South Africa is renowned for its fabulous safaris, and In The Saddle work with the best in this fabulous country! Sometimes though the choice is too much, so we have heard straight from the ‘horse’s mouth’ in our latest blog to help you decide which trip will suit you best…
Taking time to reflect
Based on large private game reserves in the Kruger National Park, the Wait A Little horseback safari gives some of the best opportunities to see the Big Five – elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo – from the saddle! For Anne Carr the combination of amazing game viewing and beautifully schooled horses was a winner for her! “The horses were beautifully cared for, fit, forward going, sure footed, calm around game and an absolute delight to ride,” she says. “The riding was not as fast as expected, although we had some lovely canters at a brisk pace. There was a lot of walking through very dense bush, combined with canters along lovely sandy tracks, which wound through the area. Its so good to be able to talk to In the Saddle staff who have actually ridden there, as we are a bit older we did worry about the level of riding and whether we would be OK, but again the reassurance proved correct. The riding was challenging but only in the number of hours in the saddle without a break, the horses were wonderful. Our watchword of the week – AMAZING!”
The word amazing sums up Wait A Little
For Sara Mackmin, she was pleased that she had a good level of fitness before embarking on this ride! “We rode superbly fit, well behaved and well schooled horses with great characters,” she explains. “Having ridden at other places in Africa, I was expecting a faster pace in open order however, the more controlled close order line approach for canters was entirely understandable given the presence of lions! The long lopey canters on sandy tracks or winding around open bush areas were most enjoyable though you definitely need to be fit and able to sustain a standing/light seat position at canter for long periods – I think our longest was a good 10-20 minutes or at least it felt like it. One day we rode for 5 hours with several long canters to get to the other side of the Reserve in search of elephants – brilliant and I am so pleased everyone in our group was fit and up for the challenge.”
Angie Keech told us that she had the time of her life at Wait A Little. “It was all fantastic,” she explains. “The horses, the grooms, the tack, the riding, everything – it was out of this world! The tents at Wait a Little camp got very hot during the day but sitting outside on the decking was lovely. The food was tasty and they took into consideration my gluten intolerance. Lots of wine too, which was ideal! I had the time of my life and have lots of photos and videos as a reminder.”
The riding is challenging but controlled at Wait A Little
Luxury meets game viewing
Ant and Tessa Baber have perfected the art of the luxurious and very personal safari at their two beautiful lodges in two private game reserves in the Waterberg. Particularly well-equipped for families and inexperienced riders, this area has no dangerous game. For Alison Smither, Ant’s Hill welcomed her with open arms and she left feeling part of the magic! “We were a group of three, “ Alison states. “One non-rider, one novice and one very experienced. The guides were great, each ride started off with us together, then we split for sections, with two of us doing a faster loop, then all meeting up further round the tracks. When we joined with other riders, same thing, if anyone wanted a slower ride they could do so, no pressure to ride faster than you felt comfortable. Similarly, those who wanted a long fast canter round the winding sand tracks got their wish too. If you wanted some tuition or a bit of help, no problem, a lovely guide was on hand to help you. As the horses live in the bush you are able to get very close to the animals, it’s an incredible experience coming face to face with a curious giraffe!”
You can get very close to game at Ant’s Lodges
And if you are looking for home comforts then Ant’s Lodges are for you! “The beautiful lodges were kept clean and tidy by the ever smiling and cheerful ladies,” Alison goes on to say. “Wonderful views down the gorge and to the open plain below; what a treat to be sitting eating breakfast whilst watching the animals wander about below.
The food was the best ever; morning biscuits, breakfast, then the chefs produce a “light” lunch, which is much appreciated after the morning ride. This was usually something with lots of salad dishes followed by deserts – don’t miss those! Afternoon tea and cake to build you up for the afternoon ride, then the evening meal. Always 3 courses, eaten in one of several beautiful settings, either inside by the roaring log fire, on the terrace over the gorge, or, our favourite, in the boma. Everything was delicious, special diets were well catered for. We also had a BBQ in the bush one lunch time, watching the antelope and zebra at the waterhole, a pretty special place. One word of advise for anyone thinking of booking this holiday – stop thinking and do it! It was a great adventure, fantastic riding and game viewing with friendly, knowledgeable guides. They are all young but passionate about their work and their country and a lot of fun to be around.
