An unforgettable safari

Earlier this month In The Saddle guest David Faen headed out on a long-awaited visit to Kujwana in Botswana. David has written this super ‘blog’ of his safari which he describes as “unforgettable”.

“I booked this holiday 22 weeks before my departure date – I know that because I put a weekly count-down note in my electronic diary, and for quite a while it seemed like it was a long way off, then all of a sudden, it was about to happen. I was very excited!

Whist this was my 5th riding holiday with In The Saddle, I was hoping that it would be something really special, not only because I had never been to Africa, but the thought of seeing, and riding alongside big game was just so incomprehensible.

I arrived at Johannesburg from Sydney and had a night in an airport hotel, and the next morning took the short flight to Maun, Botswana where I was met by a representative of Okavango Horse Safaris. She assisted me with the formalities, and before too long I was up in the helicopter for the 25 minute flight to Kujwana camp. I hadn’t been in a chopper before, so that in itself was exciting, but then seeing the landscape change from burnt scrub, near Maun, to lush green as we flew over the delta was quite an experience.

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Pic: Flying into camp by helicopter – the only way to travel!

On landing at the camp I was greeted by camp manager Duncan & Katie, and some of the staff. I was given an iced tea, and we walked to main dining tent, where I met some of the other guests, who had arrived earlier.

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Pic: Camp manager Duncan & Katie

I then received a safety briefing, was shown to my tent, and was told to return to the dining tent at 4.00, dressed to ride, as we would have afternoon tea and then go on a short 1 hour ride to acclimatise. I think that this was also for Duncan and Katie to assess our riding, to ensure that they would match us with suitable horses for the rest of the stay.

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Pic: Heading out on a ride with Rogers as lead guide

Two items that I vividly remember from the safety briefing were:

  1. Don’t leave any items like shoes, gloves, towels etc . out on my deck, as they would be stolen by the monkeys, and
  2. When walking from my tent to the dining tent, if I came across an elephant on the path, turn around and go back. Someone will soon work out there is a problem, and will come and get me.
Pic: David's tent at Kujwana camp

Pic: David’s tent at Kujwana camp

It made me realise very quickly that the animals I had only previously seen in books and on film, were now very real , and very close.

Pic: Elephant in camp

Pic: Elephant in camp

We were told that on the short, 1 hour ride, we probably wouldn’t see much game. WELL, we only saw elephant, giraffe, baboon, impala, red lechwe, kudu, waterhog and an eagle – not a bad start!

Pic: Great game sightings from day 1

Pic: Great game sightings from day 1

After dismounting and getting our drinks, Duncan indicated for us to stop speaking, as a young elephant had come right up to the camp, and was feeding only 3 or 4 metres away from us.

During that first night I heard hippos in the water directly in front of my tent. I couldn’t see them, as it was dark, but I could certainly hear them.

Pic: Hippo in the water

With a few exceptions, we then fell into a comfortable daily routine. At 6.00am the staff would come to our tents with a thermos of boiling water and some milk, so that we could enjoy a tea or coffee.

We would then assemble in our riding clothes for breakfast at 6.30, after which we would be introduced to our horse for the day, and then head out around 7.00. We would normally return around 11.30/12.00 and lunch would be at 12.30. The next activity would then be afternoon tea at 4.00, after which we then did a variety of things – sometimes going for a short ride, sometimes going in the safari vehicle searching for game, sometimes going in the boat and then doing a walk.

Pic: Gliding along in a mokoro

Pic: Gliding along in a mokoro

If we wanted to do something that wasn’t on the itinerary, it was never a problem – like the time 3 of us wanted to try out the mokoros (traditional dug-out canoes). That afternoon we had our chance, and whilst we found going in a straight line relatively easy, turning them around was a different matter!

Safety was always paramount. On every ride, car trip, boat trip or walk, we were always accompanied by two guides, and we were given briefings specifically relating to the area that we were in.

Pic: Your guide / back-up will carry a rifle and bear-banger

Pic: Your guide / back-up will carry a rifle and bear-banger

The knowledge of the Botswana guides was totally amazing.  On horseback my guide was always Rogers (obviously his English name, but as everyone referred to him as that, I don’t know his African name). In the safari vehicle or boat, it was Percy.  They knew everything there was to know about footprints, dung, breeding habits, age of animals etc, and could spot game kilometres away, when all we could see was trees and termite mounds, although we did become more skillful as the week progressed. They were both passionate about the birds in the delta, and when asked, said that they could identify all of the 500 species in the area.

Pic: Guides extraordinaire Rogers & Person (aka Percy)

Pic: Rogers & Person (aka Percy)

On day 4, we were told to pack a backpack, as we would be changing camp for 2 nights. Apart from a siesta on camp beds after a picnic lunch it was a full days ride, culminating in a short bareback section to arrive at the campsite. Some of my group had not ridden bareback before, but we were all in our swimmers, it was only at the walk, and everyone enjoyed it immensely.

