Hacienda de San Rafael Riding Safaris is a new excursion which we are delighted to be able to offer for the first time to our clients. The Safaris are organised over 3 or 4 days, depending on client requirements and cover a variety of landscapes in south western Andalucia.
We have a three day itinerary riding through stretches of the Doñana National Park and the landscape bordering the park. The Doñana is the largest and most famous Spanish national park and lies in the mouth of the Guadalquivir river. Thousands of birds come to winter here, huge flocks of geese from northern Europe and groups of flamingos. It is also home to grey herons, egrets, spoonbills and storks.
Come springtime, dozens of species nest in the marshes. The lagoons found all over the park are regularly visited by fallow and red deer as well as wild boar. This is the only place in Europe where the Iberian lynx and Egyptian mongoose are found.
For these 3 days we use beautifully schooled hispano-anglo-arab crosses that have been bred and trained by their owner and our principal guide, Alfonso Gonzalo de Bustos. Alfonso is a lawyer by profession but retired from practice 25 years ago to concentrate on his true passion. He has over 25 horses to suit riders of different aptitudes and great care is taken to match the appropriate horse to rider. Alfonso has various permissions which allow us to ride through different zones in the park.
The park is full of sandy tracks and bridleways that make it excellent for galloping, it also makes the terrain good going even in rainy weather as the sand absorbs much of the rain.
As an option for the fourth and final day we have a ride available at the Ruchena Estate. Ruchena is situated in the province of Cadiz and belongs to Luis Valdenebro, Marques of Ruchena. The estate has been in his family for centuries and is dedicated to breeding toros bravos for the corridas (bull fights), as well as cattle for meat.
In the 1960s a bullring was built by Luis so that he could train as a “rejoneador” (bullfighter on horseback). He has passed his passion on to his son, also named Luis, who has eight specially trained rejoneo horses. Luis works with each horse on a daily basis and is completely dedicated to fulfilling his dream of turning professional. It is Luis who acts as guide accompanying our guests whilst they hack through the hills and amongst the cattle of the estate.
The landscape of Ruchena is mainly of undulating hills with views of open countryside and pasture for the cattle. The mountains of Ronda are a feature that can be seen in the distance. The terrain makes for a much slower riding pace as the horses must continuously climb and descend but the breathtaking views and open spaces make for a pleasant 3/ 4 hour ride.
The guests should ideally arrive at Hacienda de San Rafael the day before the full itinerary starts. They will be taken in the early afternoon to Finca La Corbera where Alfonso keeps all of his horses. Each rider is matched to a horse based on his/her weight and riding ability. The riders will be taken on a two hour hack enabling them to get used to their mount and on return to the stables any adjustments to either tack or horses can be easily made before the horses are transported the following day to the parkland.
Itinerary Day 1
After an early breakfast guests are transferred from San Rafael to Coria del Rio, a village approximately 35 minutes away where they are ferried across the river by barge and from there driven a journey of 5 minutes to the countryside on the outskirts of Puebla del Rio where the horses are already tacked-up and waiting.
The ride makes its way through parkland and open countryside and across Dehesa de Abajo an area owned by the State and where locals can graze their cattle. The area is protected and special permission needs to be obtained to ride through here.
After approximately 2 hours riding the group will stop for an aperitif under an ancient oak tree where a rare breed of black stork nests. The aperitif is a typical Spanish affair consisting of manzanilla sherry, ham, chorizo, olives and cheese. The ride then continues through open spaces great for galloping, as well as through wild olive groves called acebuchales and past a beautiful lake with flamingos feeding before heading into the umbrella pine forests.
Lunch is served in the countryside. A table and chairs are set up by the grooms who follow the ride in a back-up vehicle and are responsible for serving guests.
The lunches throughout this 3 day itinerary typically consist of traditional andalucian cooking including salads, fish or stews, or typically chickpeas with specially prepared meats. They are always served with wine, beer and soft drinks as well as a dessert and coffee to finish.
There are two more hours of riding until the group reaches Hacienda de Gelo where the horses spend the night. The guests are transferred by car to Coria del Rio and then on to Hacienda for a hot bath before drinks and dinner.
Itinerary Day 2
After breakfast guests are transferred from San Rafael via Coria del Rio to Hacienda Gelo where the horses are ready and waiting. The second day of this ride makes its way from Hacienda Gelo to a village called Villamanrique. The ride will pass alongside orange groves, peach and grapefruit trees, vineyards (of eating grapes not the wine variety!) as well as through forests of pine.
There are plenty of opportunities for gallops along the sandy trails. The aperitif stop is after 2.5 hours of riding and lunch is served below an oak tree. After lunch the group make their way across the River Quema, where new pilgrims on the annual pilgrimage to El Rocio are baptised. The ride ends in Villamanrique where the horses remain, guests are transferred back to the Hacienda via Coria del Rio. Drinks and dinner at the Hacienda.
Itinerary Day 3
After breakfast guests are transferred from San Rafael via Coria del Rio to Villamanrique where the horses are ready and waiting.
The final day´s ride makes its way from Villamanrique across the Rio Quema heading eastwards back towards Las Colinas. The ride will pass through Dehesa Tornero, passing some very beautiful countryside of old oaks and the forests of pine. The aperitif and lunch are both served in idyllic locations in the parkland. The ride ends at Las Colinas where the horse lorry will be waiting to transport the horses home and from where guests are transferred back to the Hacienda.
Dinner and drinks at the Hacienda.
Itinerary Day 4
After breakfast guests are transferred from San Rafael to Ruchena where Luis the guide will be waiting with new horses for the group.
The group will spend approximately 4 hours riding through the 1000 hectare estate, across fields of open pasture and passing enclosed areas where the toros bravos can be seen grazing.
The ride makes its way upwards across the hills where the village of Montecastillo can be seen in the distance. An aperitif is served in the countryside before the ride makes its way back towards the main house. A typical lunch is served in the courtyard of the main house.
Dinner and drinks at the Hacienda.
Riding: 4 to 5 hours per day
Horses: Andalucian/Spanish Arab cross, some Anglo Arabs and part thoroughbreds
Tack: English (Doñana) and Spanish (Ruchena)
Pace: Moderate to fast (Doñana) slow (Ruchena)
Riding ability: intermediate and experienced – guests must be comfortable in all paces including walk, trot and canter.
Minimum 6, maximum 14
Excludes: Medical insurance (compulsory).