Rider and antelope in the background with early morning mists

Hwange Elephant safari

A unique riding safari in the heart of Zimbabwe. Hwange National Park is the largest reserve in Zimbabwe and one of the country's prime locations for wildlife watching. The Park boasts an incredible selection of wildlife, including some of the world's largest populations of elephants. Most of Big Five species can be seen, making this one of the most exciting horseback safaris in Africa. This itinerant safari combines five nights in a mobile bush camp and two nights at a fully serviced fixed camp - the itinerary is flexible and will very much depend on local conditions and the movements of the wildlife... Adventure awaits at every corner!
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Horseback Safari
10 days (6 days riding)
From £3,359
Family holidays
from 14 y.o
  • Hwnge riding safari
    Hwnge riding safari
  • Riders around the bonfire in Hwange
    Magical nights around the fire at camp
  • Horseback rider watching a group of elephants on horseback
    Watching elephant from horseback is an incredible adventure
  • James and Janine Varden in Zimbabwe
    Your hosts, James and Janine, in Hwange
  • Rider and antelope in the background with early morning mists
    Experience the magic of a riding safari in Africa
  • Lioness taking a drink in Hwange National park in Zimbabwe
    Hwange is home to big cats too
  • Elephants and horseback riders in Hwange, Zimbabwe
    Hwange is known for its big game, including elephants.

Itinerary

Highlights

- Discover one of Africa's best reserves on horseback: the park hosts over 100 mammal and 400 bird species and is home to the Big Five species (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo).
- Wildlife likely to be seen: elephant, lion zebra, giraffe, impala, kudu, warthog, eland, duiker, buffalo, wildebeest, jackal, ostrich, waterbuck, hyena and baboons. Possible to be seen: roan and sable antelope, lion, bat eared fox, cheetah, leopard, hippo, painted dog, serval, gamsbok, bushbuck, honey badger.
- The only fully mobile safari in a Big Game reserve in Zimbabwe. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of wild camping and evenings around the campfire.
- Janine and James Varden firmly believe in the benefit of community involvement and the importance of ecologically sustainable camps.
  • Day 1 1 : DEPARTURE

    Fly to Victoria Falls (overnight flight from Europe). Flights are not included in our rates but can be booked upon request.

    You will likely require a connection in Johannesburg (South Africa) or Addis Ababa (Ethiopia): please note that your transfer on Day 2 is scheduled for 14:30. We recommend flights arriving before 13:00.
  • Day 2 2 : ARRIVE IN VICTORIA FALLS - HWANGE MAIN CAMP - 2 hours riding

    Iganyana camp
    Arrive in Victoria Falls for your transfer scheduled for 14:30. Arrive at Victoria Falls Airport and meet our road transfer team for a two to three-hour drive to Iganyana Wild. After a quick afternoon tea, meet the horses and hop on for a short ride – an essential step to match you with the right horse. Head back to Iganyana Wild camp for sundowners, hot showers, dinner, and a night's sleep in spacious ensuite tents.

    Please note: the following itinerary is giving for indicative purposes only. Many factors will influence the day to day order of these rides.
    Weather conditions – cold, heat, rain, cloud, etc.; – wildlife activity and movements; rider abilities and interests; climatic conditions i.e. good wet season or very dry conditions; logistics, and many other factors will determine how the riding and other activities will be conducted. The guide will always ensure to maximise the wildlife experience. Depending on the season, your guides may prefer to leave early in the morning for a long morning ride (5-6 hours with a break), have a late lunch and siesta, and enjoy a guided walk or jeep safari in the afternoon. Due to the very hot days during November, guests will be expected to wake up as early as 04h30 so as to start riding before it becomes too hot.
  • Day 3 3 : HWANGE RIDING SAFARI - 5-6 hours riding

    Iganyana camp
    Wake up early, grab some tea, coffee, and a light breakfast. Today, you will be exploring Dete Vlei and the surroundings on horseback. Spend time adjusting to the riding style, tack, and horses. Any necessary changes can happen today. You might ride the whole day or break it into a 3-4 hour morning ride and a shorter afternoon one. Return to Iganyana Wild for the night.

