Travel

Riding a horse in Indian Ocean

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Kinondo Kwetu General Manager Anna Werner during the interview. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

Summary

  • Unlike other beaches on the Kenyan Coast, this part of Galu is untouched and underdeveloped.
  • Anna Werner, the general manager of Kinondo Kwetu says horses are naturally, strong swimmers, and most of them love being in the water.
  • Kinondo Kwetu has three horses; two Boerperds from South Africa and a Thoroughbred.

The wind blows as the horse gallops on the powder-soft sand and ocean water on Diani Beach.

The sand stretches out behind me and in front. It is a saddle-up trip on the Indian Ocean, a different kind of adventure from swimming, sunbathing, or snorkelling at sea.

The air is fresh and smells a little like salt. I take it all in, or rather us, my horse and me. I stroke his mane and tell him he is a good boy.

His coat glistens, warm from the morning sun, and his hooves throw up grains when he wades into the sand.

He snorts, I relax the reins and let him stretch out into a full gallop along the breathtaking Diani Beach in Kwale.

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Anna Werne rides a hose on Galu Beach. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

Unlike other beaches on the Kenyan Coast, this part of Galu is untouched and underdeveloped. The gently waving palm trees, sandbanks, and incredible beach are what prompted the owners of Kinondo Kwetu, a quaint hotel in Kwale, to start horse safaris. With good tides, you can swim with the horses.

Kinondo Kwetu offers its guests the opportunity to explore the beach on the horseback.

Anna Werner, the general manager of Kinondo Kwetu says horses are naturally, strong swimmers, and most of them love being in the water.

Kinondo Kwetu has three horses; two Boerperds from South Africa and a Thoroughbred.

“They love the ocean. The two horses from South Africa love swimming but the Thoroughbred has a hard time understanding the low and high tide,” says Ms Werner.

The horses are bombproof meaning they are unlikely to become upset and spook at any strange sights or noises.

Ms Werner recommends early morning and late afternoon rides when the water is calm and it is not too hot.

“For the horses’ safety and also the comfort of the rider, we do rides in the morning before 9am mainly because in the afternoon it gets so hot. We also do it after 4pm. We can do sunrise and full moon rides. The full moon rides are done once a month and you have to have a good tide. It is magical,” says Ms Werner, who is an experienced rider.

In a period when tourist arrivals have dropped, the horseback beach trips have drawn tourists seeking a new adventure.

Freedom at sea

Bobby Kamani, an advanced rider and a beginner polo player, says no experience quite matches that of swimming with horses and riding on Diani Beach.

“I have been riding for many years. I’ve experienced riding on mountains, in the African savannah, in the Maasai Mara, and Laikipia. But nothing quite compares to riding on the beach and swimming with the horses,” he says.

While galloping on the beach, he says he felt complete freedom and an ultimate sensation that is beyond his imagination.

“Swimming with the horses is also an out of body experience. You feel like you are flying,” says Mr Kamani.

This unforgettable experience has brought new guests as well as draw the existing ones, loyal lovers of kite surfing, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, yoga retreats, and cultural visits to Kinondo village.

“We have polo players who come for riding. Our horses are so nice that even a non-experienced person can ride,” says Ms Werner, of the one and a half-hour ride that costs Sh6,500 for non-residents and Sh2,800 for domestic tourists.

Kinondo Kwetu, a property near the sacred kaya area, a holy forest, is owned by a Swedish couple who came to Kenya for a vacation and fell in love with the country.

Ida and Filip Andersson were on holiday in 2014 when they fell in love with Kenya. The couple wanted to stay longer and decided to purchase the property with hopes to transform it into their home and hotel.

“We were young when we purchased the plot in Kinondo Kwetu which belonged to a longtime family friend. She was ill and needed to sell, we were just lucky to be at the right place at the right time,” says Ida.

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Bobby Kamani an advanced rider and a beginner polo player swims with a horse in Indian Ocean, Diani. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The family shuttles between their Sweden and Kenya homes.

“We love Diani and Kenya. We travel back and forth which is a bit challenging with the current pandemic. Kinondo Kwetu is our family. The place and people are very dear to all of us,” says Ida, who is currently in Sweden, and also runs the Kinondo Kwetu Trust Fund that supports the community.

We arrived early in the morning at the Kinondo Kwetu stables. We were introduced to the horses and told a bit about each one, their personalities, and their quirks. As I mounted my horse, it took me slowly through the sand, I guess it sensed that I was inexperienced. But it was exhilarated, so was I.