Riding safaris is probably one of the most popular activities for people who are fond of wildlife sightseeing. Since Kenya is known for its wildlife and is the home of several national parks and reserves, riding safaris is one activity that they offer. It is one of its major tourism activities.
These safaris typically involve riding on horseback or camelback. This allows tourists to have a unique and close-up view of the wildlife and scenery. Riding a safari is a great way to explore the wilderness and get a different perspective on the natural beauty of Kenya.
History of Horseback Safari riding in Kenya
Horseback safari riding in Kenya has a long and rich history, dating back to the early 20th century when European settlers first brought horses to the country. These settlers used horses to explore the vast and rugged terrain of Kenya, including the famous Maasai Mara, where they would go on hunting expeditions. As tourism in Kenya began to grow in the latter half of the 20th century, horseback safaris became a popular way for visitors to experience the country’s wildlife and landscapes.
The Maasai people, who have lived in the region for centuries, have a deep connection with horses and have traditionally used them in pastoral activities. With the growth of tourism, many Maasai have started to offer horseback safari riding as a way to show visitors the beauty of their land, the wildlife, and their culture.
Today, horseback safaris are offered by a variety of operators, ranging from small family-run businesses to large tour companies, and they are popular among both experienced riders and those who have never been on horseback before. Horseback safaris offer a unique and immersive way to experience the country’s wildlife and landscapes and provide an opportunity to learn about the culture and history of the Maasai people.
Who are the Maasai people?
The Maasai people are a semi-nomadic ethnic group that lives in Kenya and Tanzania. They are primarily known for their distinctive way of life, customs, and traditional clothing (made from brightly colored fabric paired with distinctive ornaments made from beads), which have remained relatively unchanged for centuries. The Maasai people relied on cattle, sheep, and goats as their primary source of livelihood. They are also known for their distinctive customs, such as the practice of “jumping” or “eunoto” which is a rite of passage for young men.
Maasai are also known for their close connection to the land, which is of great spiritual and cultural importance to them. They play a very important role in the conservation of wildlife and their culture is tightly connected to the wildlife and land they live on. While many Maasai continue to live a traditional way of life, others are increasingly engaging in modern activities such as education, wage labor, and small-scale agriculture. The Maasai people are a proud and resilient community, and their culture continues to be an important part of the fabric of Kenya and Tanzania.
Other Modes of Safari Riding
Horseback safari riding in Kenya has expanded to include other modes of transportation as a result of several improvements. The types of vehicles used for safari riding in Kenya vary depending on the terrain and the type of safari. These include:
Safari-goers can take a drive in a 4×4 vehicle to see wildlife in national parks and reserves. The vehicles used in game drives are equipped with high clearance and four-wheel drive to navigate rough terrain, and they often have an open top or removable roof for better wildlife viewing.
Hot-Air Balloon Safaris
Using a hot-air balloon is a unique way to witness the landscape and wildlife from above.
Motorized boats or traditional canoes, known as “dugout canoes” are used to navigate rivers and lakes. Safaris on a boat are used to see wildlife along rivers and lakes, such as the Mara River in the Maasai Mara.
Walking safaris is another way of witnessing nature but without the use of any vehicle. Visitors can take guided walks through the conservancy to see wildlife and explore the bush on foot and learn about the local flora and fauna. They can either wander by themselves, in a group, or with a tour guide.
Popular places for Riding Safaris in Kenya
Borana Conservancy, a privately owned wildlife conservancy located in Laikipia County, Kenya, is an area of approximately 32,000 acres known for its diverse wildlife, including elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, rhinos, and many other species. The conservancy is also home to several endangered species, such as the Grevy’s zebra, Jackson’s hartebeest, and the critically endangered black rhino.
Horseback safari riding is one of the main activities offered at Borona Conservancy. Through guided horseback safari rides, visitors are taken on a journey through the conservancy’s diverse landscapes, including open savannah, forest, and wetlands. Experienced guides, who provide insights into the conservancy’s wildlife, ecology, and conservation efforts, lead the horseback safari rides. Several accommodation options, including luxury tented camps and lodges, are offered by the conservatory to give tourists a comfortable and authentic safari experience.
In terms of conservation and community development, the conservancy operates several projects and initiatives to protect and conserve wildlife. This development includes the protection of endangered species, anti-poaching efforts, and community conservation programs. The Conservancy also supports local communities through education and training programs, as well as by providing employment opportunities.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 90,000-acre private wildlife conservancy also located in Laikipia County. It is considered one of the most important wildlife conservancies in East Africa, known for its high density of large mammals and diverse wildlife. This conservancy is known also for having the only chimpanzee sanctuary in East Africa, where visitors can see and learn about these intelligent primates. Just like the first conservancy, Ol Pejeta also has several ventures to preserve wildlife and endangered species.
The Laikipia Plateau is a region in central Kenya that covers an area of around 9,500 square kilometers. It is situated to the north of Mount Kenya and stretches from the Aberdare Mountains in the west to the edge of the Great Rift Valley in the east. The region is known for its diverse landscapes, which include forests, grasslands, and deserts, as well as its diverse wildlife. The plateau is also a popular destination for adventure tourism, such as hiking, climbing, and hot-air balloon rides.
