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By Izzy 01 December 2019

The ultimate horse-riding safari: Offbeat Riding Safaris

YZ expert Izzy enjoyed an 8-day adventure with Offbeat Riding Safaris in the Maasai Mara. Here, she describes what a horse-riding safari is like with this day-by-day description:

Day 1 with Offbeat Riding Safaris

My horse-riding adventure with Offbeat Riding Safaris started with a short flight from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to the Maasai Mara, where I met the group with whom I would be spending the next week riding. We had a short game drive to camp, ready for a delicious lunch. On our game drive, we came across a herd of over 200 buffalo with lots of babies.

Our first ride was in the afternoon, so we got to meet all the horses! I was riding a fiery chestnut mare called Ginny, who had a great jump on her. On the first fallen tree jump of the holiday, she decided to jump it about three times higher than it actually was! But don’t worry – Offbeat also has a selection of quieter horses for those who’d prefer. We managed to find the big herd of buffalo that we’d seen on our drive over, and they were all very interested in the horses (just like cows!).

Our camp was based on the banks of the Mara river, which was beautiful. No one needed an alarm clock the next morning, as the hippos made sure everyone was awake with all their grunting.

Day 2 with Offbeat Riding Safaris

Today we did our first river crossing! I was riding a chestnut gelding called Sporan, who is a part-time eventer and part-time safari horse. He absolutely loved jumping over fallen trees and was one of the best jumpers on the trip.

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The first river crossing on horse back

As we walked down a rocky slope to the river, we could see that two hippos were blocking our path. Our guide Archie rode to the edge of the river and cracked the bull whip to try to scare the hippos out. They didn’t even flinch. He cracked it again, but there was still no response from the hippos. Archie got off his horse and started throwing rocks to make a splash in the water just in front of them. Still the hippos didn’t move. It wasn’t looking great for the crossing. So Archie then crossed the river, slightly downstream from the hippos, and eventually managed to persuade the hippos to move farther upstream. We all began to cross the river and the hippos stayed put, watching us from their new spot.

We went out for a lunchtime game drive in between our rides. Our Maasai spotter Netty noticed something in the distance and told Archie, who quickly drove over to the spot. When we got there, we saw two lionesses walking through the long grass looking for a spot to lie in the shade. When we looked closer, we saw two very young (about 4 weeks old) lion cubs! We sat and watched them as they played, running in and out of the shrubs.

Day 3 with Offbeat Riding Safaris

The next day, I was on a different horse. This time it was Tomahawk – he was a coloured gelding, speedy, a bit spooky, but loved jumping. Day 3 was the first moving camp day! This involved around 5 hours of riding, with a lunchbreak and afternoon nap under a tree in the middle of the ride.

After a long canter across open plains, we saw our first elephants of the trip! We kept our distance and watched a couple of adults and several young ones. One of the mothers, however, was not happy with us being there. Our guide noticed, so we started walking away. But the mother elephant was walking towards us. We kept walking, but suddenly we heard the elephant trumpet and then she was running towards us. Our horses spooked and cantered off away from the elephant. Luckily the elephant stopped charging us (it was just a mock charge), and we all caught our breath and had a nervous laugh together before carrying on to our lunch spot.

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A beautiful lunch spot

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Izzy with Tomahawk

We took lunch in a beautiful spot amidst trees, which was perfect for an after-lunch siesta in the shade. Afterwards, we started the climb up to the top of the escarpment where our camp was. It was a steep climb, but the views on the way up were incredible!

Day 4 with Offbeat Riding Safaris

I got up early on the morning of Day 4 to have my coffee while watching the sun rise at the top of the escarpment. It was absolutely beautiful with all the hot air balloons taking off! I was riding a chestnut gelding called Mars – a polo pony, who was the most perfect gentleman especially in canter. Not so good at standing still, he always liked to be on the move.

Again, this was a moving day. It started with a steep rocky climb down the escarpment. The horses were all very sure-footed.

