access to Remote Areas
One of the greatest advantages of horseback safaris is the access they provide to remote wilderness areas. Vehicles are restricted to the existing road network, while horses can venture well off the beaten path. This opens up vast swaths of pristine nature ripe for exploring. Riders can penetrate deep into conservation areas and national parks beyond where the jeep safari tourists roam.
Once you leave the vehicle trails, an untouched Africa opens up. Imagine cantering through rolling grasslands and forests where the only sound is the breeze, bird calls and your horse's hoofbeats. These secluded areas offer exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities precisely because they receive little human presence. Expect abundant sightings of plains game like gazelles, zebras and wildebeest grazing peacefully undisturbed.
Rare antelope species like gerenuk and kudu also inhabit these solitary landscapes. Your odds of spotting the more elusive predators like leopard and wild dog soar. Since the animals are unaccustomed to vehicles, horses allow remarkably close approaches on foot. Accomplished riders can even track wildlife across areas vehicles can't traverse, like dense brush and rocky terrain.
Extended horseback safaris allow deeply immersive journeys lasting multiple days through roadless wilderness. Top outfitters provide camping equipment and supplies so nights can be spent under the stars in the African bush. Waking to the haunting call of a fish eagle and exploring untamed landscapes all day from horseback is a wilderness experience like no other.
Travelers seeking the ultimate wildlife viewing flexibility will appreciate horses. On riding safaris, the group isn't bound to the vehicle or confined to proximity of lodging. As John and Amanda Campbell of Australia discovered, "We could ride out at first light before the jeeps left camp and stay out until sundown. Our guide took us wherever we wanted at our own pace. We reached valleys and forests most tourists never see."
Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - See Predators Up Close on a Horse
The thrill of spotting predators on an African safari is unlike anything else. Yet most travelers experience hunts for lions, cheetahs and hyenas confined to a minivan with limited mobility. When prowling predators vanish into the brush, that often concludes the sighting. However, horseback safaris provide a huge advantage for tracking predators and observing hunting behaviors up close.
Horses allow stealthy approaches on predators sleeping or dining since their relaxed presence doesn't trigger alarm like vehicles. Guides ease riders to within just yards of lions, leopards or wild dogs. You'll gain front row views of cubs at play while their parents snooze. At a cheetah's kill site, horses provide prime vantage points over the tall grasses to witness the chase and takedown. Since horses don't disrupt predator activities, you can observe the action for extended periods that vehicles can't match.
The mobility of horseback riding is perfect for keeping pace with hunting carnivores on the move. Galloping after a cheetah at full sprint or trailing a wild dog pack on the hunt channels your inner British adventurer. Horses enable tracking predators into thickets where jeeps can't penetrate, often revealing kills or hidden cubs up close. If predators disappear into the bush, riders can swiftly follow on hoof versus losing sight of the action.
Michael Sheldon, an avid rider from Boston, reflects on an encounter during a horse safari near Kenya's Masai Mara: "A pride of lions took down a wildebeest right in front of us. The horses allowed us to stay right with the lions as they dragged the wildebeest into a thicket to feed. We saw the cubs up close playing tug-of-war with the scraps."
Similarly, Linda Giles from Oregon was thrilled when her guide tracked a leopard on horseback as it pursued an impala into dense brush: "Following on horseback, we were able to stay with the leopard and witness its ambush just feet away. The impala never stood a chance. It's a scene few safari-goers ever get to see."
Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Connect with Local Cultures on Horseback
Beyond wildlife, horseback safaris reveal profound insights into indigenous cultures that jeep tours simply can't match. Riding provides a powerful bridge to connect with local communities in an authentic way that opens sincere dialogues. The shared experience of being on horseback establishes a common ground that dissolves barriers.
When staying in luxury lodges, it's easy for safari-goers to feel detached from local African life. But horses allow you to immerse in it. On rides through Maasai villages, children flock to stroke the horses' manes with joyful fascination. Elders gather to share stories and songs of their ancestral horsemen traditions. The horses attract crowds that welcome visitors to learn about their customs. Riders dismount to join ceremonial dances and sample regional cuisine.
Travelers find these exchanges deeply enriching. As Susan James of Wisconsin described of her village visit: "The horses created an instant kinship with the Maasai that opened their community to us. I gained profound appreciation for their ancient culture."
Similarly, Robert Hill of Vermont told us: "Riding right into a village enabled personal interactions that no jeep tour could match. I got a direct look into Maasai daily life instead of just driving by." He valued dialogues on topics like traditions, family and environmental conservation.
Multi-day horse safaris spend nights camping within communities. Such immersion allows even deeper connections. Joyce Meyers, a Canadian rider, said, "We rode between villages trading stories with the Maasai. In the evenings, they welcomed us to share songs, dances and meals by the fire. It felt like joining their family."
Beyond the Maasai, horses also connect with other tribal groups like the Samburu, Turkana and Pokot. Each welcomes equestrian visitors warmly. Time shared fosters mutual understanding and forges bonds spanning continents.
Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Multi-Day Horse Safaris for Total Immersion
For riders seeking the ultimate African adventure, multi-day horse safaris deliver a profoundly immersive wilderness experience. Spending days traversing roadless landscapes from the saddle fosters an unrivaled connection with the natural environs and wildlife. Every aspect from camping under starlit skies to cantering alongside herds channels your inner explorer.
