with James Varden



Ride Zimbabwe combines the thrill of an African safari with the pleasure of horse-riding, and is a great way to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and get close to the wonderful wildlife in a quiet, natural and unobtrusive way. Animals such as antelope, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest, even elephant and buffalo, and other non-predatory plains game, simply see horses as other similar four-legged creatures sharing their environment, and take little notice of their human riders on top.

On a Ride Zimbabwe horseback safari, you can stroll right up to a giraffe as it feeds in the acacia woodlands and trot across a grassy plain alongside a family of warthog, or let your horse munch grass near a herd of zebra or watch a herd of sable go to drink at a waterhole. These are magical moments that you just cannot experience in a regular game-viewing vehicle, which additionally have noisy engines and are often full of other people, and must stick to only the marked roads and tracks in wildlife areas.

Our special horses at Ride Zimbabwe are permitted to go absolutely anywhere, and you and your affectionate steed can explore beautiful wildernesses shared only with the grazing herds. Other advantages of safaris on horseback over vehicle safaris is that horses have finely-tuned senses to send signals to other game animals in the area to relax, and of course as a rider you are higher up so have the benefit of being able to see quite a distance across the African landscape.

Ride Zimbabwe operates multi-day horseback safaris for experienced riders in some incredible destinations, carefully chosen for both their scenic beauty and prolific game. We are based at Umguza outside of Bulawayo in Matabeleland in central Zimbabwe and run our safaris in the riding areas of Hwange National Park, Cawston Wildlife Estate, and Matobo National Park (CURRENTLY SUSPENDED DUE TO COVID) These are easily accessible from both Victoria Falls and Bulawayo airports and transfers are available, and there are many great add-on possibilities in this region too, including a visit to the world-famous Victoria Falls. THOUGH THE ULIMATE ADD ON FOR ACTIVE AND ADVENTUROUS RIDERS IS A CANOE AND WALKING SAFARI IN MANA POOLS.

We provide an exclusive and personal experience in the saddle with superbly-schooled horses and dedicated and highly-trained Zimbabwean guides, blended with mobile, ecologically-sound wilderness camps and selected fully-serviced lodges. Then there are the delicious home-cooked meals enjoyed in the bush and tranquil evenings sitting around the campfire sharing the day’s riding stories. If you love horses, adventure and the great outdoors, there is truly no better way to discover Africa than on a Ride Zimbabwe horseback safari.


Our Riding Safaris

In August this year, Ride Zimbabwe was chuffed to host ex-African Horse Safaris Operator, Louise Carelsen from Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris in Botswana, Louise is now living in America with her husband Cor and their two boys. To read about her ride with us, please click here.

Horse and Hippo Safari

This is the best combination of active and adventurous safari styles…incorporating riding, walking and canoeing. This is the safari for adventurers! Experience the best of horse riding safari and then the Mighty Zambezi!

Plains Game Extravaganza

This eight-day safari will allow you to experience the best of the Matobo hills, a UNESCO world heritage site, as well as enjoying the wildlife and tranquillity of Cawston Wildlife Estate. Mounted on fit, well-trained, and bush-savvy horses you will scramble around kopjes, walk with wildlife, or canter into the sunset. 

Anne & Elliott Sumers, New York, USA

Dear Janine and James,

Thank you for sharing your horses and teaching us so much! We had a fantastic week on Lily and Echo and Moolie and the trustworthy Dodger and always steady Governmnet!

We loved it all but especialy;

  • James’ encyclopedic knowledge of all Things, cultural, natural, animal, geology of Zimbabwe, plus Movies, “The gods Must Be Crazy!”
  • Mongo’s driving and James teaching him on all Wildlife
  • Hemish’s 4 children and what he wants for their lives
  • 3 beautiful male lions one morning!
  • Endless herds of elephants and babies in mud baths
  • magnificent male Kudus fighting
  • Baboons trying to steal from Kulu

We are so grateful for your hospitality which was all encompassing – wonderful food  and drinks, and no effort spared in making us safe, comfortable and well looked after. We can’t wait to return!

Anne & Elliott Sumers, New York, USA

Kevan Zunckel, South Africa

This is a very special place run by very special people. Thanks James and Janine for a great stay. I sincerely hope I will be able to come back for much longer stay. Well done, for a well run and sustainable operation. All the best for the future and all your ideas and projects.

Kim, San Francisco, USA

James and Janine this is such and extraordinary place – I feel incredibly fortunate to have discovered it. Thank you for your warmth and hospitality and for all you are doing to the preserve the beauty and the wildlife. I can’t wait to tell everyone – well the right everyone’s!

