Namibia Desert Safari: Ride to the Sea

A Phenomenal Desert Horse Riding Adventure

There is something so compelling about riding a sleek horse across the wide-open expanses of a desert landscape. This desert horse safari, which crosses one of the earth’s most extreme landscapes, is a reflection of Namibia itself; stark, austere, minimalist and completely unique.

Namibia Desert horse riding adventure

Riding the Highlands toward the pass.

The first four days we rode in the highlands toward the Kuiseb River Pass, the only place where horses can cross the deep canyon. There was a constant variety of rolling grasslands, plateaus, canyons, dry riverbeds and red sand dunes. Once across the Kuiseb the geology flattens out, and the vegetation becomes increasingly sparse.

The Namib Desert is vast beyond anything I had imagined. We saw wildlife; gemsbok, ostrich, springbok and zebra, and each sighting stands out in my memory as something rare. One evening a herd of zebra and a lone gemsbok galloped along the horizon, outlined against a huge orange setting sun.

We began riding early in the morning after a quick breakfast for ourselves and a thorough grooming and watering for the horses. Lunch was usually quite simple and accompanied by plenty of water, juice or soda. We untacked the horses, let the saddle blankets dry out, and found a shady spot to relax for a few hours. About 3:00pm the cool breeze from the coast arrived, the horses pricked up their ears and we began the afternoon ride westwards to the evening’s campsite. Dinner was always a major event; hearty and delicious, cooked over the coals of an open fire and served with South African wine. Then we turned in for the night, tucked into bedrolls under the enormous dome of southern constellations. It was like sleeping in our own planetarium.

Kicking up sand

A canter in the sand is a great way to kick up some dust!

The pace, as on any safari, was largely determined by the terrain and influenced by the fact that we had to cover long distances every day. Mostly we did a combination of walk, trot and extended canter. We fanned out, taking advantage of the open country to avoid each others dust.

This desert safari is a phenomenal experience, but quite honestly it’s not for everyone. One must be willing to spend long hours in the saddle, groom and tack one’s own horse, wait in line for a quick shower in limited water, and sleep in a bedroll. The rewards? This desert horse riding adventure will give you a sense of accomplishment like no other, a chance to see landscape like nowhere else on earth, a sense of what really fit, athletic horses can do, a renewed respect for any life form in the harsh desert environment and an unforgettable glimpse into the heart of Namibia.

Ride Review written by Ellen Vanuga