Now that COVID restrictions are largely a thing of the past, once-in-a lifetime, bucket-list experiences are again within reach - with the caveat that our will to see the world is tempered with an awareness of travel's negative impact. So the pandemic was an awakening.
Offering handpicked riding holidays, specialist tour operator Ranch Rider has rounded up five dream horseback adventures that align with our newfound consciousness:
Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort, British Columbia
Luxury might be an important element in many once-in-a-lifetime journeys, but it's far from the only one as our desire to protect the environment has never been more heightened. This spread of 80,000 acres of pristine wilderness, near Kamloops and a 4½-hour drive northeast of Vancouver, has an intimate lodge featuring boutique rooms along well luxurious safari-inspired glamping tents - all housing up to just 16 guests at a time - manages to elegantly combine the two.
Besides riding horses, other pursuits here include fly fishing, lake swimming and guided eco-adventures. Of this last option, the "Waterfall Ecology Hike" is billed as an “Indiana Jones” type experience, part reflection (the journey detailing the devastation of the 2017 wildfires in this region) and part inspiration (the adventure prompting you to heal the planet after giving you the rare opportunity to see climate change up close). There's also the option to tune into your own natural rhythm at the "Star Camp" (set in its own private dark-sky reserve), located deep in the Cariboo wilds. Seven nights with Ranch Rider from £10,173 pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, most ranch activities, taxes, gratuities, and excluding car hire and return flights (exact prices available on request). Departing June to September.
How we experience destinations - and with whom we travel with - are also questions we are all keen to explore in the post pandemic era. A bucket-list country, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, made CNN's 2022 list of dream destinations, and our new horseback adventure (above and top), which starts and finishes in capital Amman, includes a visit the mysterious, spectacular Rose City of Petra during six days of exhilarating riding through Wadi Rum, the "Valley of the Moon."
More eco-friendly than travelling by jeep, and guided by local bedouins, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to appreciate the wonders of this vast lunar-like landscape through the eyes of the locals. The ten day Follow the Bedouins ride from £1,500 pp (two sharing) includes all accommodation (half board hotels in Madaba, Petra and Aqaba, full-board in Wadi Rum, along with bivouac tents), guides, entrance fees and transfers; return flights, and gratuities (left to guests' discretion) are exluded. Riders (12 years old and up) must be able to trot and canter comfortably. Departures are available in spring and autumn, and Red Sea or Amman extensions are available.
In some regions, COVID's forced absence of visitors caused nature to hit the reset button, while in others we learned the critical importance of travel in uplifting communities and supporting conservation. Nowhere more so than in Africa, where the pandemic was an unfortunate gift for poachers. Located in central Kenya in the rugged wilderness of the Laikipia plateau - just under three hours from Nairobi and overlooking Mount Kenya - is one of the continent's most successful rhino sanctuaries, the Borana Conservancy. And its original eco haunt, Borana Lodge, is home to the official pride rock, the landmark featured in Disney's The Lion King.
This eight-bedroom boutique lodge has few neighbours in its 32,000-acre backyard, ensuring safaris here have a more intimate feel than those in the much better known Msai Mara. Built from local materials, the property sits atop a rocky hill with panoramic views over the plateau. Primely positioned, the infinity edged pool allows for 24/7 wildlife viewing as the animals make their way to the waterhole, and there's a range of exciting activities - with horseback safaris front an centre, but also including ranger walks and even paragliding. For next-level horseback adventures, ride across Lolldaigas, the Monkey Valley and Mpala, and camp out under East Africa's starlit skies. Five-nights with Ranch Rider from £2,730pp (two sharing) in low season which includes a £650 donation to conservation. Price includes transfer from nearby Lewa Downs, all conservancy activities, and full board but excludes return flights. Departures year round.
Zapata Cattle & Bison Ranch in Colorado
The call to halt climate change grew even louder over the course of the pandemic, as people began to see the dramatic effects of a sudden curb in emissions. Owned by The Nature Conservancy and run by forward thinking Ranchlands Collective founder Duke Phillips, this 103,000-acre ranch near the town of Mosca, 3½ hours south of Denver, is tackling climate change the cowboy way. In this south-central portion of the Centennial State, responsible farming and conscious cattle-grazing work together to conserve the soil and regenerate the earth. Philips' methods are a mirror of pre-settler times when herds of bison (the ranch has a herd of 2,000) would pass through the high plains, their movementmimicking nature, their hoof action an ecosystem process in the same vein as wind, water, and fire.
Where the legendary Western owpokes stand and ride tall plays a part in Zapata's holistic plan and take in the spectacular surrounds, the landscape composed of meadows, wetlands and cottonwood groves, and the property overlooking the Sangre De Cristo mountains and the huge rolling sand dunes of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Six-nights with Ranch Rider from £2,510pp (no single supplement), the ranch holiday including opportunities to gather cattle and ride alongside the herd of wild bison. The price includes accommodation, meals, and most ranch activities and use of ranch facilities, along with taxes and gratuities, but excludes return flights. Departures May through October.
Argentina's Estancia Los Potreros
Authentic travel is connected to culture and long held traditions, the benefits of this type of tourism trickling down into local communities. Set in a beautiful reserve at the top of the Córdoba Hills, this 6,500 acre ranch dating back to 1573 is located in the north of the country, a 6½-hour drive or 3½-hour flight from Buenos Aires. The experience at this fourth-generation, Anglo-Argentine family is more homestay than farmstay, and your hosts, the Beggs, have lived and worked on the property for more than a century, spanning four generations. An authentic introduction to the gaucho (Argentine cowboy) lifestyle, the ranch combines pleasure riding across the pampas with opportunities to rope and round up the 700-strong herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle. The weekly "gaucho games" and polo matches offer more in the way of adventure, but for pure exhilaration ride to "the top of the world, " the highest point on the property, and appreciate the spectacular views out over the Sierra Chicas.
Off ranch, the owners support several community projects including a nearby rural school, and they are also working with local authorities to re-introduce endangered wildlife to the Cordoba hills. Save 18 percent (465pp): Seven night stays during September (known to be one of the best months to travel to Córdoba) with Ranch Rider from £2,080pp (no single supplement) including accommodation, meals, drinks, ranch activities, use of ranch facilities, and taxes but excluding return flight. Full price £2,545pp.
Besides the above, Ranch Rider offers riding holidays in Botswana, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, South Africa, and Tanzania. The specialist tour operator is part of the Frontier Travel collection, which also includes Frontier Canada, Frontier Ski, Frontier America, American Round-Up, Holidays 2, and Independent Traveller's Africa programme. The company offers tailor-made skiing holidays, bespoke itineraries, including fly-drives and escorted holidays, and ranch holidays. For more information on Ranch Rider, see our site, call (020 8776 8709, or email firstname.lastname@example.org; ATOL-protected; No 5405 ABTA W3207.
Thanks Barbara. Yes, Jordan is a favourite with experienced riders, but Ranch Rider has plenty of horseback safaris on offer for the beginner too, and the backdrops are just as alluring. For example, Horizon Horseback in South Africa's Waterberg region.
Lots of cool expeirences here! The one in Jordan sounds like an especially great adventure. And I've never heard of a horseback safari, so that's pretty neat, too!