“The single most important thing to remember is: never dismount! The wild animals do not distinguish between you and your horse; they just see the horse, recognizable to them as another herd animal, and therefore not a threat.”
This is part of the briefing guests receive before setting out on an Offbeat Horseback Safari deep within the Kenyan African bush. That’s right – as in a safari – on horseback – together in nature with lions, elephants, leopards, hyena, buffalo – and the most dangerous and territorial of all African animals – the hippo.
Just the notion of an African safari makes us think of the award-winning “Out of Africa” film and the romance of sunrise in the bush, hectares of rolling African savannah punctuated by the silhouette of a lone flat top acacia tree, a distant kopje or a herd of slow moving elephants as they traverse the plains. The African bush defies time , change, and evolution; it’s been there since mankind was primitive hunter-gatherers, and it is still there, mother nature pure and unaltered by modern life.
And now it’s possible to experience the African bush up close and personal – from the back of a horse. Started in 1990 by the Voorspuy family, Offbeat Safaris offers guests what we think is one of the ultimate , “must do” riding experiences. To gallop with wild herds of springbok, giraffe and zebra, to graze alongside elephants so close as to hear their digestive juices working, to traverse river beds while keeping an eye out for crocs or lurking hippos, to ride alongside the world-famous wildebeest migration, and to steal up quietly upon a lioness sunning herself while her young cubs tumble and play in the warm sun -these are just some of the wildlife sights riders will see, out in the open without the constraints of a safari vehicle. Riding amongst African game is a life-changing experience.
Group rides with no more than 12 guests, can choose between several itineraries that are between five and ten days in length and feature famous Kenyan locations- the Masai Mara Plains, Amboseli, Laikupia, riding under the shadow of the snow-capped peak of Mt Kilimanjaro, and stopping in traditional Masai tribal villages– such scenes made famous through history and cinema. The riding terrain varies, from traversing rivers, skirting water holes, crossing hills and plains, riders should expect to typically spend five to seven hours per day in the saddle. The pace is fairly advanced, riders are expected to have a good seat and be able to hold their own under all gaits including canter and gallop. Offbeat Safari’s mounts are a combination of thoroughbred and thoroughbred crosses, all highly trained, responsive and forward-going.. By tea time, tired riders will be met by professional camp staff, who set up five star mobile camps complete with sundowner cocktails. fine wines, freshly prepared gourmet food, and hot water African-style bucket baths.
Horse riding experiences are supplemented with an occasional vehicle game drive, and even a foot safari where Offbeat Safari’s excellent Masai local trackers and guides will help guests understand the ecosystem of the African bush. For non- riders, the company organises driving safaris, and those who do not ride can meet their horse riding companions at the nightly campsites.
Nightfall brings a whole new aspect of the bush. Hyena laugh in the night, embers from the camp fires crackle, night birdlife calls resonate, the horses who are tethered nearby nicker and softly call to one another, stars look close enough to touch, a cool breeze ruffles the thicket, and perhaps the roar of a lion will puncture the night.
Kenya offers the quintessential African safari experience, and we urge you to come try a ride on the wild side. Come with us and feel the heartbeat of Africa, and see the ‘Big Five” up close and personal. An African horse safari is a ‘must’ for any equestrian enthusiast. Log on and book now on www.mycavago.com.