Namibia Horse Safaris
Namibia is a technicolour dreamscape, a land of swirling apricot dunes and shimmering white flats, mirages and dust devils, black-faced impala and crimson-breasted shrike. These rides have to be one of the best ways to experience the country’s varied, wild, sometimes harsh but always hauntingly beautiful, desert landscapes. The challenging Namib Desert Ride, a journey of around 350km across the world’s oldest desert, has become renown as one of the toughest riding journeys one can do. It is a genuine adventure, a chance to escape the monotony of everyday life and to get back to basics; participants complete the ride with an incredible sense of achievement.
For those not so sure they will relish such a challenge, there are several other ride itineraries, all providing a remarkable opportunity to explore Namibia’s stark, immense and contrasting landscapes. Most rides are lead by Andrew Gillies who is fast becoming one of Africa’s most sought after riding guides. With many years of experience under his belt, he is knowledgeable, laid-back, charismatic and fun. Telané Greyling, who has lived and worked in Namibia for many years and is an internationally recognised authority on the Wild Horses of the Namib Desert, with an extraordinary knowledge of the southern part of Namibia, also continues as a guide for many safaris. Andrew and Telane make a phenomenal team and are the people to explore Namibia with.
Different ride itineraries are offered from set dates between April and October. Tailor-made rides for groups, with different accommodation options and dates to suit, can also be organised on request.
The horses are mainly crossbreeds that include Arab, Hanoverian, Haflinger and South African Boerped crosses. There are also a few crosses of the rare “wild desert horses” of the Namib Desert. They are small to medium sized, between about 14hh and 16hh, sure-footed, athletic and responsive to ride. Maclellan style saddles are used, most horses are ridden in snaffles and on most rides (not private Wolwedans Lodge Ride) riders are expected to groom and tack up their own horse.
It is generally 5 to 7 hours riding a day, with breaks for rests and lunch (NB some longer days on the Namib Desert Ride). Fitness and experience required varies a little with itinerary but all riders must be confident, comfortable and in control on a horse at all paces (including long trots and canters) when riding with a group over varied, sometimes rough or tricky, terrain. You will need a good level of general fitness for all rides but the longer rides (Namib Desert Ride particularly) are for physically fit, experienced riders. The riding pace depends very much on the itinerary and day’s terrain and temperatures but you can expect chances for long canters on most days and when riding on desert flats, an energetic pace with plenty of opportunities for long canters.
Accommodation varies with the ride itinerary but most include nights in simple camps with dome tents and camp beds. Camps are set up and moved ahead on ahead for you by a back up team and support vehicle. There is limited water when camping in the desert but showers are usually possible. Meals are cooked by the back up team and eaten around the campfire. Other nights (eg in Windhoek) are spent in guesthouses and safari lodges and some nights during rides are in lodges and semi-permanent camps. Rooms at lodges usually have en-suite bathrooms and are clean and comfortable. Semi-permanent camps have walk in East African style tents with proper beds and showers (sometimes shared shower blocks).