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Ride Zimbabwe Matopos Safari

Cawston Wildlife Estate is an intimate 32,000-acre family run ranch offering exclusive and personalised safari experiences on their little slice of paradise in the stunning scenic landscapes of Matabeleland, 70km North of Bulawayo. The secluded under cover of a lush riverine forest with views overlooking an active waterhole are a frequent accompaniment to morning coffee. As the sun sets the nightly chorus comes alive with the stirrings of the carnivores and nocturnal residents, the stealthy prowl of the leopard, playful leap of the serval and civet, the forlorn wail of the backed jackal, the busy scuffle of the porcupine and honey badger and the clandestine crawl of the shy brown hyena, one of the top three rarest carnivores in Africa.

What's Included:

  • 3 nights Matopos National Park
  • 4 nights Cawston Wildlife Estate
  • Wildlife: zebra/ wildebeest/ eland/ giraffe
  • Rhino In Matopos
  • Safari activities riding – walking – game driving
  • All Accommodation
  • Full Board
  • All Riding
  • Services of professional guide for the duration
  • Flight route: Bulawayo Airport.

Price: from £2715

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Sample Itinerary and prices – scroll down for more details


Please note that this is a sample itinerary to give you an idea of what to expect on safari. Daily rides and activities may vary depending on a number of factors such as game movements and weather. These changes are at the professional discretion of your guide in order to provide the most beneficial safari experience.


Upon your arrival at Bulawayo Airport (Joshua Nkomo International Airport) at 12h05, the Ride Zimbabwe team will meet you in the arrivals area once you’ve cleared customs (alternative arrival arrangements can be made as long as you are in Bulawayo by noon!)

You will then be taken by road transfer to Cawston Wildlife Estate, the location of the start of the Discovery Ride. The journey is approximately one and a half hours, during which you’ll get a glimpse of the beautiful scenery of Matabeleland. There’s a good chance you’ll also come across some of the ‘locals’ driving into camp - giraffe, impala and warthog are sighted frequently! We aim to arrive for scrumptious homemade afternoon tea by approximately 15h00. The smell of French Press coffee will lure you to where lunch will be served, once you’ve been settled in your spacious, walk-in en-suite tents.

Once you’ve been settled in your spacious, walk-in en-suite tents, everyone will meet for a debriefing.

Your safari will then begin with an introduction ride. This is the most important ride, which serves to ensure you’re matched with your mount and comfortable in your saddle. Many hours over the next 7 days will be spent with the horse you’ve been given, so we want to make sure your safari is memorable for the amazing experience and bond you’ll form with it. Your magnificent steed has been bred or individually handpicked by ourselves especially for the purpose of being a safari horse. Because there’s no better way to get up close and personal with wildlife than on horseback, by the end of your safari, we’re sure you’ll agree.

The eerie call of the Fiery Necked Nightjar will herald dusk falling, along with the symphony of other wildlife and bird noises, settling for the night.

Sundowner drinks welcome you on the deck, to help you unwind and relax into the safari routine, an ice cold beer or gin & tonic does just the trick. Listen to the clink of glasses and the crackle of the campfire, all the while gazing at the expanse of the African night sky. A hot, invigorating shower awaits you in your tent, before you sit down to our delicious 3 course dinner where stories will be shared and you’ll get to know both your hosts and fellow riders.


An early start at 05h00 on day 2 awaits you. Enjoy a steaming mug of tea or coffee and a light breakfast with the rest of the riders, as the morning sun creeps slowly up from the East.

We will ride until approximately 11h00 through various scenery and habitats. Interesting information about the different vegetation and game seen will be willingly shared by our very knowledgeable guides.

The song of the Cape Turtle Dove becomes the background soundtrack to your rides, its distinctive ‘work harder’ call sounding in time to the rhythm of the horses’ hoof beats along the bush tracks. You might also hear the call of the White Helmet Shrikes, a sound that locals say mean game is near!

As the sun rises in the sky, the day will get warmer, enhancing the unique smells of the Africa bush, from the scent of dry grass being trampled upon, to the waft of ‘gaminess’ from the wildlife we’ll encounter. The aroma of the African bush is something quite unforgettable.

The vegetation of the ranch is dominated by thorn scrub woodlands, grassland drainage lines and Mopane woodlands. Underlying geology is predominantly basalts and Kalahari sands with these sands supporting Zambezi Teak habitats. The Umguza River forms the northern boundary with some beautiful Acacia and (searsia) woodland.