Jonathan and Barbara, Harare

We had a lovely 4 days of high expansive views across flatlands and mountain peaks and fun swimming at Otter Pools. We loved the horse riding to Raffia Palms Oasis and sundowners up the Mountain. Many thanks to Nesbit, as energetic as a teenager and always ready to share his knowledge of the bush. The kids felt they had entered paradise and indeed it is.

Sarah and Mark, UK

Many thanks for a wonderful – week! So many amazing places and wonderful sights – what a relief the elephant went the other way… Fantastic hospitality and wonderful food too. This is a very special place – long may it last. Extra special thanks to your brave and clever horses, who did not falter through the rugged terrain – we will definitely recommend you!

Dawn and Liz, UK

Words don’t do what we have just experienced justice. We have been privileged enough to have spent 6 days riding over 140km from Hwange Main Camp to Somalisa Expeditions on wonderful, well cared after horses, being looked after all the way by our expert guides, James and John. The ride covered a variety of terrain and was mind blowing knowing all along we were riding horses that were enjoying their time as much as we were! We could fill this book with our experiences but as you will find out you will have your own. Thank you to Janine who doesn’t stop working to ensure every part of the safari was perfect!

Thank you James, Janine, John, all the grooms and the wonderful chef Stanley who restored our energy levels. Finally we need to mention Kabul and Government who were exceptional safari horses!

We don’t want to leave but we are leaving with memories the will last forever and new found friends!

Wishing you all the luck that your hard work, perseverance and dear love of horses deserve!!!

Love Dawn & Liz

Melany & Simone Perucchi- Levendale

Dear James,

Thanks for this amazing time. I’ve fallen in love with home again.

The horses are the best, your knowledge is endless. Nothing can beat riding in the bush.

See you again soon, Love from Switzerland


Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

The natural horsemanship weekend was such an amazing experience. The lessons learned were incredible. The riding in Hwange was fantastic. Staff were all just incredible.

Sign me up for the next one, best weekend ever!

Love always, Heather



Katharina, Swiss

Not the first time and definitely not the last time with the Vardens’

Thank you so much for 3 amazing weeks … new area of Zim, new bird species, new friends!

Lots of love,


ps. you are stuck with the crazy Swiss





Dear James and Janine,

Thank you so much for a wonderful, wonderful experience in Hwange. It was perfect! I loved the horses, the camps, and the company was sublime!

It honestly far exceeded all expectations of the week. I can’t believe I saw so many amazing animals, from the chasing lions, 200 herd of ele, cat at camp and all the giraffe (not to mention all, the pangolin!)

James thank you for all the fascinating knowledge you imparted.

Thank you for being such amazing hosts!

Bests Abi




Julie Stevenson

Well, how to express what a fabulous time I have had, 3 days of bliss (and maybe a blister or 2!) riding Moolie-the stunning black Friesan with huge heart.

The storm on Tuesday night cooled & fed the thirsty bush and offered so many glimpses into the bush revival.

The surprise sundowner on the last night- drinking prosecco to an apricot sunset with the company of James and Janine + Danni will remain an unforgetable moment.

Iganyana is a very special place.

Thank you, thank you

“A bientot”

Julie Stevenson




Jenna Z, Canada

Newfoundland is going to miss you and this wonderful adventure so much. I did not expect this place and this people to hit my heart & soul as much as it has.

James, your knowledge of the bush, the animals, and your patience with so may wild crazy women is certainly something alse! It can be a little dounting to sign your life away to head into the wild but I have never felt more safe and so at peace. I have had the best laughs of my life and have definitely made some longterm friendships. Your horses are stunning, Thuli is my favourite girl and she was the best to ride. This is a special place and a very special ride you guys have put together. I have so many more words but Terry is currently standing over my shoulder making fun of my tears and this is not a goodbye note so I will end it here and see you guys next year or at my wedding somewhere in Zimbabwe.

Love you guys



Steph, Singapore

Amazing time out in the bush with great company, horses & wildlife!!

Thank you James, Terry, Janine & Dani, Hemish too, for a fantastic time. We are going to miss it!

Back to Singapore for now.



James and Janine or Mom and Dad!

Thank you for an amazing time. The horses were beautiful, the crew was amazing and we really could’nt have ask for a better Zim bush family.

We loved every single bit of our experience with both of you & Terry!

Take care ride Wild!