Ride Zimbabwe combines the thrill of an African safari with the pleasure of horse-riding, and is a great way to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and get close to the wonderful wildlife in a quiet, natural and unobtrusive way. On a Ride Zimbabwe horseback safari, you can stroll right up to a giraffe as it feeds in the acacia woodlands and trot across a grassy plain alongside a family of warthog, or let your horse munch grass near a herd of zebra or watch a herd of sable go to drink at a waterhole.
James Varden is well-known as one of Zimbabwe’s top professional guides and safari operators. From a very young age he showed a keen interest in the outdoors and a love of nature, and upon leaving school he started his trainee safari guide career in Hwange National Park. In 1991 he moved to Mana Pools National Park, working with Natureways Canoe and Walking Safaris, and attained his Zimbabwe canoe license in 1992 and full professional guides’ license in 1993. Today James remains both a partner of Natureways Safaris, and owner-operator of Ride Zimbabwe along with his wife Janine.
Janine Varden grew up with horses in Australia and worked for many years as a jillaroo on a sheep- and cattle-station in Victoria, and then at Werribee Open Range Zoo in Melbourne as a keeper specialising in African mammals. After meeting James in Melbourne, she moved to Zimbabwe to create their dream of providing guests with a truly incredible horseback safari experience. Janine’s animal-husbandry background is well-utilised at Ride Zimbabwe, and the care and upkeep of the horses is her responsibility. Janine also has a strong interest in conservation and rural community issues in Zimbabwe.
Cawston Wildlife Estate, where Ride Zimbabwe carries out its riding safaris, is an intimate 32,000-acre family run ranch offering exclusive and personalised safari experiences on their little slice of paradise in the stunning scenic landscapes of Matabeleland, 70kms north of Bulawayo. Secluded under the cover of a lush riverine forest with views overlooking an active waterhole, sightings of bushbuck, warthog and kudu are extremely common.
Large herds of plains game such as giraffe, zebra, impala, eland, wildebeest, tsessebe, sable and many more mammalian species also call Cawston home and can be observed roaming the land from atop your equine altar. And as the sun sets, you may also have a chance to see leopards, servals and civets, black backed jackals, porcupines, honey badgers and the brown hyena, one of the top three rarest carnivores in Africa.
The Horse and Hippo safari is one of the most adventurous safaris on the continent. This mix of riding, canoeing, game drives and walking, is held in two of the most famous National Parks in Zimbabwe, Hwange and Mana Pools National Park, and also includes a night in the magnificent Victoria Falls. Here’s what you can expect from this 11 day excursion:
Your road transfer departs Victoria Falls Airport at approximately 14h30 – please note this is an outsourced, shared transfer. On arrival at Hwange Main Camp you will meet your Guide and the fun begins! Transfers from all locations in Zimbabwe can be arranged but we highly recommend arriving from Victoria Falls via road transfer or charter flight to Hwange Main Airport.
After the usual formalities of checking in at the Hwange National Park office, guests will be taken on a game drive to sample the splendour of Hwange as we transfer to the riding camp. After a quick but delicious afternoon tea it is time for an important safety briefing followed by an introduction ride. This is a short ride to get partnered with your steed for the safari and to ensure you are comfortable with your tack.
You will be back in camp in time for sundowners and hot showers before enjoying a sumptuous 3 course meal cooked by our talented Safari Chef. Fantastic food and delicious wine enjoyed to the night sounds of the African wilderness. After this, you’re free to retire to your tent and slumber the night away in your comfy warm cot, surrounded by the soothing sounds of the African Bush.
This morning will be quite early. Tea and freshly ground coffee, as well as a light breakfast awaits you by the morning campfire. Being part of the Kalahari Desert system Hwange temperatures can drop quite low during the evening and early morning during winter from May through August.
After a quick breakfast you mount your waiting steed and ride off into the wilderness exploring the area around the waterhole where the camp is situated. There are no set routes or paths that we have to follow, which allows you the luxury to explore as the team rides according to the weather, wildlife movements and riding abilities of the group.
You can expect 3 to 4 hours of riding following ancient elephant trails that wind their way through the bush. As you ride along searching for wildlife, you will also stop, look and learn about the intricacies of the wild African Bush. You’ll arrive back in camp for a refreshing lunch and siesta and then later on tea and coffee and a yummy treat. This afternoon ride will be approx. 2 hours and who knows where will go - the team will leave it up the law of the bush! Hot showers and cold drinks await you on your return. Another night under the stars around the campfire talking about the day that was and the days to come.