The beauty of the sights you may see whilst out on a ride is sure to overwhelm you, whether you’re a first timer, or have had the opportunity to visit Zimbabwe before. Be it the elegant, long-legged grace of the giraffe, the camouflage of the zebra, or the antics of misbehaving monkeys and baboons, something is sure to leave you awestruck.

After a few hours in the saddle, you’ll definitely have worked up an appetite for mouth-watering mid-morning brunch waiting for us on our return to camp. The heat of the midday African sun means an afternoon siesta is in order for everyone until afternoon tea at approximately 15h00.

The second ride of the day will begin at 15h30 – 16h00 for 2- 3 hours. Then it’s back to camp for drinks around the fire and another delicious 3 course dinner. Fresh air and a day in the saddle is an excellent recipe for a good night’s sleep!


The schedule for your third day on safari will be almost identical to the second, although we never know what awaits us out on rides. Enjoy another opportunity for our Discovery ride to engulf all your senses, from the smell of sweat from your mount, to the sight of the beauty of your surroundings, to the warmth of the African Sun on your skin, to the sound of the incredible birdlife and rhythmic beating hooves, to finally the taste of our delectable cuisine.

Our afternoon ride has the option of ending with sundowners or spotlighting for some of the nocturnal wildlife we could come across on the way back to camp.

Conversations about the day over ice cold drinks, will once again prelude dinner. Weather permitting this may be under the stars.


Day 4 will play out as above.

The afternoon ride will end at the sundowner site, from where you will be taken on a night drive back to camp, for another chance to see the incredible creatures that come out after dark, maybe you will be lucky and see an Aardvark, or Leopard!

A variation of this day is the option to dine on lunch in the bush and end the ride at a sundowner spot and be driven back to camp. This will be your last night at Cawston, a great time to reflect on your safari so far and share your experiences!


You’ll get a chance to sleep in and relax this morning, whilst your mounts are transported to Matobo National Park via truck before the heat of the day. Whilst the horses are on the move, guests will be treated to a full English breakfast before their own road transfer to join their steeds. The horses will depart at 06h00 for their 4 hour journey.

The road transfer to Rowallen Camp, Matobo National Park routes through the colourful city of Bulawayo, a pleasant journey of approximately 2 hours and a chance to take in the sights of what is known as City of Kings.

Upon your arrival at Rowallen and after being settled into your tents, another delicious lunch will be served, after which horses will be reunited with their riders.

Our first ride in the Matobo will commence at 15h00-16h00 for a couple of hours to give you a preview of the new surroundings you’ll be exploring over the next few days. Evening drinks await you on your return to camp, along with a 3 course dinner.


Another early 05h00/05h30 start to the day, with coffee, tea and light breakfast to prepare you for a morning on horseback through some of the oldest landscapes in the world.

Rhino tracking is in order for the first ride of the day. The Matobo National Park is defined as an IPZ – intensive protection zone for the rhinos found in this park. Throughout your ride you might come across anti-poaching scouts whose job is to protect these incredible creatures from the threat of poachers.

Matobo National Park covers an area of approximately 452 square kilometres, that’s the size of small European country! With the actual ‘Matopos’ covering over 3000 sq. kilometres that is the size of small European country. This area is rich in history, both local and worldwide, from the Bushman Rock Art, dating back hundreds of thousands of years, the site of one of the first Boy Scout movements. Cecil John Rhodes requested his burial atop one of the most sacred hills in the Matobo, where a grave was dug 1.5 metres into the granite by hand and chisel in

1902, an incredible feat even by today’s standards.

The granite kopjes which give the Matobo its name were formed 3 billion years ago, kilometres under the earth’s surface through an igneous intrusion of magma, which over time has eroded to the balancing rocks we see today. The Ndebele word ‘Matobo’ means the ‘Bald Ones’, a rather appropriate name.

As you ride through the valleys and pass close to the kopjes, a rock hyrax or ‘dassie’ may chatter at you in alarm, a harsh ‘cry’ in this tranquil landscape. If you look closely you’ll see this little creature, brown in colour and appearing just like an overgrown guinea pig.

Circling overhead, especially towards in the heat of the day, you’ll see the dassie’s main predator, the Black or Verraux’s Eagle. Ask your guide to point out the distinct nesting site of these birds of prey, whose population in the Matobo is one of the highest in Southern Africa.