It is home to a number of different communities, including the Maasai, Kikuyu, and Samburu, who have lived in the region for centuries. The region is also home to many privately owned ranches and conservancies, such as Sosian Ranch, Solio Ranch, and the Mount Kenya Safari Club. Visitors can take part in conservation efforts and support the local communities.
Mount Kenya Safari Club
The Mount Kenya Safari Club is a luxury hotel and resort located in the foothills of Mount Kenya (the highest mountain in Kenya). The resort is situated in the town of Nanyuki, north of the capital city, Nairobi. The resort offers a variety of accommodations, including villas, cottages, and suites, all of which are designed to provide guests with a comfortable and luxurious stay.
It also has a variety of facilities, such as a swimming pool, tennis court, and fitness center. The resort also has a spa and salon for guests to relax and pamper themselves. Additionally, the resort has a variety of dining options, including an open-air restaurant, a bar, and a tea terrace.
Mount Kenya Safari Club is branded for its exclusivity and luxury. It is a popular choice for celebrities, politicians, and wealthy travelers. It also has a reputation for its high-end service and is widely regarded as one of the best places to stay in the region.
Sosian Ranch is a privately owned ranch located in Laikipia County, that covers an area of approximately 24,000 acres. Sosian Ranch is home to a variety of wildlife, including zebras, giraffes, antelopes, and elephants, as well as many species of birds. The ranch is also used for cattle and sheep farming. It also provides accommodation and facilities for visitors, including luxury lodges, cottages, and campsites. If tourists wanted to roam around, the ranch offers cultural visits to local communities.
Solio Ranch is another privately owned wildlife conservancy and ranch located in Laikipia County with an area of around 17,500 acres. It is a popular safari, eco-tourism, and nature lover destination due to its exclusivity, luxury, and ability to provide an authentic wilderness experience.
Solio Ranch as a part of the Laikipia Plateau, portrays varied wildlife and scenic landscapes. The ranch is home to one of the largest populations of black rhinos in Kenya and works with conservation organizations to protect and preserve these and other endangered species. The ranch is also dynamically involved in reforestation and soil conservation, as well as community development programs.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a private wildlife conservancy located in northern Kenya, covering an area of about 62,000 acres. It is not only popular for horseback safari riding but is also known for being a pioneer in community conservation programs and for its long-term community development initiatives. The Conservancy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the most successful community-based conservation initiatives in Africa.
Maasai Mara National Reserve
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a national park located in southwestern Kenya, near the border with Tanzania. It covers an area of approximately 1,510 square kilometers and is considered one of the most famous and popular game reserves in Africa. The reserve is named after the Maasai people, who have lived in the region for centuries, and the Mara River, which runs through the reserve.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is also famous for its annual wildebeest migration, where thousands of wildebeest and zebras migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in search of greener pastures. This migration is an unbelievable natural spectacle, that draws visitors from all over the world to witness the incredible event.
Aside from safari riding, there are a variety of activities for visitors, including game drives, hot-air balloon rides, cultural visits to local Maasai communities, and even fly camping. The reserve has a wide range of accommodation options to choose from, including luxury lodges, tented camps, and budget-friendly options.
Samburu National Reserve
Samburu National Reserve is a national park located in the northern region of Kenya, near the town of Maralal. It covers an area of around 165 square kilometers and is situated along the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro River. It is approximately 350 kilometers from the Nairobi. The park is home to the semi-nomadic Samburu people, who have a rich cultural heritage and traditional way of life. The reserve is particularly known for its rare and endangered species, such as Grevy’s Zebra, Beisa Oryx, and Reticulated Giraffe. The reserve is also home to the “big five” animals (lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, and rhinos). Visitors can take part in game drives, guided walks, and also enjoy a cultural visit to the local Samburu communities.
Other Activities that can be Enjoyed Aside from Riding Safaris in Kenya
Not all the places mentioned above may offer horseback safari riding at all times, and availability may vary depending on the time of year and other factors. Tourists are advised to check with the specific location and/or tour operator for the most up-to-date information. If safari riding in any mode of transportation is unavailable, here are other activities that visitors can enjoy:
Visitors can take part in visits to Maasai villages to learn about the culture and way of life of the local people.
Visitors can enjoy a sundowner at camps, an activity that consists of enjoying a drink while the sunset, usually in savannah or other wild settings.
Kenya has a wide variety of bird species that visitors will witness.
Water-based activities such as boat rides, fishing, and snorkeling in the Indian Ocean can also be enjoyed.
Safari riding is one activity popular and widely offered tourism activity in Kenya. These safaris typically take place in the country’s national parks and game reserves. Visitors can go safari riding with any mode of transportation they would like to use. These types of safaris are offered by multiple tour operators and can vary in terms of duration and specific itinerary. Tourists can see a variety of wildlife, including elephants, lions, and zebras, as well as a variety of plants.