The second camp was called Moklowane, and it felt more remote than Kujwana, however, our facilities were just the same as the main camp.

Pic: The mess tent at Moklowane

Pic: The mess tent at Moklowane

Over the whole week, the riding didn’t change a lot. It was not like rides in Europe, where you have a destination. We would head out, in a different direction each morning, looking for game. Whenever we spotted some, Rogers would always steer us around, so that we approached from downwind, and then we would get as close as we could, with safety always in mind. We would be walking, trotting or cantering, with the canter through the shallow water always being so much fun. As there were no major landmarks on the horizon, I asked Rogers if he ever got lost, and he replied in the negative, saying that he had an inbuilt GPS in his head!

Pic: Splashing through the delta was great fun

Pic: Splashing through the delta was great fun

I found all the food very good, well balanced and healthy, particularly the ‘baboon curry’, which turned out to be lamb, but which gave the staff the opportunity to play a trick on us.

Pic: A magnificent breakfast spread at Moklowane

Pic: A magnificent breakfast spread at Moklowane

My last night there also happened to be Duncan’s birthday, so after dinner 5 of the Botswana female staff came out to the dinning tent and sang a couple of songs for him. The simplicity of the song, and their natural harmony just gave me goose bumps.

Pic: Zebra blending in with the bush

Pic: Zebra blending in with the bush

I loved everything about this holiday – Africa to start with, then the accommodation, the staff, the horses and horsemanship, the food, the fact that there are not too many guests (in my case – 5), the knowledge of the guides and the planning that has gone into making every guest’s stay so memorable. I found it to be a once in a lifetime experience, and I urge anyone thinking about it to do it – there is no point ending this life with an unfulfilled  bucket list.”

A huge thank you David for writing this wonderful blog which has brought back fabulous memories of our visits to Kujwana.

Please contact abigail@inthesaddle.com if you’d like to add a safari at Kujwana to your bucket list.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Ride reviews, riding botswana, Riding Holidays, riding kujwana, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas at Kujwana

You are cordially invited to Christmas at Kujwana.

For those of you who enjoyed Friday’s Facebook video post showing recent footage from Kujwana, we still have some spaces left on a very special Christmas Safari.

Can you think of a better way to spend Christmas than Botswana’s magical Okavango Delta? Here’s how your festive season might unfold…

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Getting up close to elephant is always pretty exciting

Christmas morning will begin with a gentle wake-up call as freshly made tea or coffee is brought to your tent. Refreshed with a light breakfast, head out for a morning ride across the flood plains.

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This could be your view on Christmas morning

Pause in the shade to watch elephant or buffalo and then speed away across the delta as your horse shows you what he is made of. Steady up again and as your heartbeat begins to go back to normal, gaze as herds of lechwe or giraffe move through the open spaces.

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Exhilarating canters across the plains

After an exciting few hours on horseback it is time to relax a while, as a delicious champagne brunch is served to you out in the bush.

In the afternoon, head out again on horseback in search of the delta’s rich wildlife, or perhaps go for a mokoro ride, take a game drive or guided walk to see things from a different perspective.

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Seeing the delta from a mokoro

Return to camp in time for sun-downers and a very special Christmas dinner.

Your next adventure might take you to Moklowane Camp for a few days. A full-day ride takes you to a contrasting part of the delta where palm-trees are all around and baboons bounce in the branches above your tree house.

Back at Kujwana camp, on New Year’s Eve, gather around the dining table to re-count the adventures of the day.

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You are sure to see plenty of game from horseback

Later, it is time for a night drive with your guide to see if you can spot some of the delta’s nocturnal animals.

See in the New Year back at camp….listening to the sounds of the African bush drifting across the warm evening air as you star-gaze into a clear night sky.

If you are looking for somewhere special to spend Christmas then do get in touch. Email abigail@inthesaddle.com or call us on +44 (0) 1299 272 997.

Our Kujwana Christmas Safari is scheduled for 23 December-2 January (although dates may be slightly flexible).

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Riding back to camp as the light turns golden

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Adventure of a Lifetime at Ant’s Lodges

A few months ago, enthusiastic rider Lauren and her mum Julie set off on the adventure of a lifetime to Ant’s Lodges in South Africa.

In this blog, Lauren tells us a bit more about her visit:

“We had decided that South Africa was the country we were most keen to visit and were looking for something relaxing and flexible, with a touch of luxury. We have both been riding for about 13 years and have our own horse, so we were keen to know our equestrian needs would be catered for. In The Saddle suggested a lodge-based stay at Ant’s Lodges and it fit the bill perfectly. The positive reviews on the In The Saddle website really aided our decision.

