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Assure Your Trip With These First-Rate Horse Safari Guides

Due to the nature of a horse safari in the African wilderness, it's absolutely essential to the success of your tour that the guide knows exactly what they're doing.

Which is why I've tracked down and listed the best of the best in the industry according to their experience and qualifications.

If you're planning a horseback safari in Africa, using these guides will ensure an amazing adventure...

QUALIFICATIONS
  • KPSGA GOLD LEVEL (Only 26 gold guides in Kenya, highest qualification level possible).
EXPERIENCE
  • Guided professionally for 33 years having joined Tony Church (the first riding outfitter in Africa) as an assistant guide in 1983.
  • I have ridden on safari in Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe as well as countless hours in the saddle here in Kenya.
  • I have safari'd by vehicle or walking in Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda (with the gorillas) Sudan, Swaziland, Zambia, Egypt and Morocco. I have also ridden in many of these countries, which is always my preferred mode of transport.

WHY AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A SAFARI GUIDE?

Firstly due to a lifelong passion for nature and wildlife; I was born in South Africa but returned to England at the age of five. I had a pet praying mantis at an early age and kept fish, frogs and newts throughout my childhood.

I had a brief spell as a farmer and even did a year of agricultural college but dropped out to join the army. I think a make a better guide than a farmer.

A return to Africa and a safari career seemed only natural after six years in the British Army as an officer in the Household Cavalry. I did two years mounted duties in London as well as coming to Kenya and using army-training land rovers for early self-guided safaris from 1976.

After leaving the army I took a sabbatical and drove a Honda 250cc trail bike from London to Cape Town seeking a future in Africa. I fell in love with Zimbabwe on this trip and nearly went farming there but newly independent, they refused my work permit.

Most of my guiding has been on horse-back but land rovers and walking are easy by comparison and I have done my fair share of both. I still feel I am only scratching the surface and have much more to learn and see and many more places I long to visit in Africa.

I have ridden and visited many countries and all the continents, but the only place that might come close to Africa is South America. The more remote and un-infested by human beings the happier I am!

WHAT MAKES A GOOD HORSE SAFARI GUIDE?

A guide needs to be a constant evaluator of human nature and realise that every client and every group are different. He/she needs to be a chameleon and adjust to every situation and safari.

Dealing with large groups of 8-10 on riding safaris who sign up in ones and twos and often different nationalities as well as families is always interesting. The common denominator of the horse, which can by definition be hazardous, is a great help but one is constantly evaluating the situation and adjusting.

Each horse safari takes on its own characteristics and can be incredibly different by virtue of the different characters involved and the vagaries of safari such as weather, game, terrain and a host of other factors.

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT AS A GUIDE?

These are many and varied but I once cursed a charming and lovely lady who slipped backwards with her horse coming out of a hippo run in wet weather on the Mara river.

They crashed back into the river together and I was heard to say, "you could have killed that horse" and gave her very little sympathy for her own desperate plight. None of the large group let me forget that one.

FAVOURITE ANIMAL?

My favourite animal is very easily the elephant with so many characteristics close to our own.

  • Similar life span.
  • Puberty at a similar age.
  • Very family minded.
  • Can over populate and destroy their own environment (just like humans, but always come second to man sadly).
  • Very intelligent with a low pitch vocabulary we cannot hear as well as trumpeting, throat rumbling and other means of communication.
  • Females have attractive human like breasts and can be more frightening than the males in defence of young (Very important to note for horseback safaris).
  • They have suffered tremendously at the hand of man (simply for bearing ivory) for millennium and deserve sympathy, respite and respect.
  • Watching elephant going about their business is always rewarding with wonderful interaction between the sexes and all ages. They are always doing something.

Mans overpopulation of the planet is very much threatening their long term survival and extinction is very possible this century in their natural environment.

MOST MEMORABLE SIGHTING?

These are again many and varied and I have seen many kills by most of the large predators which are fascinating, but my most lasting memory is of a family of 20 or so elephant frolicking and bathing in the Rojwero river in Meru National Park around 1986, when the population in that park was plummeting through poaching and they were always frightened and ran away from vehicles at first sight.

They swam and splashed for maybe half an hour as if to say there may be no tomorrow. It was a tear jerking experience. Between 1980 and 1990 the Meru elephant population plummeted from 2000 to 250!

GUIDING SPECIALITY?

I am primarily a horse safari riding guide which is my passion. I am an honorary game warden of the Kenya Wildlife Service and have good experience in game management and have carried a .375 rifle for 20 years and am therefore fully qualified and enjoy walking safaris in big 5 country.

I have a very sound knowledge of the larger mammals and their behavior and good birding in the geographical areas I operate in and I have a keen instinct for learning more.

On flora I prefer trees but also flowers and grasses.

I am always interested in insects, reptiles and amphibians and have a great fascination with snakes which we sadly see few of.

