Anyone who has been to Africa will understand how a destination can ‘get under yourskin’; the wildlife, the wide-open spaces and the totally different pace of life all provide the perfect retreat from normality. Typically a safari will take the form of a four-wheel drive, however In The Saddle specialise in horse riding safaris in Africa, which can take you on wonderful adventures through the bush without the need for petrol power.
Seeing Africa, or any area in fact, by horseback provides travellers with a unique way of exploring the nooks and crannies of a country without the invasive and inflexible nature of four wheels. A horseback adventure can get you closer to wildlife, over terrain that no vehicle could ever attempt and all with minimal impact and disruption to the natural environment.
Africa is approximately 11.7 million square miles and much of this land presents itself in its natural state, with some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife living amongst the varied landscape. In The Saddle work with a hand-picked selection of guides, all of whom work tirelessly to conserve the natural environment and provide trips allowing guests to experience true Africa at its finest.
With a personal feel, Ant and Tessa Baber have perfected the art of luxury at their two beautiful lodges, Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill, in their own private game reserve in the Waterberg. Providing a boutique feel – the accommodation is exquisite and brings together pure luxury, delicious cuisine and a host of exciting activities to keep all the family entertained.
above: Ant’s Nest, below: Ant’s Hill
The Waterberg lies on an intercontinental divergence zone which means there is endless flora and fauna to enjoy and the owners of the reserve are able to naturally sustain over 40 species of game including giraffe, white rhino, sable antelope, buffalo, waterbuck, brown hyena and gemsbok. In addition there are well over 300 species of resident and migrant birds. Many hours are invested in conserving the land, treating injured animals, relocating and completing a game census, all undertaken from horseback. There are also a number of important ongoing projects including the Sable Breeding Project, Leopard Conservation and the Disease Free Buffalo scheme. As members of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy, Ant’s Lodges have been awarded 4 stars by Eco-Hotels of the World.
Each lodge has a number of well-schooled horses available for guests to explore the reserve on. All levels are catered for, whether you want to amble along with nearby zebra, canter along an open sandy track next to giraffe or traverse high ridges to view some of the spectacular sights from on high.
Imagine sleeping under the stars, huddling round a campfire and listening to the sounds of Kenyan wildlife living in their natural habitat. This is what you could experience on one of the mobile-tented safaris in the Maasai Mara.
Guided by Gordie, who is a third generation Kenyan and grew up on safari, you can get a real feel for the indigenous local people and environment which includes interaction with local tribesman and spotting all game, large and small, from the back of a trusty, sure-footed four-legged friend.
The ethos of this trip is to tread lightly on the fragile lands of Africa to leave a lifelong impression on visitors, but barely a footprint on the earth. Your camps offer a luxurious feel, yet are entirely mobile and leave minimal imprint on the environment and of course being on horseback or walking greatly reduces vehicle miles. Each camp uses solar lighting at night, food is homegrown or sourced from organic smallholdings where possible and sustainability and environmental responsibility are of utmost importance.
The landscape in the Maasai Mara is one of rolling savannah, Acacia woodland and riverine forests and as an extension of the Serengeti ecosystem this area is thought of as Kenya’s best wildlife sanctuary. Renowned for the annual wildebeest migration – if you are lucky enough to experience this spectacle on horseback it is an unforgettable experience, and meeting the local Maasai people will be a life changing experience that you will never forget.
Situated on the northern edge of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, the Okavango Delta is one of the most magical places on earth and although once considered a wasteland swamp, the area is now regarded as one of Africa’s prime wildlife spots.
With varied terrain, the Delta is a mosaic of palm islands, grassy flood plains, mopane forest and streams – all of which draws in a diverse profusion of wildlife and can be reached efficiently on horseback. An early start to catch the game when they are most active may lead on to long canters alongside zebra, lechwe or giraffe, followed by an exciting elephant tracking adventure and always a delicious leisurely lunch and siesta. Not to mention the delicious home-cooked meals in the evening and a chance to talk with like-minded people around a beautiful camp fire.
Staying in stunningly designed camps, all with ensuite facilities, including hot and cold running water, you can enjoy watching sunset on your own private veranda or a dip in the plunge pool to cool off after a long day in the saddle.
Macatoo invest much effort in to helping preserve the pristine beauty of the area and provide environmental monitoring each season to the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks. By embarking on a trip to Macatoo you are helping support the time and effort that is invested into preserving this wondrous location.
For more information about travelling in Africa by horseback visit In the Saddle.
by Olwen Law, In The Saddle