Channelling your inner cowboy and heading off on a riding safari in Botswana is one of the ultimate safari experiences, particularly given the variety of truly stunning landscapes available for exploration. It's also an incredible way of getting up close and personal with the game in a way that just isn't possible in a traditional 4x4. You won't just be on a safari, you'll be in it. Botswana is the home of the riding safari and with both the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and Okavango Delta in its safari arsenal, it's not hard to understand why Botswana remains such a popular destination for this style of safari holiday.
Riding Safaris in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
Head out on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans with the legendary David Foot who has 25 years of hair-raising and truly epic experience under his belt. After 20 minutes in the saddle you start to feel like the intrepid missionary explorers that braved this lunar landscape hundreds of years ago. Despite the apparent desolation, there is something eerily beautiful about this vast expanse of salt flat and the further into the pans you venture the more you realise quite how much they teem with life, from big game to beautiful birds. And by god do they make for good gallops - he who dares can give Many Clouds a run for his money! The riding safari starts with three nights in Camp Kalahari - a luxury, permanent camp nestled amongst the acacias and mokolwane palms on the edge of the salt pans. And then you ride out into the middle of the pans for 2 nights' fly camping. One of these nights is spent on bedrolls under the canopy of stars - for kicks imagine you are inside a beach ball and that every star is a pinprick!
Riding Safaris in the Okavango Delta
Holiday envy: no one is immune. And looking at photos of people gallivanting through the water on horseback while you're sitting at a desk is prime holiday envy fodder. Well, just to add lead sulphate to the wound: it's as fun as it looks. The Okavango Delta is renowned for its unparalleled game and seeing it from the saddle is quite honestly one of the most exhilarating experiences a safari enthusiast could hope for; the wildlife is strong and healthy and feels as if it's there for your eyes only. The abundant water makes everything look as like it's in high definition and contrasts wonderfully with the dusky pastel skies of the pans. There are a number of camps to choose from, most of which offer one or two nights' fly camping as well. I stayed at Okavango Horse Safaris which is owned and run by Barney and PJ Bestelink - it appears Africa plays host to a number of equine legends and these two rank high on the list. The camp is a slick operation and guests can rest assured they will be in wonderfully safe hands.
So there you have it, for the very best horseback safaris in Africa, head to Botswana's Makgadikgadi Salt Pans or Okavango Delta. Two completely contrasting landscapes, one incredible safari experience.