We rode through the long-grassed Mara Triangle, dodging the elephants. Fortunately, these elephants all moved out of our way when they saw us coming, so we didn’t have a repeat of the day before!

We crossed the river for the last time, which was our deepest crossing. Just before we walked down to the river, we saw a huge croc rush into the water just a little bit upstream. Our third camp was based in a little patch of woodland near a small stream that attracted a whole variety of birds – one particular bird liked to look at itself in the small mirror hanging on the outside of my tent.

We had a short game drive when we got back from our ride and came across first a cheetah mother with her three adult cubs, and then two adult male cheetahs. Pretty incredible! It’s nice to have the chance to go on a game drive, as you can get closer to wildlife in the car compared with on horseback.

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Day 5 with Offbeat Riding Safaris

Today, we split our day with a morning and afternoon ride. In the morning, I was back on Tomahawk. When we got back, a few of us decided to have a go at jumping the breakfast table! We practised with a smaller side table and decided to try the actual breakfast table another time.

At first I couldn’t get Tomahawk to go anyway near the table, as he thought the tablecloth was the scariest thing he had ever seen! However, once I had cantered him towards it, he locked on and absolutely flew over it.

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Izzy and Tomahawk jumping the breakfast table

For the afternoon, I was on Mars again. We had lots of beautiful long canters over open plains. After our ride we had a short walk, watching zebra and hyena, up to a sundowner spot! We then spotted an elephant in the distance, so we quickly got in the car to go get a closer look. We then had a short night drive back to camp, where we came across a lone male lion roaring.

Day 6 with Offbeat Riding Safaris

Today was the longest moving day! We spent 7 hours in the saddle and covered over 45 kilometres. We had both our breakfast and lunch out in the bush. Luckily there was a breeze, which made it much easier. It was a long and tiring day.

As we got closer to our next camp, the number of wildebeest just grew and grew! We had some incredible canters with wildebeest running along in front of us.

Our fourth (and final) camp was probably my favourite out of all the camps. It was based on an open stretch of grass with woodland behind our tents, meaning all the tents were very well spaced out.

Day 7 with Offbeat Riding Safaris

As we’d had a long day yesterday, we had a chilled morning ride, where we came across an amazing number of wildebeest and then gave the horses the afternoon off and went for a walk. We climbed up a hill to enjoy incredible views at the top. After we had climbed back down the hill, we met the car and had a quick sundowner before driving back to camp.

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After dinner, we all piled into the car and went for a night drive, all set with a glass of Amarula! We came across a pride of lions with two adults, two older cubs, and two younger cubs.

Day 8 with Offbeat Riding Safaris

Leaving day. We had our final morning ride, which involved lots of jumping fallen trees. We managed to find the most perfect striding for a fallen tree bounce! We went to look for the lions we had come across on our night drive the night before. Luckily, three of them were in the same place where we had seen them! We sat watching the two older cubs, who in turn sat watching us. Then the mother appeared. She crouched low in the ground and started stalking towards us. We decided that this was the time to make a move. We kept walking away and she kept following! We broke into a trot and then came across a lone bull elephant. Luckily the elephant moved on and the lion stopped stalking us. An eventful morning ride!

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The stalking lioness

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A group photo

As it was our last day, we decided to jump the proper breakfast table. We kept all the cutlery, cereals, and spreads on it, and had two people sitting either end of the table. As it was quite breezy the tablecloth was flapping a lot, plus the horses were all super-excited (they remembered jumping it the last time). The proper table looked quite big and very wide! I was starting to doubt whether Tomahawk would jump it, especially as only three other horses were jumping it, all of which were eventers in their spare time (Tomahawk wasn’t, as he apparently got stage fright at shows).

I needn’t have worried as he just flew over it! And in my opinion, I think he jumped it the best (I could be a little biased, though). A great way to end the whole trip. We were dropped off at the airstrip and said an emotional goodbye to everyone (especially the horses)! It really was the trip of a lifetime.

If you are interested in a horse-riding safari or visiting Kenya, why not contact our experts here? Alternatively, do take a look below for more inspiration: