Ride Zimbabwe (Varden Safaris) riding holiday in Zimbabwe - Far and Ride
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Ride Zimbabwe (Varden Safaris), Zimbabwe


• Hwange Big Five Ride



Type of horses:

A variety of breeds including Boerperd, Shire X, TB X and Percheron X.

Nature of horses:

Sure-footed, experienced, fit and well-schooled.

Height of horses:

15 - 16.3hh.

Weight limit:

14st 2lbs / 198lbs / 90kg but they will accept up to 95kg for experienced riders.

Tack type:

A range of saddles to fit different horses and cater for guest preferences - Leon Liversage Trailmasters (handmade in South Africa), Australian stock saddles and Wintec English saddles. Most horses are ridden in snaffle bits. Water bottle pouches and saddle bags (in the saddle pads) are provided.


Travel Advice

Please ensure you read the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice before you travel.

Ride Description

Join James and Janine Varden for a fascinating horse safari in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. The start and end point is the luxurious Iganyana Tented Camp, situated on the Dete Vlei, which forms part of the buffer zone to the park. This is owned by Sheona and Terry Anders who are also horse lovers. From here the Vardens can offer you an exciting adventure into Hwange, home to more than 100 species of mammals (including all of the Big Five) and more than 400 species of birds.

This is an owner-operated safari with James and Janine involved in every trip. Their team of seasoned safari horses are well-schooled and equipped with quality tack to suit your preferences, allowing for a comfortable but exhilarating ride as you explore the wilderness, observing game in an area not currently operated on by any other safari companies. A Professional Guide since 1993, James Varden is renowned for his incredible knowledge of southern Africa and its wildlife, whilst also having a particular love of birds. The Vardens are also known for their conservation ethos and this is reflected in their safaris - they employ local staff, source local produce and keep a low environmental footprint. The fresh food they serve is found nearby. Terry Anders is also a licensed Professional Guide and former competitive polo player, enabling him to lead rides as well as James.

Transfers are available from and to Victoria Falls from where it's a two hour drive to Hwange park, ready to begin your adventure! There are many great add-ons possible in this region too, including a visit to world-famous Falls or perhaps a walking, canoe or jeep safari with a chance to see some more of the Big Five - please contact us for suggestions.

See Programmes.


Food & Accommodation

On the first and last nights you are accommodated at Iganyana Tented Camp. This luxury camp offers purpose-built tented rooms, all of which have en-suite facilities and verandas. The tents are made of steel-frames with double layers of canvas and are furnished to a high standard. The bathrooms have flushing toilets and solar-heated showers. There is a small swimming pool available for the hot summer days.

When on the riding safari in Hwange National Park guests are accommodated in traditional safari-style tented camps which are semi-mobile. The tents are mini walk-in Meru style tents with long-drop loos and hot bucket showers. You will have comfortable beds with good linen and everything you need for a peaceful sleep.

Laundry is available both at Iganyana and when in the bush. Electricity is available at Iganyana but not in the mobile caps - gadgets and cameras can be charged in the vehicle with the right plugs. There is also limited WiFi at Iganyana but none at all when in the park and no mobile phone service either.

During this safari you will be served fresh, home-cooked meals using produce which has primarily been locally-sourced. Lunches may be a hearty cooked brunch in camp or potentially eaten out in the bush.

Drinks are included and are standard local Zimbabwean beverages (both alcoholic and soft drinks), there is a good range. Should you request specific premium or imported drinks then these will be charged as an extra cost. Strong French press coffee is available.

Restricted diets such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten/lactose intolerant etc. can all be catered for with prior notice - this is essential to notify us months in advance. It's important to note that whilst it is easy to prepare meals without certain foods, Zimbabwe does not have the specialist food options available in more developed countries. Therefore we cannot guarantee the availability of specific food items or equivalents.

Water is borehole water which is filtered and very clean and safe to drink.



Bird-watching, game drives, night drives (only available when at Iganyana, not inside the national park), guided walks.


Further Details

Languages: English.

Health requirements: Good health and fitness recommended.

Age limit: 14+ unless by prior arrangement. Participants must be competent riders.

Tuition: No.

Included: Accommodation, meals, drinks (inc. local alcoholic beverages), laundry, guided horse riding and safari activities mentioned in itinerary.

Not included: Flights, airport transfers, travel insurance, National Parks fees (see pricing), premium drinks, tips or items of a personal nature.


Travel Information

The closest airport is Victoria Falls, with a 2 hour transfer time. We have included the transfer costs in the package price.

Airport: Victoria Falls



Hwange Big Five Ride

This ride is set within Hwange National Park, deep in the Kalahari. The terrain is perfect for the barefoot horses and the landscape is predominantly flat with no mountains or kopjes in sight, making for excellent riding and unimpeded views. Numerous animals roam the wonderful woodlands and grasslands near the pans, particularly elephant and giraffe. You should also see zebra, impala, kudu, warthog, eland, buffalo etc, and if you are lucky lion, cheetah, leopard and wild dog.

Day One:

You will be transferred from Victoria Falls International Airport to Iganyana Tented Camp where you will spend the first night. This is a two hour drive and the 'meet and greet' and transfer is carried out by a road transfer company.

Afternoon high tea is served, followed by a briefing from your guide, an indemnity signing and introduction to the horses. You'll mount up for a short introductory ride before heading back to camp for sundowners, showers, dinner and a peaceful sleep under canvas. 