  • Day 4 4 : HWANGE RIDING SAFARI - 5-6 hours riding

    Hwange mobile camp
    Early morning wake up, tea and coffee around the campfire, pack, breakfast and game drive to 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. Check-in at the Tourism office where you will be asked to settle camping and conservation fees (see dates and prices) then mount up and ride into the park, or game drive deeper into the Park to meet the horses and ride to the campsite. Overnight with sundowners, hot showers, and dining under the stars.
  • Day 5 5 : HWANGE RIDING SAFARI - 5-6 hours riding

    Hwange mobile camp
    Start your day early, with timing adjusted based on the season – colder mornings might delay the start to around 07:00 mid-year, while hotter months like October to December may call for wake-up calls at 05:00. Mount up for another day of exploration on horseback, with routes decided based on night sounds, animal tracks, weather, and more. The day can be a half-day or a full-day venture, perhaps with a picnic lunch near a waterhole for wildlife viewing. If lunch is at camp, the afternoon opens up for a safari walk or drive. The guide might switch up the morning and afternoon activities, depending on factors like horse rest needs for the upcoming long day. Regardless, the day concludes with cold drinks around the campfire and a hearty dinner.

  • Day 6 6 : HWANGE RIDING SAFARI - 5-6 hours riding

    Today you ride from Camp Baikiaea for a full day out to Kennedy Camp. This is a ride of approximately 30 to 40 kms. It will be through the Zambezi teak and acacia woodlands, passing waterholes which may or may not have water in, with a picnic lunch on route. Arrive late afternoon to Kennedy Camp, settle in with sundowners, and welcome hot showers followed by yet again a delicious dinner, very comfortable beds with hot water bottles for winter!
  • Day 7 7 : HWANGE RIDING SAFARI - 5-6 hours riding

    Hwange mobile camp
    Spend the day exploring the Kennedy 2 area of the Park, surrounded by beautiful Acacia groves along the Kennedy Vlei – a renowned wildlife viewing spot. Choose between riding, walking, or a safari drive in the morning, with decisions guided by potential wildlife sightings and seasonal activity. Consider a drive to Ngweshla, a productive wildlife area near camp, known for hosting a resident pride of lions.




  • Day 8 8 : HWANGE RIDING SAFARI - 2h riding

    Iganyana camp
    Final early morning wake up to enjoy the dawn in the African bush around the fire. Light breakfast and onto the horses for a 14km or upto 25km ride (dependent on the time of year and early morning wildlife activity) to a point where you will meet the horse trailer. The ride ends there: load the horses, and have a safari drive out of the Park back to Iganyana Wild for the night.
    Sundowners will be a special affair reminiscing upon the past few days of being in the real African bush enjoying the wildlife and big spaces.
  • Day 9 9 : HWANGE - VICTORIA FALLS - DEPARTURE

    Transfer after breakfast back to Victoria Falls Airport. You will be taken to the airport by 11:00 for your departure time.

    Depending on departure times, we may sneak in a short game drive or walking safari before your transfer.

    Why not continue your trip to on to Zimbabwe (your game James organises wonderful walking safaris in Mana Pools - great for active guests), or South Africa, Victoria Falls or Mozambique ... Contact us for further details.
  • Day 10 10 : ARRIVE HOME

    You should arrive back home before midday.

Dates & prices

Price details

- Flights are not included but we can assist with this on request. Rates are per person based on two riders sharing a twin or double tent.

- The usual group size is a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 8 international riders plus guides.

- Return transfers from Victoria Falls International airport are not included and have an added cost of $195/£170/€195 (return rate) Please note these are set times transfers:
> Scheduled for 14:30 on arrival day. We recommend flights arriving before 13:00
> For flights after 13:00 on the departure day.

- Single supplement: $755/£675/€775 all year round in 2023 - 2024: $1400/€1310/£1120. This supplement is not applied to solo riders willing to share with another rider except in the high season (July-December)

- Conservation fees and camping fees are not included and payable locally: $100 park fees and $145 camping fees. Subject to change without notice.

- Depending on availability, additional dates can be open for groups of 2+ riders. Please contact us. Please note that December, January and March are very wet with heavy rains - there will be no safaris in February.

- Non-riders catered for in Iganyana and on the mobile part of the safari with game drives. It is possible to have a separate walking guide but this will be an additional cost.

- Riders must be 14 year old or older, as long as they are proficient riders. Younger competent riders travelling with the family please enquire.

- Riders over 90kg must contact us before booking.