Each morning will follow the same rhythm, an early rise followed by a light breakfast in camp. On this day the team will ride out the entire day taking a packed lunch so as not to disturb the pioneering explorations and also to allow the back-up staff time to prepare the camp in an exciting new location in anticipation of your arrival. All luggage is taken with the camp crew to the next site. The guide will instruct you as to what needs to be carried on the horses for the day.
Rise and shine - it’s time to go and explore our new area after the morning bush routine of tea, coffee and light breakfast around the campfire. Your riding playground today is the Umkhawuzane area of the African Bush Camps private Somalisa Concession where we explore numerous waterhole areas and more of the extensive Acacia woodlands in search of wildlife.
The dawn of another wonderful day of exploring with the horses. This day will either be two rides out or a full day out and may even include exploration of the Kennedy Pan area where it is not uncommon to see large herds of elephant and buffalo taking a refreshing drink.
This day you ride into the Award Winning Somalisa Expeditions. For the next 2 nights you are the guests of African Bush Camps. Truly authentic, the Somalisa Concession is famous for, amongst other things, Elephants! After seeing the horses settled into their new abode and you into your luxury tent, high tea will be served. Perhaps there is time for a short nature walk around camp or just chill by the pool - hope you don’t want to swim though, the elephants enjoy popping by for a drink.
To sample something a little different on this day, you have the option of taking a game drive to cover some different ground in search of more of Hwange’s famous wildlife. Whilst the horses take a well-earned rest, we venture out on four wheels! We start off with an early morning drive and return to camp for brunch and a siesta. Then it’s back out again for more viewing as there is so much to see and experience. At Somalisa Expeditions you have the chance to recharge all the electrical gadgets!
All good things must come to an end, they say, and today is your final day in Hwange. After a leisurely breakfast, sad and often teary goodbyes are said to new-found friends and of course the fantastic horses. Fly by air-charter into Mana Pools National Park where you will be met by your guide with ice cold drinks. You will then embark on a half hour drive through Jesse bush and Mopane Woodlands to first sign in at the Nyamepi office of the National Park. Then back onto the safari vehicle and drive through the incredible woodlands of Mana Pools to Camp Zambezi arriving in time for lunch.
You may, by then, already have met a few of your new neighbours - elephant, kudu, zebra, impala and many birds! A mobile tented camp will have been set up by the camp staff - walk-in mosquito-proofed tents with en-suite chemical toilet, external long-drop toilets, hot showers and a dining area next to the fire where iced drinks and delicious bush-prepared meals will be served. Our chef will have prepared a lunch to give you strength for the first afternoon’s walk - a familiarisation walk to see the lay of the land and to learn the rules of walking in big game territory. Then back to camp for sundowners, a hot (or cold if you prefer) shower, and a fine dinner. The beds are very comfortable and warm so it may be difficult to stay awake!
To make the most of your day we suggest an early morning wake up, the hand basins outside each tent are filled with hot water before first light to allow you to shave or freshen up. Enjoy a beautiful sunrise before a light breakfast will be served with tea and freshly brewed coffee. After breakfast, set off on your morning’s activity, you may take to the river for the day (or morning), go by vehicle or on foot to explore the National Park. Whether you opt for land or water activities, half or full day, you can be assured of incredible experiences. The guide will carry a weapon, a first aid kit, a packed lunch and extra water. You may carry extra personal water and personal items for the day. Finally, back to camp for the night where a wonderful meal, hot shower, and cold drinks await you.
Another day along the lines of the previous day - the choices are yours to make the most of this amazing spot. This third night will again be spent at Camp Zambezi.
Depending upon the guests time of departure, they may either take another early walk before breakfast or have a bit of a sleep in! After that, there will be a short game drive to the airstrip where we bid you farewell before your charter flight to Victoria Falls! You will be collected from Victoria Falls Airport and transferred by road to BayeteGuest Lodge where you will spend the night.
Bayete Guest Lodge is a 25-room family run lodge set in a lush tropical garden in the heart of the Victoria Falls residential area, situated 3km from Victoria Falls Town, and 22km from Victoria Falls International Airport. Bayete is a quiet oasis far removed from the hustle and bustle of the town, and offers a tranquil and comfortable escape for guests. The Lodge offers a fast fibre-optic wi-fi connection covering all rooms and areas of the lodge which is available to guests free of charge. While at Bayete you have the option to visit the RainForest, do a helicopter flight over the Falls, a sunset cruise and many other activities (activities are an additional cost).
