There’s something intoxicating about riding in the bush. It oozes excitement and is the perfect way to experience wild Africa. Horses and the African wilderness are no strangers, of course. The Dutch East India Company introduced them to the Cape in 1653.
The origins of “safari” are rooted in equestrian adventure and the modern equivalent owes much of its popularity to those turn-of-the-20th century explorers and hunters who traversed the continent on horseback.
When Tamlyn Whitebread dreamed of how it would feel to ride horses in Big Five territory, she was unwittingly following in the footsteps (or should that be hoofsteps?) of history. That was then. Tamlyn was 16, horse mad and growing up in the Free State. Today she heads up horse safaris at Abelana based at Abelana Safari Camp. Dreams, it seems, really do come true.
“I loved the bush and I loved horses, so I was always daydreaming about riding in the bush where I might run into lion, or elephants, or rhino. But I had no idea how I could achieve that,” explains Tamlyn.
She left school, studied nature conservation and wound up becoming a qualified safari guide, helping to pioneer a path for women entering the safari industry and travelling all over Africa. Eventually, in 2012, she got the chance to combine her two biggest passions and began offering horseback safaris in Big Five areas. That path brought her here to Abelana Game Reserve and a part of Africa that’s always been special to her.
“I had the chance to spend six months here a few years ago and fell head over heels in love with this area,” says Tamlyn. “Now it’s my home and I am able to share it with guests on horseback. I can’t think of anything better,” she adds. While horse safaris in Big Five areas have taken off in Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania, South Africa has been slow to develop the concept, says Tamlyn. “There are few places where adventurous riders have the opportunity to explore African wilderness areas on horseback and have the chance to encounter our most iconic wildlife species while riding,” she says. “So, we’re very excited to offer exactly this to the local and international market here at Abelana.”
Tamlyn and her horses are based a short drive from Abelana Safari Camp. The horse safaris are run mainly on a scheduled departure basis throughout the year and offer riders the chance to experience the magic of Abelana Game Reserve and thrilling encounters with wildlife.
“All of our horses are well accustomed to both wildlife and life in the bush. They are mostly boerperd, boerperd crossbreeds with a few appaloosas as well,” says Tamlyn. “Our horses stand between 15,1 hands and 16 hands high and are unshod but very sure-footed. We use predominantly English saddles and the horses are used to the English style of riding, having been schooled the English way.”
Rides last approximately two to three hours in the mornings and afternoons. “It’s much kinder on your bum than eight straight hours in the saddle,” laughs Tamlyn. “The riding is not particularly strenuous but you do need to be a strong rider so you can canter or gallop away from potential trouble,” she adds. “Riding here between the koppies is magnificent, as it gives you time to look up and absorb the landscape. And the interactions with the animals you meet is lovely and a different experience altogether to walking or game drives.”
Guests bring their own helmets, riding chaps and gear and the rest is taken care off.
“Some of our guests top up their riding skills with extra lessons before they come, others do extra fitness training, but it’s all down to personal comfort and confidence. We do try to cater for riders who may not necessarily be the fittest ,” explains Tamlyn. If you would like more information about horse safaris at Abelana Safari Camp, please contact our reservations department on email@example.com