Perhaps the best way to experience the Okavango Delta, riding safaris have operated in various locations since 1986. In this time they have grown both in number and stature providing excellent safari opportunities
Although the riding component is restricted to those with a fair amount of experience because of safety concerns, other activities can be arranged for non riders. Potential guests should also note that there is a strictly enforced weight limit. The three major operators are Okavango Horse Safaris, African Horseback Safaris and Ride and Walk Botswana.
Okavango Horse Safaris
Started in 1986 by PJ and Barney Bestelink, who still own and run the company, Okavango Horse Safaris’s focus is to give guests a journey through the Okavango Delta. With horses and tack of the highest standard, Okavango Horse Safaris have a string of 60 horses, mainly thoroughbreds, TB crosses, Arabians and American Saddle bred crosses and boerperds. English leather saddles with leather bridles, South African trails saddles are available.
Based in a private concession of over 2500 sq kilometres and utilising three different camps, Okavango Horse Safaris provides an excellent insight into the Okavango Delta animals, birds and their habitat.
Guests can expect a small riding group of up to 8 riders although larger group bookings can be accommodated on request, non-riders are also welcome. Itineraries are built around a 5, 7 or 10 nights with fixed departure dates. Between 4-6 hours are spent in the saddle while afternoons can be spent enjoying alternative activities including swimming, game drives, mokoros (traditional dug out canoe) or walking.
African Horseback Safaris
Established by Sarah Jane Gullick in 1995 and operated by John Sobey African Horseback Safaris is operated out of Macatoo Camp within a 500 000 acre private concession in the Okavango Delta. With a string of of Thoroughbreds, Namibian Hanoverian and Kalahari-Arab crossbreeds that range in size from 14 to 17 hands (140-170cm) African Horseback Safaris offer a choice of English or Trail saddles.
Macatoo Camp provides eight large luxury en-suite safari tents on raised wooden platforms overlooking floodplains. There is also a large well appointed mess tent and discrete swiming pool. In 2013 a tented ‘honeymoon suite’ will be added as well as a friends and family suite.
African Horseback Safaris caters for both riders and non-riders and riding groups will normally be no more than 7 guests per group and riders should be aged 12 and over, and weigh less than 15 stone, 210 lbs or 95kgs. Over this advanced riders can enquire. Four to six hours a day are spent in the saddle therefore riders need to be riding fit and confident with their ability at all paces. African Horseback Safaris cannot take novice or beginner riders.
Non riding spouses, partners, friends and children can enjoy the many alternative activities on offer including game drives, seasonal boating, mokoro and fishing.
Ride and Walk Botswana
Ride and Walk Botswana is based in the Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana and operate out of Motswiri Camp, completely renovated in 2010 to incorporates the latest in comfort and environmental standards. The camp is staffed by an exprienced team with more than 50 years’ experience of hosting low impact safaris in Botswana.
On riding safaris guests can spend their whole safari on a horse or on foot, or to mix the two. Ride and Walk Botswnaa have between twenty and twenty four horses, ranging from Thoroughbreds to Boerperds, Arabs and Kalahari crosses, large to small. All are well schooled, well fed and cared for, well turned out and acclimatised to the area and to the game that you will encounter. A choice of English or trail saddles is offered and rides will not normally comprise more than six riders, and each ride is lead by a guide and accompanied by a back up guide.
With up to six hours per day are spent in the saddle on riding safaris riding fitness is important and riders must be able to rise to the trot, and control their horse at all speeds. Guests may be required to gallop out of trouble and so beginners cannot be accepted. Novice riders are at the company’s discretion, taking their own safety and that of the group as a whole into account.
All riders on riding safaris will be required to complete a Riding Questionnaire, which will enable riders to be matched a horse that will suit. Riders should be aged 12 and over, and not be heavier than 95kgs, 210 lbs or 15 stone. Riders must supply their own well fitted hard hat or helmet.
Within the reserve walking safaris encompass tracking spoors, searching for specific game, bird watching, detailed study of flora and fauna. Groups are small and accompanied by an armed, professional guide who will tailor activities to specific areas of interest. Mekoro and boat trips are also available.
At an additional cost and by prior arrangement, guests at both &Beyond’s Xudum Okavango Delta Lodge and Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp are able to undertake riding excursions. This offers an excellent way to experience this unique safari type and to immerse yourself in the majestic landscapes of the Okavango Delta. These excursions are offered on a half or full day basis.