High Plains Horseback Safari

At a GlanceItineraryDetail

Maloti Mountains Trail, Lesotho.

Min 2; Maximum 10 riders.

Lesotho is a small independent nation completely encircled by South Africa: an island nation without a sea border, and known as the “Mountain Kingdom”. Thaba Ntlenyana (3,482m) is the highest peak in southern Africa and lies at the northern end of Lesotho; most of the country consists of high mountain ranges which have been heavily eroded by rivers. All these rivers flow west into the Orange River and then into the Atlantic Ocean, which is not what you’d expect, given that the Indian Ocean is so much closer. And this sets the tone for Lesotho – not what you’d expect!

Most Lesotho people live on the flat plateau called the “Lowlands”, which is a relative term because the entire country is above 3,000 feet asl! The “Highlands” are sparsely populated and getting into them is a slow progress. Lesotho is one of those places where distance is measured by time, not kilometres, which is the hallmark of any true adventure destination. This trail is remote and far off the beaten track, and takes place in a country that is itself, off the beaten track.

This is high, remote country – the trails will be little visited and that special “wilderness feeling” will be there in abundance.

Horse ride Lesotho

Local transport in Lesotho: a field of ‘red-hot pokers’field

The itinerary

The Maloti are part of the Drakensberg Mountain Range and form the boundary between South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho. The highest peak in the range is Thabana Ntlenyana (3,482 m) and it’s the highest peak in southern Africa, south of Kilimanjaro. Ride amongst peaks, with and deep valleys and rivers that feed into the Orange River, but in Lesotho it’s known as the Senqu River, which flows more than 1,000 Km to reach the Atlantic.

The word “maloti” is also the plural of “loti” the name of the local currency.

Day 1: Getting there
The international gateway to southern Africa is Johannesburg and from this huge city there are 3 or 4 flights a day to Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. We’ll meet you upon arrival at Moshoeshoe I International Airport and drive you out to Semonkong Lodge which is about 2 ½ hours driving. Check in to this lovely lodge; rest and relax.

Travel time: 2½ hrs
Distance: ± 120 Km from airport
Overnight: lodge

Day 2: Intro loop ride to Maletsunyane Falls
We’ll match you up with a suitable horse and take a trial ride out to the falls. The Maletsunyane River falls 186m into a basin that has been gauged out from basalt. The acoustics are remarkable and possess an almost metallic quality. Local legend says it is the voices of lost souls that have drowned here – a little macabre! The falls, which are one of the highest single dropping waterfalls in Africa, creates a haze of mist as the water plummets into the spectacular gorge. It’s from this haze, or ‘smoke’, that Semonkong takes its name, “The Place of Smoke”.

Return to the lodge after a picnic lunch.
Saddle time: 4 hrs
Distance: 15 Km
Overnight: lodge

Sehlabathebe Mountain arch; pony ride, Lesotho

The Sehlabathebe Mountain arch

Day 3: ride to Thaba Putsoa
Depart from Semonkong Lodge; pack all your gear onto the packhorses and climb into the Thaba Putsoa mountain range where we will be camping at the foot of Thaba Tšeou (the White Mountain).
The country here is rolling grassland where local cattle, sheep and horses graze. The going is good, but we have packhorses with us, carrying the camp equipment as well as personal baggage, so progress is careful and steady.

Saddle time: 6 hrs
Distance: 15 Km
Overnight: tented camp

Day 4: Trek to Ketane
Ketane is a remote place: no roads lead into this area and travellers either walk in, or ride in. In the morning reload the packhorses and set off from Thaba Tśeou. There’s a steady ascent to reach the top of the Ketane stream and follow the valley to the village near the waterfall. The Ketane waterfall is 122m high and tumbles into a spectacular gorge via a number of pools; it’s well worth the hike to view it from below. Those who make the effort are rewarded with one of Africa’s most evocative spots: you feel you’re the first person to see this beautiful place and echoes of Prester John and ancient legends lend themselves well to this setting.

