Chyulu Hills Horse Safari, Kenya
FACT SHEET FOR CHYULU HILLS HORSE SAFARI IN KENYA
This riding is on Mbirikani Group Ranch, which covers 300,000 acres and is owned by Maasai people. The focal part of the ranch is the Chyulu Hills, which rise from 3000 feet to 7500 feet. In the low country you have dry semi desert rolling savannah plains and as you climb away from the plains you go through acacia woodlands before reaching the hills. The hills – which run for 40 miles – consist of a series of volcanic craters with the peaks covered with mist forests. Due to the lack of water in the hills, wildlife is more prolific in the low country where we have 38 recorded species of large mammals including all the big five – Elephant, Rhino, Lion, Leopard and Buffalo, plus the plains game dominated by zebra, wildebeest and eland.
Riding can be done out of Ol Donyo Wuas Lodge (see the later section on ODW and Borana), spending the nights at the lodges, or can be done as part of a mobile safari, during which you ride between tented camps all over the ranch and beyond.
Mobile Safaris: For these safaris, you will be staying in tents in various locations and will be looked after by a full team of staff and your guides. There is a cook, waiter, general staff and a groom for the horses. They take care of all the domestic chores like heating water for showers and cooking all meals as well putting up and striking the camp, feeding, grooming and tacking up the horses.
The horses are tethered at night on a picket line strung between two or four trees. They have a night guard to watch out for inquisitive lions.
Riding Ability: You should be comfortable to ride at the walk, trot and canter. Galloping and jumping are options if you would like, but are not necessary. We ride in big game country but the game is quite shy so it tends to move away. You should be fit enough to ride between 4 and 6 hours a day.
Length of Rides: The average is 4-6 hours in the saddle. Usually a morning ride with lunch in camp and a walk or game drive in the evening. However, some days we will be met by the land cruiser with a picnic lunch then ride to camp in the afternoon. This can vary according to the ability and wish of the rider. Some places may require us to get off and walk because of rough or steep terrain.
Size of the Rides: Maximum of 6 guests. Minimum 2 guests
Weight Limit: Maximum weight is 200 lbs for a novice rider and 210 lbs for an advanced rider (15 stone or 95 kg).
Type of Horses: There are about twenty horses of varying sizes, temperaments and breed; from Boerpeds and thoroughbreds to Somali cross ponies.
Accommodation: The tents are large and spacious, and you can easily stand up inside. There is an ensuite bathroom with a shower and a short drop loo. Lanterns and torches provide the light at night and all linen, soap and towels are provided. A separate dining tent is used for all meals in camp.
Tack: All the horses are ridden in English tack. There are 3 comfortable large cavalry type saddles and the rest are general-purpose English saddles. There are seat savers provided if anyone wishes.
Meals: Full English breakfasts that comprise of fruit, cereal, bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes and fresh bread, are served every morning. Lunch in camp is usually a three-course meal. If having a picnic it would be fresh salads and cold meats with cookies, fruit and hot and cold drinks. Dinner is a candlelit three-course meal at a set table.
Drinks: Are included except champagne – We do carry ice and cold boxes to ensure that the drinks are cold throughout.
Terrain: The country offers several different ecosystems, from steep wooded hills to open plains. Most soil is lava ash therefore ideal for the horses although occasionally we would need to cross a rocky lava flow. The riding pace is varied, with plenty of opportunity for long canters on the open plains, jumping logs or fallen trees and also some more technical riding up and down the hills. Mount Kilimanjaro provides our backdrop.
Other Activities: On any day where anyone does not wish to ride we have a vehicle that can take you on day or night drives, with a guide, or you can explore the area on foot, walking up kopjes or hills and exploring lava caves.
Clothing List: Layers of clothes is the best option as mornings and evenings can be chilly but in the middle of the day can be very hot. Long sleeved cotton shirts are recommended to keep the sun from burning. Hats, sunglasses and sun block are a must. Hard hats and chaps are recommended, as is a warm and clean set of clothes for relaxing in the camp in the evenings. We do have a swimming pool at Ol Donyo Wuas, so make sure to bring your swimsuit.
Insurance: We recommend you take out the Flying Doctors ambulance cover that we offer for $15. This is only an emergency evacuation service so we strongly advise you to have full medical and holiday insurance.
Game: We ride where there are elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and cheetah, as well as plains game that are plentiful at certain times of year when they are looking for grazing. There is a severe lack of water in the Chyulu Hills so there is a constant movement of animals to and from their water sources to the abundant grass found in the hills.
Children: We will accept children on riding safaris but they must be competent riders. There are no discounts for children.
Non-Riders: We will happily take riders with less ability, as we have a variety of horses including some very quiet ones, but perhaps it would be best to ride from the lodge (see below) and not out on mobile safaris. For mobile safaris, it is recommended that you are comfortable at a slow canter. Complete non-riders are welcome to join the horse safari, and can meet the riders for lunch each day and stay in the camp with them also, filling their days with other activities mentioned above.
Single Supplement: Is only charged for those who are not prepared to share accommodation.