Mid-morning means back to camp for brunch, and a siesta until the days cools down later in the afternoon. Afternoon tea is a must before you head out on the second ride of the day at about 15h30/16h00.

The Park has one of the highest concentrations of leopard, with 5 leopards every 25kilometres. Who knows? You may be lucky enough to see this spotted cat in the dusky evening light on the way back to camp, slinking along the path in search of prey.

Campfire stories, laughter, cold beers and scrummy hot food. What more could you ask for at the end of a day in the African Bush?


The morning of day 7 runs the same as the day before, with a ride, brunch and a siesta.

The afternoon brings a drive around the area and to visit the site of Cecil John Rhodes’ grave. Sundowners can be sipped on whilst gazing upon the historic ‘View of the World’ so aptly named by Mr Rhodes, an almost 360 degree view of the Matobo landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. The colours at sunset will take your breath away whilst sitting at this incredibly peaceful spot, whilst stories of Cecil John Rhodes’ life are told. Rainbow Lizards and Elephant Shrews make amusing company as they compete for crumbs from any food brought up the hill.

The patches of vivid colours on the granite may intrigue you, and the ‘Malindizimu’ hill shows unmatched examples of these coloured lichens, found all over the Matobo, varying from green, to blue to orange. An artist’s palette delights at such scenes.

(There is a small additional fee to visit the grave and the View of the World)

A final dinner and campfire session is waiting for you back at camp.


The morning of your last days presents the last opportunity for an early morning ride before breakfast. With it, a final chance to savour your safari and say goodbye to the horse you’ve shared so many different experiences with. A road transfer back to the airport to catch the Johannesburg flight awaits you after breakfast.

Price: from £2715 pp


2020 scheduled departures

18 – 25 January

21 – 28 March

18 – 25 April

16 – 23 May

20 – 27 June

15 – 22 August

19 – 26 September

17 – 24 October

21 – 28 November

19 – 26 December



  • While we have a small collection of half chaps and hard helmets, it is preferable that you please bring your own well-fitting hard hat and riding gear.
  • All guests will be required to sign the indemnity form before riding and must have travel insurance.
  • Please bring sufficient batteries and mobile charging equipment for your cameras for the 5-day mobile component as there will be no access to mains electricity during this time.


  • Transfers, parks fees, camping fees, conservation fees
  • Gratuities to staff
  • Items of a personal nature
  • As it is a remote location with no access to shops, please ensure you bring everything you need particularly medications.
  • We advise brining small denominations of USD for tips and transfers.


  • As we are riding in a big game area, we only accept experienced riders that are comfortable at all paces and also riding fit.
  • Maximum of 8 riders so as to provide a more personalised safari experience.
  • Minimum number of 2 riders.
  • Single supplement may apply if not willing to share.
  • Minimum age 14.
  • First Aid Kit and Satellite Phone carried with horses at all times.
  • Our experienced bush savvy well cared for and loved safari horses make the perfect companions for your Zimbabwean Adventure. Ranging in height from 15hh-16.1hh comprising of Boerpeds, Shire X, Fresian X and Thoroughbreds, we have the perfect steed for your dream safari.
  • Tack is of an excellent quality to ensure our clients utmost comfort and include Leon Liversage Trail Master Saddles handmade in South Africa, Australian Stock Saddles, Wintec English Saddles and most horses are ridden in a Snaffle bit.
  • Water bottle pouches and built in saddle bags on our numnahs provide ample space to carry day kit.
  • Average riding time per day is 6 hours.
  • Weight limit is 90kgs. Please ask about other options for heavier but experienced riders.
  • Rates are subject to change: Please note we have no control over National Parks fees and rate increases.



For tips regarding your holiday such as what to wear and riding ability, please visit the Travel Tips page.

We work hard to ensure that each customer has a great time on their holiday. Please see some riding holiday reviews here.

We have a large range of holidays to suit a range of riding abilities. Please see here for more information.


If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

How To Book

  • Fixed start/finish date
  • 7 night stay
  • 30% deposit to book
  • Final balance 12 weeks prior to holiday
  • Book On-line by filling in the booking form below and pay deposit via WorldPay
  • or Book by phone on 01829 781123.

Optional Extras

  • Single Supplement
  • Transfers.