- Non-riders catered for in Iganyana and on the mobile, with game drives. It is possible to have a separate walking guide but this will be an additional cost.
It is a requirement and pre-requisite that guests must have purchased fully comprehensive accident and emergency evacuation insurance cover
Please Note
The itinerary may be modified at anytime for security reasons, meteorological or events beyond our control such as blocked roads, rivers in flood, drought, strikes and local holidays. Equus Journeys, our local partners and their local guides will always strive to find the best solution and will alter the itinerary as needed.
The names of the hotels and accommodation are given for information only and depending on availability, they may be modified without notice and replaced by another of a similar standard.

Price includes

Support Team

1 English-speaking safari guide and back up guide
Groom(s) to help look after the horses

Logistics

1 cook

Accommodation

Mobile safari tent for 2 people on 5 nights, fixed safari tents on 2 nights at a permanent camp

Meals

Full board from dinner on day 2 to breakfast on day 9, including beverages

Additional equipment

ACE Air and Ambulance Emergency Medical Rescue (not a substitute to your normal travel insurance including riding)

Price doesn't include

Transport

Visa fees
International flights and potential international departure tax
Airport transfers

Extras

Tips to the local team
Camping and park fees - see dates and prices

Insurance

Personal purchase
Cancellation and travel insurance are not included in the above listed price. Please note that insurance is mandatory. We recommend taking out an insurance policy as soon as your trip is booked to cover you in case of cancellation

Optional

Accommodation

Single tent supplement
  • Departure Return Price without flights Status
    26/05/2024 04/06/2024 £3,359 €3,863 $4,165
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    18/06/2024 27/06/2024 £3,359 €3,863 $4,165
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  • Departure Return Price without flights Status
    05/07/2024 14/07/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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    19/07/2024 28/07/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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    02/08/2024 11/08/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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    16/08/2024 25/08/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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  • Departure Return Price without flights Status
    06/09/2024 15/09/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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    20/09/2024 29/09/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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    04/10/2024 13/10/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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    18/10/2024 27/10/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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  • Departure Return Price without flights Status
    01/11/2024 10/11/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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    15/11/2024 24/11/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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    06/12/2024 15/12/2024 £4,347 €4,999 $5,390
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Equestrian info

Horses

A large herd of mostly homebred horses, all accustomed to riding in areas of wild animals and chosen or bred with horseback safaris in mind. Breeds include Boerperd, Shire crosses, TB crosses, and Friesian crosses. They are especially selected for their good temperaments and all are well schooled. They range in height from 15hh to 16,3hh. The team use natural horsemanship methods to start all their horses.

IMPORTANT: Riders over 90kg must contact us before booking.

Guide & local team

James Varden has been guiding safaris for over 25 years. James is renowned for his incredible knowledge of Africa (he travelled extensively through the continent) and the local wildlife, with a particular love for birds! Each safari is led of James and supported by a back-up guide. First aid kit and satellite phones are carried at all times.

Minimum riding ability

Minimum riding ability

You must be a competent rider, capable and in control in all paces. Due to the presence of dangerous game it is important that you can stay on your horse if you need to react quickly and gallop out of danger. You may also be required to jump small obstacles such as branches dislodged by elephants (although it is often possible to go around these).

Pace

You will experience all three paces throughout your trip. All observations are done at a walking pace - there will be no galloping around/ with the wildlife. The terrain is flat and open, ideally suited for a riding safari.

Tacking ability and participation

An English-speaking staff take care of all of the horses' needs.

Trip conditions and Requested experience

Riders must be in good physical condition and previous experience of a trail ride over several days is a considerable plus. Riders who do not ride regularly should get riding fit before departure.

Due to the very hot days during November, guests will be expected to wake up as early as 04h30 so as to start riding before it becomes too hot.

Chances of rain are highest in December and January therefore riding is according to the weather conditions. Wildlife sightings will be minimal during this period as well.

No night drives allowed in the National Park but we can do night drives on the Iganyana concession.

Equestrian equipment

Tack is of excellent quality and include a range of saddles from English leather to Australian stock saddles and Leon Liversage Trailmaster. Most horses are ridden in a snaffle.
Riding helmets are mandatory. We recommend our riders to wear a helmet to the correct standard and you should bring your own to ensure a proper fit.
Small saddlebags are provided.

Travel info

Comfort

Accommodation is provided in traditional safari tents. The first five nights of this riding safari are spent in a fully mobile camp, moved according to the game movement (generally twice during the week). On the last two nights guests are accommodated at Iganyana Wild Camp

Mobile camp: safari tents with camp beds and mattresses, all en-suite. Full bedding is provided. There is no electricity at camp, please make sure to bring spare batteries or portable solar charger. As Hwange is home to a healthy lion population, security is provided by a working electric fence surrounding camp at night. Important: depending on the local conditions, it is possible the camp will not move around as often as initially planned. Your guides will make their decisions with your best interests in mind.

