Saddle up for a really wild ride: The inside story on cycling safaris in Africa
- Cycle safaris tend to be small group tours with an average of 16 guests
- Travelling on a bike is practically silent, so you see more animals undisturbed
- But you’re unlikely to see the ‘big five’ African safari animals from your saddle
Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week he explores cycling safaris.
There’s a new way to get up close and personal with animals in Africa. It doesn’t involve spending all week bouncing around in the back of a Land Rover or missing the perfect picture as you wind down a dirty car window – it’s a cycling safari.
Here’s the inside story…
Trailblazers: A group of Cycle Tanzania riders on their safari tour
GET CLOSER TO THE ACTION
Fans love the chance to feel closer to nature. Travelling on two wheels is practically silent, so you are more likely to see animals undisturbed. You can also access paths that are too narrow for vehicles, and feel less intrusive when visiting local villages.
HOW IT WORKS
Cycle safaris tend to be small group tours with an average of 16 guests. There’s a tour manager plus a team of drivers and support staff. You meet fellow guests at a safety briefing on day one when you try out your bike for size. Once on the road, you’ll have snack and photo stops, and every ride should have a designated ‘back-marker’ so you won’t get left behind.
WHO SHOULD GO?
You don’t need to be a Tour de France type. Operators say most guests are in their 40s, although anyone from 14 to 79 is usually welcome. There is an element of ‘cycling for softies’ built into most tours and some guests order an electric bike to help with hills. If you get tired, you can hop aboard the support vehicle. And don’t worry about stuffing your clothes into paniers as luggage also goes in the vehicle. All you need is water, a camera and sunscreen. Staff are even on hand to fix any punctures.
WHAT YOU SEE
The ‘big five’ African safari animals – elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, lions and leopards – are possible sightings on most holidays but you probably won’t see them from your saddle. When you’re in the heart of a national park and close to dangerous beasts, your guides will get you off the bikes and usher you to the safety of a more traditional safari vehicle. But you still see a lot on the bike days.
Up close and personal: Cyclists in the country will get the chance to spot a lion
Pick a cycle safari in Namibia with H+I Adventures and you should ride close to zebras, baboons, and oryx (12-day tours start from £3,130pp, mountainbikeworldwide.com). Choose the 14-day Drakensberg & Kruger trip in South Africa with Exodus and you’ll get the chance to spot wildebeest, springboks, baboons and monkeys, while vultures and eagles fly overhead (from £1,799pp, exodus.co.uk).
On the Cycle Tanzania tour with Intrepid Travel, routes take you through Maasai villages and there are opportunities to see flamingoes, wildebeest and gazelles (13-day tours start from £2,400pp, intrepidtravel.com.
For more serious cycling, try Swaziland for the Single-track And Sun-downers tour with Saddle Skedaddle. Race past lazing crocodiles and share your trails with giraffes (11-day tours start at £2,495pp, skedaddle.com).
If you want a seven-day charity ride through herds of impala, head to Uganda in December. You’ll pay £835pp to camp on the ride, or £2,119 to stay in a log cabin. Profits go to a local children’s charity. For further information, visit ridetheriftuganda.com.