I have a very sound knowledge of African colonial history and especially of the early explorers.

A good grasp of current affairs and African geography and political vacillations is also a forte.

One of a horse safaris chief drawbacks is that it does not lend itself to photography very well, therefore I cannot claim photography as a speciality.

MOST INTERESTING ANIMAL BEHAVIOR?

Our most unique horse safari achievement and experience (which is ongoing) has been the habituation of Mara North Conservancy lion to our horses which now trust each other and we get extremely close to them.

There is the current pride on the Olare Orok stream with 14 cubs who now run up and play at 18 months old. I know they respect us and of course we respect them but it is a culmination of 30 years of getting them habituated through successive generations.

This is because of their relatively sedentary nature within a pride area and our frequency there which has created a trust sensed by both lion and horse.

FAVOURITE CAMPFIRE STORY?

With horse safaris there are always going to be stories and adventures. In 33 years I have been tossed by a buffalo (whilst walking) and rolled by a hippo (having fallen off my horse).

On horse back we have been chased by buffalo and many cow elephant as well as charged by lion (it is fatal to run away) so from that score I have had many experiences with everything in between as well.

QUALIFICATIONS
  • KPSGA SILVER LEVEL.
  • BSC (HONS) DEGREE IN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT (From the Royal Agricultural College in England).
EXPERIENCE
  • Over 30 years experience, guided my first horse safari across the Masai Mara in Kenya when I was 18 years old.
  • I have guided both riding and wildlife safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Rwanda, D.R. Congo, Central African Republic, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Iran and Argentina.
  • My father pioneered the concept of riding horses in big game country back in 1971.

WHY AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A SAFARI GUIDE?

I was born 'into' safari. From my earliest memories as a child I have been on safari with my father. Every holiday from boarding school was spent in the bush with the horses and on wildlife safaris.

Everything about the wilderness captivated me. The wildlife, the birdlife, the indigenous tribal people, the incredible variety of scenery, the vastness and freedom of being in raw pristine Africa. I loved it all so I was destined to be a horse safari guide.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD HORSE SAFARI GUIDE?

Passion. Knowledge. Never stop learning. Spending as much time as possible with the nomadic tribesman. Learning from their culture, their wisdom. All this is the easy part.

The greatest skill of all, comes from those who enjoy being with people, your guests, understanding and managing their expectations, sharing your passion of safari. On a riding safari, then you thrown in the mix of being on a horse in country full of game.

Reading a situation, understanding the instincts of wildlife, keeping your guests safe, but giving them the adventure they are seeking. Being a horse safari guide is never a job, it's in your blood.

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT AS A GUIDE?

It never rains in February, I said! One afternoon the heavens opened whilst on a long days ride with the horses. Every stream and river flooded which we then had to swim across.

Even the hippo had left the water courses. We were soaked through. We finally made it to the new camp where not a single tent was in sight! All the trucks were stuck in the bush somewhere.

I was saved by a bottle of whiskey which we all shared, consumed and danced around the fire until late in the night the trucks finally arrived.

FAVOURITE ANIMAL?

I love them all, each and every one of the plethora of wildlife that we encounter on safari.

Baboons for their tomfoolery, a tower of giraffe majestically moving across the vast open plains, the arrogance of the old bull buffalo, the elusive and seductive 'chui' (leopard), warthogs always ever so busy and off to a meeting somewhere with someone, hundreds and thousands of gnu marching across the Mara, lazy hippo and their endless siestas, the king of them all the mighty back maned lion and never ever forgetting elephant whom we all can watch and ponder for days on end.

Finally, the honey-badger … well he's everything in one and more!

MOST MEMORABLE SIGHTING?

On every horse safari there is always a spectacular wildlife experience. Of my most recent was seeing a 'cat-trick' (three big cats; lion, leopard and cheetah) all from the saddle in one morning, culmination with a lioness killing a warthog almost in camp.

MOST INTERESTING ANIMAL BEHAVIOR?

Having spent so much time in the saddle riding across the Masai Mara, fascinating wildlife behavior becomes part of the experience.

A cow elephant lifting her infant calf from certain death in a deep mud hole, a female jackal hounding a huge python whom was constricting the male partner, a hippo whom appeared to be keeping a crocodile at bay whilst hundred of wildebeest were crossing the Mara River, a bushbuck whom ran into camp and onto the horse picket line to evade the jaws of a pack of wild dog and finally the bravery of my horses whom have to face-off fast approaching lion and elephant.

FAVOURITE CAMPFIRE STORY?

Oh there are many, some best saved for the campfire.

Leaping behind an acacia tree from a charging buffalo, tickled by a hippo whilst swimming a river, man eating lions in the old days, a guest who sank into the thunder-box, chased up a tree by a scratchy elephant whilst having a picnic, knocked out of a dug-out canoe by a hippo, naked guests covered in safari ants and so it goes on...

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