Iganyana Wild Camp: a small, intimate camp. All tents are en-suite with flush toilets and hot showers. No electricity in the rooms but charging facilities are available in the main area.

Limited Wi-Fi is available at Iganyana - no reception inside the park.
Laundry can be done at both Iganyana and the bush mobile camps so no need for very extensive wardrobes.

There is 220V AC electricity provided by solar and generator at Iganyana but not on the mobile section. Charging of gadgets and cameras will be through a 12V DC vehicle inverter or accessory plug. Iganyana has both 16Amp round pin South African plug sockets, and multi-socket adaptors for UK, European and USA plugs. There are also standard USB ports in the main living area of Iganyana. There will be a small swimming pool for those lovely hot summer mid-days.

Meals

Breakfast includes eggs, bacon, toast and sausage.
Lunch includes cold meat, salad, tomato, cucumber and cheese.
Dinner will consist of meat, vegetables and rice/potato/pasta.
All drinks are included in your package including soft drinks, gin, vodka, scotch, local beers and South African wines. Premium or imported drinks are not included.

Special diets (vegetarian, food allergies) must be notified at the time of your booking. Special meals cannot be guaranteed if you only inform us shortly before the trip.

Climate

PLEASE NOTE: Chances of rain are highest in December and January therefore riding is according to the weather conditions. Wildlife sightings will be minimal during this period as well.

November and December:
The summer months are warmer and wetter with continuous rains or thunderstorms in the afternoon ending before the safari starts. Mosquitoes and other insects are also more present during this time of the year compared to the winter months of June, July and August (seasons are in reverse in the Southern Hemisphere).

From January to March:
These months are normally drier with very hot days. Mosquitoes and other insects are more present at this time of the year than in the winter months.
Chances of rain are highest in December and January therefore riding is according to the weather conditions. Wildlife sightings will be minimal during this period as well.
April:
The vegetation begins to change, the green bush becomes sparse and brown during this period of autumn. Temperatures drop during the night but it is still warm during the day with possible thunderstorms in the afternoon.

May to June:
Temperatures are low during the night and early in the morning during the winter months. The vegetation becomes brown and the trees lose their leaves. Visibility is increased by sparse vegetation.

From July to September:
This period is very dry in the bush, with very cold nights, it is also cool during the morning and late afternoon excursions.

From October to November:
Spring is the peak of the dry season with warm winds and sparse vegetation. The first rains arrive at the end of the month

Tips

These are not compulsory but appreciated. If you wish to give a gratuity please give the total to the senior member of staff in the presence of the other staff members. The staff has its own resolution on gratuity disbursement.

Packing list

When you go on a horseback safari, it is best to wear clothes of a neutral colour (green, brown, beige or grey) that will blend in to the countryside. Please note that this list is a recommendation only and should be adapted depending on the season. If in doubt, please contact your adviser.

Head
- A riding helmet is mandatory and you must take your own. Helmet makers (GPA, HKM, LAS Helmets, Lamicell, Troxel, Equithème) now offer horse-riding helmets that are ventilated, strong, light and comfortable. You also have the option of buying protective shells to go under your hats (Ranch & Rider, Lexington Safety Products) or western hat helmets (Troxel).
- Sunhat for lunch break and game drives
- Sunglasses - with a cord attached so they don't fly off when riding
- Buff or bandana for protecting your neck and face from the sun, wind or rain

Upper body
- Polo shirts or long-sleeved shirts (to protect against the sun)
- 1 or 2 long-sleeved shirts for the evening
- 1 lightweight fleece or jumper (from September to June)
- 1 warm fleece or jumper (from May to September during the winter)
- 1 lightweight or warm waterproof jacket (depending on the season). It is always a good idea to wear a coat with a multitude of pockets to keep your cameras, snacks, other items in.

