Undoubtedly one of the best and most authentic ways to experience first-hand, traditional cultural life in the Maloti Drakensberg mountains. The region is famous for its sturdy ponies who navigate the hills and valleys of the area with remarkable agility, allowing access to otherwise unreachable sights. Local guides and friendly hosts offer a range of trails and rides to choose from.
The Maloti Drakensberg region is renowned for its incredible views and breathtaking scenery. On horseback you can reach some of the most remote and scenic areas without the slog of hiking. The trails take you through peaceful grassy valleys and alongside tumbling rivers into the heart of these majestic mountains. You can see some of southern Africa’s most spectacular waterfalls, and ride through deep, rugged gorges. Some of the trails lead you up steep passes to high mountain peaks. On most of the trails you stay overnight in village huts, and experience the local food and friendly culture first-hand. Pony trekking through this region is an unforgettable experience.
What is the history of the Basotho ponies?
The first ponies in Lesotho are said to have been captured from the roaming Griqua tribes in the early 1800s. In 1829 Chief Moorosi gave a pony as a gift to King Moshoeshoe, who was so taken with his pony that he brought many more into the country. Pony riding rapidly took off as the main form of transport in Lesotho.
The Basotho pony is a cross-breed between the full-size European horse and the shorter Javanese pony. These ponies are widely known for their strength and sure-footedness, which make them ideal for trails through rugged mountainous terrain.
Involving the whole family
Pony trails are an ideal venture for the whole family, as you don’t have to be an experienced rider to feel secure in the saddle. Most of the ponies are extremely tame and well-trained, and are used to being ridden by a wide variety of riders. You are always accompanied by a guide who is very familiar with the terrain and the ponies. Overnight rides may be too demanding for young children, but there are many short trails available which can be enjoyed by the whole family.
What is the best time of year for pony trekking?
Riding is excellent through most of the year, but remember that the winter months can be harsh in this region, with extremely volatile weather patterns. For this reason, all rides are subject to change due to bad weather.
Preparing for a pony trek
All trails are accompanied by an experienced guide, and all horse-riding equipment is provided. The weather in winter is cold and snowy, so bring appropriate clothing, including long pants to protect you from the riding gear. Bear in mind that the weather throughout the year is very changeable, so
have rain gear with you, and make sure that you are always prepared for sub-zero temperatures as most of the trails are at high altitudes.
Although most of the water on the trails is suitable for drinking, it is safest to purify it beforehand. Ultraviolet radiation is high in the thin atmosphere of the Drakensberg and Maloti Mountains, so make sure that you have sun protection.
Depending on the village in which you will stay, you may need to bring your own food, and utensils for cooking and eating. Check with your travel guide beforehand to make sure that you have all the equipment you need for the overnight trips. On some trips a packhorse is used to carry your overnight luggage. It is therefore a good idea to have a small day-pack in which you keep items that you may need during the day.
Some of the overnight trips are strenuous, as they involve six or seven hours of riding each day. If you are not used to riding, your body will be quite sore at the end of the day, so be prepared for a bit of character-building discomfort! You may find it useful to have some kind of soothing balm for
How can you support the local community?
Pony trekking in Lesotho is a unique tourist activity, in that the local communities are closely involved with its organization. Most of the ponies belong to them, and your guides are local people. Pony trekking therefore provides sustainable income to the communities.
Most of the overnight stops are in villages, where you have the opportunity of engaging in the culture and life-style of Lesotho in a truly authentic way, at the same time knowing that you are contributing to the economic development of the community. In addition, the villagers are encouraged to protect the natural environment to ensure the appeal of these areas to tourists. This results in a mutually beneficial and sustainable relationship.