I spoke with Kentuckian Brad Owens following his seven-day ride across Kenya’s Matthews Range. He described the days merging into a magical dreamscape: “We’d awaken at dawn to ride until sunset with nothing but wildlife all around. Our horses carried us through forests, rivers and savannas far from any jeep trails. Each day peeled back another layer of raw Africa.”
At night, Brad’s group slept under canvas in seclusion. He recalled, “Hearing lions roaring in the darkness reminded us that we were just small specks in this untamed land. I’ve camped all my life but never felt closer to nature.”
Californian Jeanette Murphy embarked on a nine-day horse expedition across the Mara Conservancies bordering Maasai Mara National Reserve: “Covering 30-40 miles daily on horseback gave us this incredible freedom. Every day was totally different – one we tracked a leopard through the morning drizzle, another we swam with our horses in the Mara River surrounded by hippos!”
Extended rides enable far greater ranges and abilities to react to wildlife behaviors. New Zealander Henry Moss told me of a herd of elephants they encountered on a ten-day beach and bush ride: “We were able to follow the herd for hours at a distance that didn’t disturb them. Being on horseback allowed us to move when they moved and observe natural interactions. It was special beyond words.”
On longer safaris, bonds strengthen between riders and horses, with creatures relying on one another. Texan Debbie James said of her 14-day safari across Laikipia: “My horse Dakota and I became an inseparable team. She kept me safe when we encountered buffalo and carried me tirelessly mile after mile. I’ll never forget her spirited personality keeping me smiling all ride long.”
Ultimately, multi-day horse safaris let you live your wildest outdoor dreams. Cyndi Barlow from Australia summed it up after 21 days riding to remote Mount Kenya and back: “I discovered raw wilderness and abundant wildlife but also learned so much about myself. My horse, the guides and wild Kenya itself transformed me forever. I’ll be chasing that magic again!”
Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Horseback Riding for All Skill Levels
Horseback riding safaris cater to all experience levels, so don’t let dreams of an African equestrian escape fade simply because you’re a novice rider. Reputable outfitters like Offbeat Safaris provide extensive training to accommodate every skill set safely. Their horses are highly schooled, calm and accustomed to wildlife, ensuring enjoyable experiences for each guest.
During my conversation with Katie Dunn, an apprehensive first-time rider from Missouri, she recalled the reassurance she received: “The guides patiently worked with me in the arena, then ventured out step-by-step. Even when a zebra herd stampeded near us, my horse stayed cool. By the end of the week, we were galloping freely across the plains!”
New Yorker Susan James had only ridden sporadically at summer camp as a child. Her excitement was matched by some uncertainty about controlling a horse among African wildlife. However, the guides quickly imparted skills through training tailored to her: “Within a couple days, I felt confident trotting and cantering among wildebeest and giraffes. Learning to ride in Africa’s stunning landscapes was life changing.”
By contrast, Virginian Kendall Jones grew up riding horses on her family ranch. Seeking new challenges, she signed on for a seven-day expedition across the Masai Mara: “The canyons and hillsides tested my abilities like never before. I was grateful for my horse’s surefootedness. The guides pushed me just enough beyond my comfort zone while keeping safety the priority.”
Each traveler receives personal assessments to establish their baseline skill, then sets customized goals and plans to achieve them with the guidance of seasoned professionals. Programs accommodate both western and English riding disciplines equally.
Adventurers cherish memories of their riding transformations just as profoundly as the wildlife. Coloradan Peter Stalcup tells of his voyage riding among zebra migrations in Tanzania: “I was a real buckaroo by trip’s end. They had me galloping and even jumping logs like a pro! I can’t wait to show my rancher dad these new skills when I get home."
Saddle Up for a Wild Ride: Discover Kenya's Stunning Wildlife on Horseback - Planning Your Epic Equestrian Adventure
With the endless options for horseback safaris across Africa, planning your epic adventure can feel daunting. However, the exceptional rewards make it well worth the effort. Doing some thoughtful preparation will ensure your expectations are met and all details handled smoothly. Your journey begins long before arriving in Africa.
Connect with an established outfitter like Offbeat Safaris. Their expertise proves invaluable for crafting your ideal custom itinerary. Discuss your riding experience, timeframe, budget, group size and sightseeing priorities. Do you want to join the wildebeest migration, spend nights in villages, focus on predator sightings? This input allows designing a personalized route to match your safari vision.
Prepare for spending extensive time horseback riding by getting in shape beforehand. Riding uses core muscles and inner thighs not exercised regularly in daily life. Some saddle soreness may occur initially as you adjust. Building physical fitness makes long hours riding vastly more pleasurable. If possible, take some preparatory riding lessons, especially if you're a beginner. This allows honing skills in a controlled arena before venturing among African wildlife.
Research required vaccinations for your safari region and schedule appointments accordingly. Entry visas often must be obtained in advance too. Pack appropriate lightweight riding attire, including boots or shoes with heels to prevent feet from sliding through stirrups. Protective sun hats, sunglasses, lightweight pants and long sleeve shirts help guard against the equatorial African sun.
Camera equipment requires special precautions like neck straps, bags and rainsleeves. Outfitters supply camping necessities including tents, sleeping bags and foam pads for multi-day trips. Nonetheless, personal items like flashlights and medication should be packed.
Build additional time into your itinerary to account for potential flight delays or missed connections. Most international flights arrive at Nairobi, so plan to overnight there before commencing your safari. Kenya's high altitude may require a day or two acclimating if coming from sea level. Schedule breaks between riding days since long hours in the saddle prove tiring.