Weather: Although close to the equator, our climate can vary. June to August are the cooler months, where a fleece is needed for the evenings. There are two rainy seasons; November and April to May. The hottest months are February and March, September and October but there are no hard and fast rules on this. We ride at an average of 5500ft which means there are very few mosquitoes and other biting insects and the end or start of the day is often cool. Most days will be hot.
Medical and safety: A medical kit is on hand in camp and in the saddle. We are in radio contact from camp to the main lodge that is in contact with the Flying Doctor Service. We also have a satellite phone for emergencies and both the guides are trained in equine specific first aid.
Cash: There is a shop at the lodge and there are opportunities to buy curios from the Masai so do carry with you some small change in Kenyan shillings if possible, and otherwise US dollars.
How to Get There: You are advised to take an overnight flight that will get you in to Nairobi first thing in the morning. This means that you can connect with the schedule flight or private charter to Ol Donyo Wuas, arriving in time for lunch.
Visas: Visas can be purchased for $50 on arrival in Nairobi.
Nicola Young; Nicola was born in Hong Kong and largely brought up in England. Nicola started riding at the age of six. She rode at pony club and school level, and then moved on to playing competitive polo. Nicola has BHS training, including first aid, stable management, riding instruction and horse training. She has also worked at several eventing yards and groomed for professional polo teams. She graduated with a degree in Swahili and African Studies, from London University.
Patrick Stanton; Patrick was born in the US, where he developed a passion for horses and the wilderness. At fifteen years old, he decided to make horses his life. He apprenticed as a farrier whilst training horses on the side. After a brief stint as a rodeo rider he decided to play polo. He studied at the University of Connecticut, where he played varsity polo whilst studying anthropology/archaeology and equine studies. After graduating, he went to UK to play polo before going to Australia, where he worked on a cattle station, mustering cattle and breaking-in the brumbies (wild horses) that roamed freely in the hills around the ranch.
From there he joined Nicola in New Zealand, where they broke and trained horses and took out guided rides. After that, they both moved to Australia to run a horseback holiday company, before settling in Kenya. Patrick and Nicola are both based permanently at Ol Donyo Wuas, in the Chyulu Hills.
SIX DAY SPECIAL
Example itinerary – All of our mobile horse safaris are currently running on flexible itineraries.
They can be created to entirely suit your ideas and needs. Below are some examples of suggested itineraries, but anything from two nights to ten nights camping is possible, with any number of
nights at Ol Donyo Wuas lodge also.
DAY 1 – Safarilink schedule or private charter to the Chyulu Hills from Wilson airport in the morning where you will be met by your guides, Patrick and Nicola, who will be accompanying you for the next five days. After lunch and a siesta you can go for an afternoon ride to choose your horses and get a feel for them and the terrain. The first evening will be spent in the comfort of Ol Donyo Wuas lodge.
DAY 2 – LENKILORITI– After a delicious breakfast at the lodge, you and your guides set out on a four hour ride to an area of the ranch called Lenkiloriti. On the way, you are likely to come across some of our spectacular bull elephants browsing in the forest before you emerge onto the plains where you are bound to meet zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, oryx, gazelle, cheetah and even lion. En route to your camp, you will skirt the lava flows which line the plains. After a late lunch and a bit of a rest, it is into the lava flow, on foot, to track down some of the last wild black rhino in Kenya. Lenkiloriti is also an exciting place for a night game drive where you will look for leopards and lion on the prowl.
DAY 3 – KOPJES. This morning, you ride to the Kopjes, which are huge granite outcrops in the middle of the plains. This is about a 5 hour ride so you can begin early and get there for a late lunch or take a picnic with you and get in for tea. The day’s terrain will be mostly the classic, quintessential, short grass plains dotted with thorn trees which allows you plenty of opportunity for long canters. After a ride, walk or game drive in the afternoon, we will climb up on top of the kopjes for a magnificent sunset which will include a 360 degree panoramic view, dominated by Mount Kilimanjaro .
DAY 4 – – CRATER CAMP. On your fourth day, after breakfast, you set off on your horses for a full day’s ride up into the Chyulu Hills .This is a more technical ride which will take you to the Crater Camp. The ride up is quite steep through wooded areas, which pass lava tunnels and caves to explore on the way. The suggested afternoon activity is to climb up the magnificent volcanic crater next to the camp for another breathtaking view. Upon returning from sundowners you will find hot water for showers and a campfire to sit around whilst dinner is being prepared.
DAY 5 – MIST FOREST CAMP. Crater to Mist Forest Camp – Depart early morning and climb up on to the central ridge line of the Chyulu Hills. This takes you through rolling grass lands and skirts the central indiginous forests. Views are spectacular of Tsavo to the East and Kilimanjaro to the West. We expect to see eland, hartebeest, reed buck and bushbuck. You will arrive at Mist Forest Camp (Quentin’s camp) for a late lunch. Riding through the mist forest you will be able to see huge Strangler Figs creating cathedral like arches, some of which you can ride under. Buffalo live in these forests and you are likely to hear leopard at night. Very chilly as you are at about 7000 feet.
Day 6- Spend the morning riding back to the lodge, arriving in time for lunch. In the afternoon you can relax by the pool or siesta and overnight at Ol Donyo Wuas.
Day 7- Depart after breakfast to your next destination.