8 Tips On Riding Safari Planning
1. Plan ahead
The best riding safaris take only a few riders at a time and fill up quickly so you need to be booking well ahead of your proposed holiday. Riding safaris that run on scheduled dates are usually launched a year in advance while private safaris can be booked even further ahead. The sooner you can start planning, the better the chances of getting your perfect riding safari.
2. Ask yourself some questions about your riding and holidays
I’ve helped plan riding safari holidays for over 20 years and the best way to start making suitable suggestions is to find out more about the riders (and non-riders) going on holiday. One key point is to be honest about your riding ability. Don’t overegg your capabilities or you might find youself over-horsed and outside your comfort zone. Likewise, if you have ridden round Badminton let us know so you can be matched with the right horse and safari style. Other questions to think about are:
- If you’ve been to Africa before what did you do on that trip?
- What did you like/dislike?
- What other countries have you visited on a riding holiday?
- What did you like/dislike?
- How much riding have you done?
- Are you currently riding fit?
- Are you confident to gallop in open spaces?
- Are you taking a spouse who rides less than you?
Have a look at my article on the 10 African Riding Safaris For Different Abilities
- Who are you travelling with?
- Are you taking your children?
- Would you like riding to be the main part of the holiday or just a small section?
- What time of year are you thinking of travelling to Africa?
- What sort of accommodation do you want to stay in (hotel/lodge/tented camp)?
- Do you want to add a beach holiday to your riding safari?
3. Or have a riding safari planning brainstorm
Another approach might be to get anyone planning to travel to list five or ten things they want from their riding safari. These might be as different as:
- I want the chance for long canters over open plains.
- I’d like to see elephant from horseback.
- I would like to have ice in my gin and tonic before supper.
- I’d love a comfortable bed as I’m sure I’ll be tired after a day of riding.
- Can I have a massage after a day in the saddle?
- I want my non-riding spouse to enjoy their safari too.
4. Produce a list
Once you’ve brainstormed I suggest pulling together a list of ‘riding safari holiday priorities’. We can then make sure we surpass all your expectations and match you to the right riding safari. I’ve been sent photos of Post-it notes with different ideas on them and these are really helpful to me to help plan a riding safari for you. The point of ‘tailor made’ is that it’s for you and not simply a standard holiday.
5. Find an African riding safari expert you can talk to
Find a riding safari expert – one who is well known for planning good riding safaris. Who do your riding friends recommend? Has the expert visited the riding safaris they offer and do they ride on a regular basis? Is there a company whose name comes up on Google if you look for ‘riding safaris’? (Make sure you look in the ‘organic’ results as anyone can pay to be in the adverts). Have you spotted anyone mentioned in newspaper travel sections, or in horse magazines? A proper expert will typically be an African specialist who understands both the logistics of holidays to the continent and knows how to plan a riding safari. Some will have taken their own families and will know what it’s like to mix a variety of riding abilities and perhaps a non-riding spouse. Ask them where they’ve been and what they’ve done – a true expert will be happy to share their personal experience with you. Take some time to have a chat. A website and email interchange goes so far, but picking up the phone and chatting will give you a real feel for whether this is the person you want to plan your riding safari.
6. Give your riding safari expert an initial brief and see their ideas
At the start you should be doing the talking. Give your chosen expert all the info you’ve gathered in the stages above, let them ask questions and then see what they come up with. In some cases they might be ready to make suggestions right away, or it might make better sense for them to email ideas. That way they can link you to websites and you’ve got something easy to share with your riding companions. Initial ideas can be fine tuned until you’re completely happy you’ve got the perfect riding safari for you.
When possible, it’s lovely to meet people face to face. We take stands at a number of shows throughout the summer, so you may see me at Blair Horse Trails, in the Country Living marquee at Badminton Horse Trials, or on our stand alongside the main arena at Bramham Horse Trials. Away from shows, we are happy to meet in our offices or at your home. These visits work particularly well when planning for a group as it avoids one person having to act as ‘chairman’ sending out the paperwork and combining the holiday thoughts from everyone else. Overall this speeds up the planning process so you get the perfect holiday itinerary sooner than you otherwise might.
8. Get on and book
Once you’ve found a riding safari that suits you, I suggest you book it so it’s all confirmed and the price guaranteed. Then it’s time to have a look through my riding safari packing list to see what you’ve already got and what you need.
If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have, or you think there’s something more about planning a riding safari holiday that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.