Saddle time: 7 hrs
Distance: 15 Km
Overnight: village accommodation

Village huts used during the horse riding holiday in Lesotho

Village huts used during the ride


Day 5: to Ha Mojalefa
Today is the longest day and we need to cross a high pass at 2,800m. Spectacular views from the top, where we pause for our picnic lunch, before dropping down into the Maletsunane Valley. Spend the night at Ha Mojalefa village.

Saddle time: 6 hrs
Distance: ± 20 Km
Overnight: village accommodation

Day 6: Descend into the Maletsunyane Gorge to Ha Ntlasinye
Yesterday began with a big ascent, today begins with an equally big descent down into the Maletsunyane Gorge. The trail is steep in places and will require you to lead your horse now and again. The distance isn’t great and we reach camp early. Set up camp then enjoy the rest of day relaxing and swimming in the river. You will notice a distinct change in vegetation, with many more trees in this area.

Saddle time: 4 hrs in the saddle, 2 hrs walking
Distance: 10 Km
Overnight: tented camp

Maletsunyane water fall, Horse Riding holiday Lesotho

Maletsunyane water fall

Day 7: Explore the Maletsunyane Gorge
Today is another short day, riding up the Maletsunyane gorge as far as possible, camping on the banks of the river. Relax and prepare yourself for tomorrow’s big climb out the gorge.

Saddle time: 4 hrs
Distance: 10 Km
Overnight: tented camp

Day 8: Ride back to Semonkong Lodge
Today is a long day, leaving as early as possible, we have a big climb out of the Maletsunyane Gorge back to Semonkong Lodge. Enjoy a hot shower and relax with sundowners at the ‘Duck and Donkey Tavern’ thus completed the loop trail.

Saddle time: 6-7 hrs
Distance: ± 20 Km
Overnight: lodge

Day 9: Depart
We’ll drive you back to Maseru airport for the flight to Jo’burg or onward travel.

Saddle time: 0 hrs
Travel time: 2½ hrs
Distance: ± 120 Km back to airport



horse riding holiday in Lesotho, with guide.

Riders, ready with their guide


Terrain: Not high enough for altitude sickness to be a threat, but high enough for the weather to be unpredictable. Some rivers; lots of rough mountain terrain with some steep ascents and descents. A few level sections for a faster pace. Riders should be happy to get over natural obstacles such as rivers, gullies and dips.

Climate: The summer is the wet season with regular thunderstorms in the afternoons. The winter is the dry season, the temperature often dropping below zero. When a frontal weather system moves through, the mountains are often covered in snow. Snow has been recorded all year round in Semonkong, although it is rare outside the period of April to October. The summer temperature in the mountains rarely exceeds 28°C and may drop below -10°C in the winter. When preparing a trip to Lesotho, whether it’s the summer or the winter, on foot or in 4 wheel drives, or mounted, you must always have warm clothing. The best time to ride in Lesotho is late September through Christmas and New Year up to May; best three months April, May and Oct.

Pace: walk 75%; trot 23%; canter/gallop 2%.

Horse Breed: Basotho Ponies 14 hh to 15 hh.

Tack: South African army saddles (designed for long distance riding) with a sheepskin pad. Variety of bits, often with levers, requiring gentle hands.

Rider’s involvement: riders are expected to groom and tack their horse; untack during breaks. There is always assistance at hand.

Rider’s weight: 90 Kg max

Accommodation: based on twin share; single occupancy available on request
Family run mountain lodge x 3 nights
Camping: 3 nights
Hamlet huts x 2 nights

Distance from urban areas: nearest town is Bloemfontein which has state of art medical facilities.

Cross-cultural awareness: the majority of the population is Christian, and the largest group within this is the Roman Catholic church. Rather more interestingly are the sects that blend Christianity with local, traditional beliefs and incorporate animal and plant deities.

Guide: an English speaking professional guide will accompany us throughout.