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My African Horseback Safari
By Josh Guin
I never thought I’d be one to ride alongside wild elephants, but recently I was approached by long time student and friend, Robert, about my thoughts of going on a safari. I laughingly said, yeah, that’d be fun, thinking that the opportunity for such a bucket list trip would never arise. But to my surprise, he said, “I’m glad you feel that way because I just won an African Safari on Facebook and I want you to go with me.” He explained that the package would include a horseback safari in South Africa and then another one in Botswana.
Now, I must be honest, I’m a good ole red blooded American cowboy who is very happy staying right here at my ranch in Tennessee. I’d never been overseas in my life and only been on a plane three times. My knowledge of Africa was just what I had seen on TV and the stories were about wildlife that could eat you, or political peril, and on top of that, COVID was running rampant around the world. I just wasn’t sure. But after some persuading, I began getting comfortable with the idea that this would, indeed, be an opportunity I should take. So after some planning, I packed, drove to the airport, and we began the trip of a lifetime. The flight was easy and enjoyable with meals, snacks, comfortable seats for napping, and movies to watch for hours.
When we arrived in South Africa, we were picked up by the driver for the safari lodge and taken straight to Horizon Horseback’s land that spans over thousands of acres. The lodge is made up of a cluster of furnished huts, the main lodge, and the stables. The huts came complete with their own beds (turned daily), furniture, full restroom, and a porch to sit on and watch the Hippos in the nearby lake. We would meet at the main lodge daily for family style meals with other safari riders and the Horizon crew. The stables were like no other with ornate red brick footing, open rail stalls, and the courtyard and outbuildings reminded me of something I’d seen on old western movies.
While I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing at the lodge each day, nothing beat the riding. I was especially pleased that the horses were matched to each rider’s abilities and preferences. Each morning we’d have our prepared breakfast, then make our way to the stables where the staff would have our horses tacked and ready to ride. The riding there at the Savannah Lodge was so different from Tennessee. It was mostly flat where we rode, with a beautiful view of distant hills and valleys. I loved that I could just let my horse run and never run out of land. The animals were plentiful there and we rode beside Zebras, several types of Antelope, Hippos, Ostrich, Giraffe, and so much more. Lunch was served after the morning ride, and then we’d ride again before meeting the staff at a beautifully scenic location to watch the sunset. Afterwards we would head back to the Savannah lodge for an authentic African dinner.
Botswana brought so much adventure for the second half of our safari. Every day we rode for miles, and we cantered more than I ever have. The animals were abundant and included most of the “big five,” like Elephants, Lions, Leopards, and Buffalo, along with Cheetah, and Crocodiles. Some of my favorite characters were the Monkey and the Warthog. They have a lot of personality and are scrappy survivors.
Along the safari, we rode from camp to camp, all of which were characteristically varied with some under open sky and others in large tents. But the one mainstay was the comfort of knowing that there would be a soft bed to land in and amazing cuisine.
Horizon Horseback really knows how to cater to its guests, and they offer as much luxury as you’d ever need on a safari. What I found that they do best is promote a family atmosphere. From the time you arrive to the time you leave, hospitality is demonstrated by everyone from the staff to the owners. You’ll get to know them all and develop lasting relationships with them. The memories I made there with the people, the horses, and the land are ones that I’ll cherish for life. I never thought I’d be a person who would get to go somewhere like Africa to live out a dream of riding in such a land, but now that I’ve done it, I realize that such an experience is attainable and well worth the investment. My advice for anyone who has thought about it is to do it. It’s an experience you will not regret. For more information, check out Horizon Horseback Safaris at https://www.ridinginafrica.com/.
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