This morning at leisure after breakfast activities will be depending on what time your international flight departs. You will be transferred from Bayete in time for your flight. As you depart with your memories, we know that this experience will have enriched your life and touched your soul!
Hwange National Park, the largest National Park in Zimbabwe is home to 400 different species of bird and 107 types of mammals. The region of Hwange National Park that we ride in is underlain by deep Kalahari sands, the perfect terrain for our barefoot horses, the landscape is predominantly flat with no mountains or kopjes in sight, making for some excellent riding conditions and unimpeded views of the vast amount of wildlife that call this area home.Here’s what you can expect from the Hwange 7-nights Explorers Safari
After your arrival at Victoria Falls Airport, you meet and greet with the road transfer company, followed by a two-hour drive to Iganyana Private Tented Camp. The afternoon includes a high tea, a briefing about the rest of your 7 days, indemnity signing, and an introduction to the horses, and then onto the horses for a short ride. After this, you will return to the camp, where you will enjoy a showers, dinner, and peaceful sleep under canvas.
On the second day, the horses will be trucked early to Main Camp with all their tack etc. In the early morning, you will wake up, have tea and coffee around the campfire, pack, and eat breakfast. After this, you can go on a game drive to the Main Camp in Hwange National Park. This is only a short drive of half an hour to perhaps an hour depending on sightings of wildlife. Upon arrival, you will go through the check-in and payments at the Tourism office, then mount up and ride into the park. You will either ride with a picnic lunch to Caterpillar waterhole – or be met there by a vehicle – and ride on to Camp Dopi, or ride to Caterpillar for lunch at Camp Baikiaea. This area is typical Kalahari sands with superb Teak and Acacia woodlands. Waterholes here attract wildlife that moves to and from for drinking and can provide some excellent sightings and interactions. The afternoon may either be riding from lunch at Caterpillar to Dopi or riding out from Camp Baikiaea and exploring the Caterpillar area. After this, you will return to the camp, where you will enjoy a showers, dinner, and peaceful sleep under canvas.
You will have an early start with tea coffee and light breakfast around the fire. Then, onto the horses for exploration in the region, heading off in whatever direction the guide chooses. Walking, cantering, jumping, wildlife tracking, and viewing. After this, you can return to the camp for brunch, siesta, and rest time for the horse’s. This is followed by afternoon tea followed by another ride or perhaps even a walk. After this, you will return to the camp, where you will enjoy a showers, dinner, and peaceful sleep under canvas.
Another early morning starts at around 06:30am. Onto the horses and out to explore the area again. There are no set routes and the ride is conducted according to what sounds were heard during the night, animal tracks, weather conditions, and many other factors.
The day may be a half-day or a full day out with a picnic lunch near a waterhole for wildlife viewing. If lunch takes place at the camp, then it is also an opportunity in the afternoon to do a safari walk or drive. There are a few other water holes that are worth visiting if you have good cameras and lenses or are interested in birding.
Also, the guide may decide that an early morning walk or drive is going to be better and may then switch the order of the day to a non-riding activity in the morning and a ride in the afternoon. This also depends on the need for horses to rest before a long day tomorrow. Whatever happens, there will be cold drinks around the campfire and a hearty dinner in camp.
On this day you will ride from Camp Baikiaea for a full day out to Kennedy Camp. This is a ride of approximately 30 or so km, through the teak and acacia woodlands, passing water holes, with a picnic lunch on route. You will arrive in the late afternoon to Camp Vachellia, settle in with sundowners, and welcome hot showers followed by, yet again, a delicious dinner.
This day will be spent in the Kennedy 2 area of the park in some very beautiful Acacia groves. The camp is set along the Kennedy Vlei which is a renowned area for wildlife viewing. Options here are riding, walking, or a safari drive in the morning. A good option is to take a drive to the Ngweshla area not far from Vachellia as it is generally a very productive wildlife area.
This is your final early morning to enjoy the dawn in the African bush around the fire. A light breakfast will be followed by a 10 to 20km ride to a point where the horse truck will meet you. There you will end the ride, load the horses, and have a safari drive out of the Park back to Iganyana for the night. Sundowners will be a special affair reminiscing upon the past few days of being in the real African bush on fine steads enjoying the wildlife and big spaces.
The last morning may include a very short walk out to stretch the legs before a delicious breakfast and departure on the transfer vehicle back to Victoria Falls Airport (or wherever the next destination is).
The fastest route from Victoria Falls Airport to Hwange National Park is 2 hr 32 min (185 km) via A8