Saddle up and experience the magic of the bush at the remote ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya – part of the iconic eco-tourism company Great Plains’ portfolio. Along with traditional game drives, the beauty of ol Donyo Lodge is that it is home to an impressive stable of twenty horses, which allows guests to swap the rumble of the engine for the sound of hooves hitting the grassy plains. This experience is an absolute must and is available for riders of novice to advanced levels and is suitable for families (with children over the age of 12), couples (a great place to pop an all-important question), and individuals looking for some alone time in nature.
Serenely located in the Chyulu Hills, in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, privacy is guaranteed at ol Donyo Lodge. Swapping a game drive for a morning or afternoon on horseback offers one of the most peaceful and unique ways to experience Kenya’s diverse landscape and its awe-inspiring natural world. Guests can forge their unrestricted path across the soft volcanic soils, riding across open savannah alongside inquisitive Maasai giraffe, jackal and antelope. Passing by herds of zebra, “big tusker” bull elephants and wildebeest, guests might even be lucky enough to spot cheetahs up close.
On this unforgettable experience and as someone who has experienced it many times, Dereck Joubert, Great Plains CEO, comments, “One of the great African experiences I always look forward to is riding in the shadow of Kilimanjaro alongside giraffe. One of my favourite authors, Karen Blixen, describes this Kenyan setting as ‘delicately painted ladies draped in mists and fineries.’ It transports me into a different era when the clutter and complexities of life are left behind and where the physical exercise, the horse, the place all connect us, as riders, to Africa. I can’t recommend this experience more highly for the quality of the ride, the horses, the equipment or that long snow-capped shadow that is ever-present here.”
When it comes to pairing riders and horses, the stables (set within the beautiful Acacia forest at the base of the Chyulu Hills) are home to calm and hardy Boerperds, ideal for novice riders. A selection of thoroughbreds are also available and recommended for intermediate and advanced riders. Intermediate riders can enjoy a gentle 60/90min ride exploring the open plains. At the same time, those with more experience can head out for 2-4hr rides where they will enjoy exhilarating medium to fast-paced canters – an incredible opportunity to explore the concession. The stable team at ol Donyo Lodge warm up guests in the saddle with a quick assessment to ensure they are paired with the appropriate type of horse. All the horses are an absolute joy to ride, soft, responsive, sensible and fun, yet well-mannered and calm even when wildlife is nearby due to grazing regularly in the bush. Guests can choose between British, trail or Western-style saddles to ensure they are comfortable throughout their ride.
For morning rides, guests meet at the stables around 7.30 am when it’s cool, fresh, and the ground is dewy (5.30 pm is the latest to be out on a ride!). Guests will be kitted out with all necessary equipment from jodhpurs to riding helmets and will be under close supervision and guidance of a specially trained horse safari guide. Couples tend to ride out together, and groups (up to 6 maximum) can be accommodated if guests are travelling with friends or family. After time in the saddle, the ol Donyo Lodge team will spoil guests with a delicious bush breakfast, accompanied by birdsong, under the shade of an acacia tree (sundowners for those out on afternoon rides).
Along with riding, numerous other experiences and activities are available at ol Donyo Lodge, including mountain biking, guided bushwalks, tracking, bush breakfasts and the chance to sleep out under the twinkling African sky. Sit back, relax and soak up the surrounding wilderness and stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro before heading back to the lodge (either by vehicle or on a trusted steed) for a refreshing dip or a long, leisurely soak in one of the lodge’s private plunge pools.