Without exception, the staff are so welcoming and helpful, from the minute you are whisked off to your first drink when you arrive, to the farewells at the end, you feel part of a big happy family.”
The accommodation at Ant’s Lodges will take your breath away!
For Lisa Sydenham, she combined the luxury of Ants Hill with a fun stay at Camp Davidson at Horizon and found it to be the perfect family holiday. “Both Horizon and Ants Hill had really knowledgeable guides who made sure we saw game whenever possible but also enjoyed superb long canters as well,” she says. “At Horizon they offered some fun alternatives to riding in the bush such as le trec and also polocross. The riding was better than we expected and we managed to ride as a family a lot of the time, which was lovely. Lovely varied menu at both locations and even at Camp Davidson despite them only having a small tent to cook in! The bush lunch and the braai in the boma at Ants hill were really special. This was the most amazing holiday our family has ever been on!! In The Saddle suggested the perfect combination of destinations for us and in the right order. As Ants Hill was more luxurious it was nice to have that at the end of the trip. We loved the way the horses were looked after and thoroughly enjoyed the extras offered at Horizon, which included African singing, a trip to see big 5 and a view of the night sky with Dr Phil. At Ants hill the sundowners in various different locations were a nice touch. Both locations had really lovely, friendly staff that made you feel nothing was too much trouble.”
A holiday at Ant’s Lodges will please all the family
Variety is the spice of life
When embarking on a horseback safari you don’t necessarily expect to combine game viewing with beach riding, however at Endalweni, a private game reserve near Kei Mouth on the Wild Coast, you can have both and for Wendy Frankcom – this variety was what made it so wonderful! “The horses were in lovely condition and responsive,” she says. “The beach rides offered fantastic long canters and gallops in stunning scenery with lots of variety in terrain! The horses are very sure-footed and coped with it all.”
This varied approach to a safari was also enjoyed by Nancy Seybold. “The riding was terrific,” she states. “Our guide, Roz, was absolutely first rate – competent, cheerful, knowledgeable, and personable. The horses were well matched to the riders, who ranged in ability and experience. Thus all of us were able to really enjoy the gallops and canters on the beach and the varied terrain of the ride. I was particularly impressed with the manners of the horses riding at speed in a group. It is also truly beautiful to ride along with the game at Endalweni. This holiday would suit someone who wants to have a comfortable place to stay but is willing to get out and ride – sometimes at speed – in a part of South Africa most tourists never see.
Taking the horses on the “ferry” across the Kei River, galloping on a deserted beach, and riding through saddle-high grass to track down a giraffe family are experiences well worth the long trek to Endalweni.”
Some fantastic beach riding at Endalweni
From the beach to the mountains, Moolmanshoek is situated in the shadow of the Witteberg mountains and is a real horse lovers’ paradise – which is why Stephanie Walsh was so impressed. “The riding pace and terrain could not have been more varied (and sometimes challenging!), and the horses took it all in their stride. The rooms were lovely. Very comfortable, lovely hot, powerful shower! Just what you need after a day in the saddle! The finishing touches like a weather report for the following day on your pillow with nougat after dinner were wonderful.
I have never eaten so well in my life! Amazing, home made breads and cakes, succulent meat, fresh local vegetables. Some of the best food I’ve had on a riding holiday. I want to go back right now!”
Moolmanshoek is a horse lover’s paradise!
And if you are looking for ‘the best holiday’ according to Jenny Newman, then Blakeney, which is just an hour from the Botswana border in the northern Waterberg, is the place to visit! “All the horses were perfect; well schooled, fit and friendly,” she tells us. “Corne let us ride whichever horse we wanted. My husband chose ‘Steady Freddie’ all week while the rest of us rode a selection of the more forward going horses. We galloped alongside zebra, swam through rivers, and ambled through the bush at sunset with giraffe, it could not have been better. This was the best family holiday ever. Our children are 15 and 16 years old and want to go back to Blakeney again as soon as possible. Corne and Pam are perfect hosts, the horses are fabulous, and their dogs became our best friends! I could not recommend it more.”
The perfect family holiday at Blakeney!
To find out more about horse riding holidays in South African contact In The Saddle.