Taking a ride on the wild side
I had a bad experience with a horse when I was younger and for years I wouldn’t go near one. I have since gotten over that and now jump at every chance I get to ride. In Addo you can ride in either the Nyathi or Zuurberg sections of the park.
Addo horse trails
These depart from the main rest camp in the morning or afternoon and are two hours long.
The Nyathi section is home to the Big Five so it is recommended that you have a moderate level of experience and be confident that you can control a horse. They can accommodate all levels of rider though so just discuss with the park staff when booking.
People say that the great thing about game viewing on horseback is that the wildlife aren’t as afraid of the horse as they view them just like any other antelope walking through the bush and don’t see the people on their backs.
For those of you concerned about the safety of horse riding in an area inhabited by lions, rest assured that the game rangers monitor the whereabouts of the predatory animals and will move the rides to a different section of the park if there is any concern about safety.
Having met our guide and been introduced to our horses we saddled up and headed out on what was a beautiful morning for a ride.
Having driven around the park for several days it was nice to feel like you were part of the wildlife, sitting higher up and making your way through the vegetation without having to stay on a designated road. In an opening we came across a lone eland running around seemingly just for fun. There were also a herd of zebra that were actually quite skittish as we approached them but amongst them several stopped and stared at us with a distinct sense of curiosity.
We also had a family of warthog following us for part of the ride and saw several kudu and red hartebeest although photographing game while on the back of a moving horse is not the easiest. Riding at the back I would stop my horse and wait for the others to move ahead to get a photo but then my horse would get some form of separation anxiety. Without notice he would lunge forward and break into a trot in order to catch up, leaving me trying to not drop my lens cap while searching for the reins with my other hand.
The two hours seemed to fly by although having not ridden for a while my legs were feeling it. Approaching the stables we had to dismount and lead our horses through the low tunnel under the main road. Mounting up the other side, it was clear that the horses knew they were nearly home and would occasionally break into a trot. Suddenly as we came around a corner an owl flew out of the bush right in front of us which gave the one horse a bit of a fright, although nothing like the fright the owl got.
Zuurberg horse trail
Up in the mountain section of Addo Elephant Nation Park, the Zuurberg horse trails are about scenery more than wildlife. We just did a one hour ride but there are three and five hour options as well as the opportunity of doing an overnight ride where you get to stay at a tented camp down in the valley near a river which looks amazing and I want to do it the next time I visit.
Our guide was Max, who has been working in the area since before it was proclaimed by the National Parks and knows the area very well. It is situated about half an hour from Addo’s main rest camp on top of the dramatic Zuurberg Pass which is worth a drive even if you aren’t intending to to the horse trails.
There is still some game in this area of the park and we did see several red haartebeast grazing on the mountainsides but again photographing while on horse back is not easy.
The views are incredible with mountains and valleys to the north and to the south you look down over the main section of Addo and down all the way to the Indian Ocean with Port Elizabeth in the distance.
So if horse riding with the Big Five is not your thing and you’d prefer a relaxing ride in beautiful surroundings then this is well worth it.