Legs
- 2 pairs of lightweight, comfortable riding trousers or jodhpurs in cotton with either mini or long chaps in leather or other synthetic materials - this will help to protect you against the long vegetation. We recommend riding in them at home before taking them on holiday to ensure they don't rub
- Casual clothes for the evenings (jeans or walking trousers)
- Non-irritant cotton or synthetic underwear

Hands and Feet
- Comfortable riding boots. We recommend short boots with half-chaps. We don't recommend taking your favourite leather boots in case they get damaged
- Lightweight shoes or trainers for the evenings
- Several pairs of warm socks
- Gloves - your hands are particularly exposed to the sun, wind or rain whilst riding

Our Recommendations
- Backpacks cannot be worn whilst riding. We recommend a small bumbag or a coat with pockets so that you can carry small items with you during the day (camera - see below, lip balm etc)
- For your cameras, we strongly recommend keeping them in a dust-proof pouch, that can be attached to you whilst riding. It should be easily accessible and not take more than 2 seconds to take out of the pouch. Keeping your camera in your saddle bag is not ideal as by the time you have extracted the camera, you can be sure that whatever you wanted to take a picture of will have moved away!
- Sunscreen can be carried in saddlebags
- A soothing cream may be useful to treat areas irritated by long hours in the saddle

Photos & Extras
- We recommend bringing a camera with a zoom capacity of 200 or 300 mm to take photos of the animals on the plains and large panorama images of the countryside
- Bring a change of batteries. We recommend you bring a change of batteries and multiple memory cards
- A pair of binoculars can come in handy
- Before taking a photo of a person, you must always ask permission of the people concerned. You must consider the feelings/ opinions/ respect due to the possible subjects of your photos
-Throughout the world, and particularly in Africa, it is forbidden to take photos on or of administrative or military installations

Other useful items
- Travel bag 70-100 litres (hold luggage)
- Travel bag 25-30 litres (cabin bag)
- Water bottle (1.5 litres or 2 equivalent)
- Headtorch or small torch for moving around at night - bring spare batteries and bulbs
- Toiletries
- Swiss army knife or equivalent (in checked-in luggage!!)
- Small plastic bags for your rubbish
- Ear plugs (may be useful)

Medical kit
Make sure any allergies (to medication or otherwise) and clearly stated in your medical kit
- Any medication you regularly take
- Anti-malaria pills
- Painkillers
- Imodium or similar anti-diarrhea medication
- Vitamin C tablets
- Sunscreen and lip balm - should be high factor
- Insect repellent
- Eye drops
- Hydrating/ soothing cream
- Plasters
- Blister plasters in case of any rubs
- Antiseptic cream, plasters, aspirin, anti-histamine, insect-bite salve etc..
- 10cm wide bandage
- Spare prescription glasses/contact lenses
- Re-hydration sachets
- Antiseptic wipes
- Handwash gel

In your hold luggage
- Any liquids, such as shampoo, moisturiser, deodorant over 100 ml and all bottles can be decanted into small, clear, plastic Ziplock bags. We recommend biodegradable washing products where possible.
- We recommend taking a copy of your passport and insurance documents with you in case you lose your originals
- In your hand luggage carry any valuables, such as your camera, ipod, ipad etc.
- If you wish to travel 'light' and wash your clothes throughout the ride, please bring with you laundry detergent that is biodegradable
- All waste that could be considered toxic (batteries, aerosols, batteries, empty cream tubes, film) needs to be kept with you and transported back to the UK, where recycling is done well and efficiently. Avoid, wherever possible, to bring with you unnecessary packaging

Sustainable tourism

  1. Travel light. It's a little known fact, but the lighter you pack, the better for the environment as heavy bags will produce higher emissions (when flying a plane or driving a car!).
  2. Reduce plastic waste. Take your favorite reusable bottle with you. Avoid single-use bags, cups, or straws.
  3. Preserve nature. Always take your rubbish with you during the ride and recycle them. Leave all the flowers or plants as you found them, and never get too close when observing wildlife. Make sure to use eco-friendly products such as body wash or laundry detergent (if camping) to protect both your skin and the environment.
  4. Choose your experiences carefully. Respect animal life by not participating in any activities that abuse wild animals (shows, elephant rides, etc.).
  5. Support local populations. Buy local handicrafts, be respectful of customs, and learn about the culture of local communities.
  6. Share! Raise awareness among your family and friends about sustainable tourism.

For more information please see this page.

Did you know?

On the blog

In August 2019, we were delighted to have Louise Carelsen escort one of our new rides: a riding safari in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Louise is not only a professional rider and horse trainer, she is also an expert in riding safaris and well used to navigating the bush. We couldn't have hoped for a better trail leader on this trip, alongside our superstar guide James Varden and his wife Janine, who together run our Zimbabwe safaris. Louise was kind enough to share an account of her adventures with us on the blog.