Introduction of horseback safaris in a private concession area operated by Singita Grumeti Reserves Ltd (SGR) is gaining popularity day after day among highly paying visitors hailing from mainly overseas.
SGR introduced horse rides for its visitors in 2010 with the aim of promoting tourism and protecting nature from excessive use of motor vehicles (game driving) in the concession area covering 140,000 hectares (350,000 acres). The concession area is bordering the world heritage of Serengeti National Park, Tanzania’s major tourist destination, and it is also part of the annual migration route of millions of wildebeest and zebras.
So far the company has 18 horses used by visitors to view beautiful wild animals including the ‘Big Five’ and the nature of Serengeti-ecosystem plains. “News of these quality horses along with the Singita’s reputation for highest standard accommodation is reaching equestrians from Europe, USA, Africa and the East”, said Mr Martin Dodwell, one of Singita Grumeti Reserves senior managers.
Mr Dodwell disclosed that 40 horse riders have been conducted on Sasakwa hill and 96 rides onto the plains over the last twelve months. The speed of horseback safari is six kilometres per hour (6KPH), and every horse has been given a specific name, according to him. They are Almasi, Rafiki, Moran, Selous, Mzuri, Gelai, Duma, Empaki, Mshindi, Kivuli, Ramani, Sadiki, Giza, Kilima, Kerimasi, Biggest, Manfred and Zorro.
The average lifespan of a horse stands between 20 and 30 years. According to Mr Dodwell, the horses are now attracting tourists from all over the world with those from America, Europe and Asia leading. Our visitors enjoy riding on the Serengeti plains, he said. Singita Grumeti Reserves operates four luxurious travel products under the management of Mr. Graham Ledger, namely flagship Sasakwa lodge, Sabora Tented Camp, Farufaru lodge and the newly introduced Singita Explore Mobile Safari Experience in that concession areas that is located in Serengeti District, Mara Region.
“Singita Explore has only just opened in June last year, and we have taken one party of four riders on safari there with more bookings due in, and we hope to receive more bookings this year,” said Mr Dodwell, who is the head of the Equestrian Department at Singita Grumeti Reserves Ltd . “Twelve months ago, we were dreaming of having a mobile tented camp that would enable the company to offer up to one week horseback safaris within the concession area.
We are proud that the dream has come true and the first safari using the mobile camp named Singita Explore took place in 2011. A number of American guests came and rode for six days between Sasakwa, Farufaru and Singita Explore”, he added. Each day, American visitors rode in different areas while viewing animals such as elephants, buffalos, elands, topi, roan, lions, cheetah, antelopes, and many species of the plains antelope’s.
“The guests were very impressed and they promised to visit us again in 2013 and also spread the word that Singita Grumeti Reserves can now deliver horse rides in its amazing area”, Mr Dodwell further explained. Horseback safaris, he said are available within the Wildlife Management Area (WMA) from June to October when there is a decline of grasses and tsetse numbers.
He however expressed optimism that the company will horseback safaris throughout the year it is granted a permission to ride on Sabora plains in Grumeti Reserves by relevant authorities According to him grasses in Sabora plains remain low throughout the year something which provides a better visibility for viewing the game and riding horses at the faster paces that the guests enjoy.
Despite that Sabora Plains camp is still on the SGR concession area it situated within Grumeti Game Reserve and the current law prohibits domestic animals including horses from entering in a game reserve. “Singita Sabora Plains Camp will be the ideal location to offer accommodation to guests while they explore this area on horseback”, the official said.
“‘Horse riding is a new tourism product in this area and it has gained popularity across the world within a short time. Proving very popular in attracting tourists worldwide therefore we believe that the law can be reviewed and allow a certain number of horses to enter these areas within our concession. If this area with short grass will be made available to us we will be conducting horse safaris throughout the year instead of only five months and attract many more tourists to Tanzania’, the SGR Equestrian Manager pointed out.
SGR is owned by An American tycoon Paul Tudor Jones (PTJ) who has heavily invested on tourism and conservation sectors in Tanzania after falling in love with the Serengeti eco-system over the past few years. For the first time in the history of Tanzania’s tourism industry, Singita Grumeti Reserves lodges have been named as world’s number one among 100 best luxury and tourist hotels in the world for 2011. They were named by US most trusted magazine Travel and Leisure Magazine.