Day Two:

Early this morning the horses and equipment will be transported by truck into Main Camp in Hwange National Park. You will have an early morning wake up with tea and coffee around the campfire, then you'll pack your bags, have breakfast and head off in the horses' footsteps. The drive is only around half an hour to an hour, depending on what sightings you have along the way! 

You'll check in at the tourism office and make your conservation and camping fee payments, then you'll be back on your horse for a ride into the park. You'll either ride with a picnic lunch to Caterpillar waterhole or be met there by a vehicle, then you'll ride on to Camp Dopi. Otherwise you'll ride to Caterpillar and then on for lunch at Camp Baikiaea. 

This area is typical of the region with Kalahari sands and Teak and Acacia woodlands. The waterholes attract local wildlife and allow for brilliant sightings and interactions. In the afternoon you'll either be riding back from lunch at Caterpillar to Dopi or riding out from Camp Baikiaea and exploring the surrounding area. Overnight with sundowners, hot showers and dinner under the stars. 

Day Three:

Tea, coffee and a light breakfast around the fire signals the start of your day. You'll mount up for exploration of the region, taking whichever direction your guide chooses. You'll be walking, cantering, jumping, wildlife tracking and viewing! Today it's back to camp for brunch, siesta and a rest for the horses (and you!) and then you'll be served afternoon tea to fuel you for another ride or a bush walk. 

Sundowners, hot showers and dinner under the stars again, or under canvas if it happens to be raining! 

Day Four: 

Today is another early start, although your wake-up time varies according to the seasons. Mid-year is very cold first thing in the morning and so you'll start a bit later, around 06:30, whereas the peak heat of October, November and December requires a 04:30 start. 

There are no set routes to your rides and each day depends on what was heard during the night, what animal tracks your guide has found and what the weather conditions are like, as well as many other factors. It may be a half day or a full day ride with a picnic lunch near a waterhole for wildlife viewing. If lunch is at camp then the afternoon can be a bush walk or game drive. There are other waterholes which are recommended for a visit if guests are interested in birding or photography. 

Sometimes your guide may decide that an early morning walk or drive is going to be better and may then switch the day around so that the morning is non-riding and the afternoon is a ride instead. Sometimes the horses need to rest before a long day the following day and that is also factored in. 

Whatever happens you'll enjoy an exciting day on safari followed by cold drinks around the campfire and a delicious dinner. 

Day Five: 

Today you ride from Camp Baikiaea for a full day out to Kennedy Camp. This is a ride of around 30km through woodlands and by waterholes (which may be dry!), stopping for a picnic lunch en-route. 

In the afternoon you'll arrive to Camp Vachellia and settle in for sundowners and hot showers before dinner. 

Day Six: 

Today is spent in the Kennedy 2 area of the park, exploring some beautiful Acacia groves. The camp is located along the Kennedy Vlei which is a renowned area for wildlife viewing. Morning activities could be riding, walking or a safari drive, depending on the wildlife sightings and activity and the time of year. 

A good option is to take a game drive to the Ngweshla area which isn't far, as this is usually very active for wildlife. 

Day Seven: 

Final early morning wake-up to enjoy the dawn in the African bush around the fire. After a light breakfast you'll be back onto the horses for a ride between 10 - 20km, depending on wildlife activity, to a point where the horse truck will meet you. This is the end of the ride and the horses will be loaded up. You'll enjoy a game drive out of the park and back to Iganyana for the night 

Sundowners tonight are a special affair, reminiscing on the past few days of being in the real African bush on fine mounts, enjoying the amazing wildlife and open spaces. 

Day Eight: 

Depending on departure times, there may be time for a short walk to stretch the legs before a sumptuous final breakfast. Then it's time for transfer back to Victoria Falls airport or wherever you are headed. Sad farewells to the camp but knowing that a return to Hwange is definite! 

Accommodation: Five nights mobile camp with stretcher beds and two nights Iganyana Tented camp. There is no electricity at the mobile camp, but there are bucket showers. Once at Iganyana you can re-charge your batteries.
Minimum group size: 2
Maximum group size: 8
Ability description: You must be an experienced rider who is comfortable in all paces and riding fit (strong intermediate - advanced). This is a Big Five area and there is potentially dangerous game.
Type of ride: Safari
Total riding time: 7 nights, riding everyday except departure day (riding hours depend on wildlife activity, time of year, weather conditions and interests of the group).
Departure dates: 2021: 3-10 April, 17-24 April, 1-8 May, 15-22 May, 5-12 June, 19-26 June, 3-10 July, 17-24 July, 7-14 August (confirmed), 21-28 August, 4-11 September, 18-25 September, 2-9 October, 16-23 October, 6-13 November, 20-27 November.
Pricing: 2021:

Special post-Covid rate (valid until end July 2021): 2922 per person sharing
Single supplement 759 if not willing to share
(Please contact us for rates from August 2021 onwards)

Price includes 5 nights mobile safari and 2 nights Iganyana Tented Camp, all activities, meals, drinks, return transfers from Victoria Falls airport to Hwange national park.

Conservation fees for Hwange ($50pp) and camping fees at Hwange ($115pp) must be paid directly in cash at Hwange gate - please bring small denomination US Dollar notes for this ($165 in total).

Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding.

All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.