Ride Report

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In The Saddle

Although I’ve lived and worked in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia for many years, I’d never had the opportunity to visit Kenya and so I was looking forward to my trip there.

I travelled to Borana after a six night Amboseli safari and short visit to Ol Donyo Lodge (see separate report).

After camping (albeit luxury camping) on the Amboseli safari I was looking forward to running water – especially in the shower. Other than that I really was not sure what to expect at Borana and when I landed at Lewa Downs Airstrip I was greeted by two of our clients who were on their way out. They said they had had a great time, and had been so well looked after – so that was a good start!

The game drive through Lewa and onto Borana started with a sighting of three cheetah, then my first ever sighting of a black rhino and reticulated giraffe, so it was looking good. (the drive takes between one and two hours depending on the amount of game along the way).
Lewa is famous for their black rhino conservation project and they have been so successful in breeding these rare prehistoric looking animals, that there are plans to relocate 20 onto Borana next February. This is also one of the few places to see the majestic reticulated giraffe.

I arrived at the lodge in time for lunch and this was a very social affair. We all sat at a long wooden table on a veranda, eating, drinking and chatting as the weaver birds and a hornbill watched closely. My first impressions of the lodge were that of a wonderful African home.  Somewhere you would want to take your friends and family. The bedrooms are large, comfortable and tastefully decorated with an African influence.  The lounge has a lovely big open fire place and the bar is not far away. It is cosy and so I can imagine there are many evenings spent in front of the fire with a G&T talking about the thrills of the day.

That afternoon I opted to walk with Sam, who is in charge of the reserve management. He told us about the black rhino project and all the training that is going into the game scouts who will be monitoring the rhino. We looked out for the little things, like flowers and termites as well as the big things and we were lucky to spot a striped hyena just before we stopped for sundowners. This was another first for me, so already the game viewing had already been brilliant and it was only my first day.

Back to the lodge for dinner in the main dining area, but only after pre-dinner drinks in front of the roaring fire in the lounge. It was quite chilly in the evenings and the fire was very welcome. And they even lit the fire in your room – I could get used to this!

For the rest of my time at Borana I rode twice a day, which was great. The riding times are quite flexible and depend on the number and wishes of the riding group. But we usually set out early and came back to the lodge for a full breakfast. Then after tea in the afternoon we went out for a couple of hours. Sometimes just the guides and I and sometimes in a group as different guests came and went. We saw so much game including lion, buffalo and elephant from horseback, along with giraffe, waterbuck, gerenuk and zebra. The horses I rode were ex polo ponies and surprisingly surefooted and easy going for Thoroughbreds. We had some lovely canters on vehicle tracks and in open terrain. Borana also have herds of Boran cattle and sheep which graze across the ranch and I visited their tannery where they use the hides.

As my time was limited I didn’t get to ride with Rose Dyer, however I did meet her and her husband and saw some of her Somali/Ethiopian cross thoroughbreds out grazing. She will take out the less experienced riders and children or those who simply want to enjoy a gentle evening ride.

And as Kilimanjaro had produced the goods down in Amboseli, Mount Kenya was not going to be outdone and we had a beautiful clear view of her one morning.

My time there was short though, as was only three nights, but I really enjoyed it and the whole set up far exceeded my expectations. I loved the lodge! So far Kenya was ticking all the boxes. From Borana I travelled back to Lewa and saw my first grevy Zebra – so many firsts on this trip!

If you are looking for either a relaxing holiday or an adventurous one in lovely surroundings, with great food and some really nice riding all topped off with potentially great game viewing, then this is the place for you. And if anyone in your group is a non rider then they will also be well catered for. I would recommend a seven night stay, three nights was just too short.

The next leg of my journey was in the Masai Mara, so I boarded yet another little aircraft and flew from Lewa to the Mara to ride with Gordie Church.

Tracy van der Merwe, 18th September, 2011

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