We stayed in Eagle’s Nest at Ant’s Hill. The views were breath-taking from our room upstairs in the main lodge. We were made to feel so welcome and included from the moment we arrived.

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On horseback as the sun begins to dip towards the horizon

We really enjoyed spending time with the friendly staff, who had so many interesting stories to tell. It made us feel like we were among friends.

The chefs were so accommodating and you hardly went a few hours without food being on offer! A delicious breakfast set you up for the day, and after a few hours in the saddle we were ready for lunch. Following a relaxing few hours, afternoon tea gave us renewed energy for the afternoon’s activities. Sundowners and then dinner finished off the day!

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Lauren during one of the exciting rides from Ant’s Hill

One evening during our stay we travelled the short journey from Ant’s Hill to Ant’s Nest (the second lodge on the same reserve) to see the white rhino. It was magical to see these rare animals at such close range and we even got to touch them.

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Meeting the magical white rhino up close – baby ‘Scorcher’ to the left

In terms of other game we saw whilst riding, the giraffes were fabulous and they really towered above the horses!

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Riders, with the ‘towering’ giraffe

The horses were great – responsive and forward going. My favourite was the lovely Masai and my Mum’s was Madikwe.

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Lauren, with one of the much-loved horses at Ant’s Hill

The riding was wonderful and the highlight of the trip for me. No two days were the same and we never rode the same route twice. The icing on the cake was getting the chance to swim in the dam with the horses – something I have always wanted to do.

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Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime – swimming in the dam with the horses

We would love to go back one day and I can see why so many In The Saddle guests rave about Ant’s Lodges.”

Many thanks Lauren, for sharing your experiences with us. We hope you enjoy your next In The Saddle adventure in the Azores next year!

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Sapey Success for In The Saddle Sponsored Rider

In this blog post, In The Saddle sponsored rider Rosie Warner tells us about her progress over the last few weeks.

Rosie has had a busy time, despite her top horse ‘Cult Legend’ being under the weather and on light duties.

On 16 August, Rosie and ‘Ars Big Time’ (aka Milo) headed to Shrewsbury Flower Show. A pole down in the first round was followed by a superb clear in the second round. Despite only being a 5 year old, Milo coped incredibly well with the big atmosphere and didn’t seem to mind a change of career being a show jumper for the day!

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Rosie and Milo at Shrewsbury Flower Show

A week or so later Rosie and Milo set off again, this time for the BE90 at Solihull.

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Milo looking smart in his In The Saddle kit

A solid dressage test was followed by an unlucky pole in the show jumping, but they then stormed round the cross country clear to finish 10th overall.

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Milo flying at Solihull BE90

Next it was the turn of home-bred ‘Finest Star’ to have an outing, as he went XC schooling for the first time.

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Finest Star (Romeo) during his first ever attempt at XC

Romeo flew over all the BE80 fences at Berriewood in fine style and had great fun in the water jump. Exciting times ahead for this beautiful boy.

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Having a splash in the water

After an inspirational visit to Burghley Horse Trials at the weekend, it was time to test Milo with the BE100 at Sapey.Following a lovely dressage test, Rosie and Milo followed through with a foot perfect double clear to finish 2nd. What a great result!

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On their way to claiming second place at Sapey BE100 – sporting their ITS saddle cloth

Well done Rosie…we’re very proud of you.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Uganda – Gorillas

For many, a key reason to visit Uganda is the opportunity to see the Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. There are only about 800 of these amazing creatures left in the wild (they don’t survive in captivity) and about half of them are in Bwindi. After riding along the Nile for a week, we have flown from Jinja to Bwindi.

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We stay at the comfortable Mahogany Springs Lodge which is just a short drive from the Park Headquarters. The briefing for the gorilla tracking is at 8am. We’re excited and kitted out. Because of fire ants and thorns etc, we’re recommended to wear long trousers, long sleeves, sturdy boots and of course having come from a riding holiday, our half chaps provide perfect support for lower leg.

Each habituated group is visited every day of the year, for exactly one hour and we find out at the briefing that we’re going to see the Rushegura Group. DSC01191

We drive for 25 minutes to where we meet the armed guards who will accompany us. It’s a 1.5 hour hike uphill in strong sun and so we are glad of our water.

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As the tracks get narrower and steeper we’re also glad of the porters we’ve hired. You are strongly recommended to hire at least one (you pay him or her USD 20 directly) to carry your water, lunch and rain coat and many hire two porters. This is an important source of income to the community. Our porter tells us that they can work as porters for one day a month and the money he makes can pay for his eldest daughter to go to school.

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We climb and climb – past tiny fields where a family ekes out a crop to survive.

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Eventually we arrive at the forest and appreciate it’s shade. Soon we meet the rangers who have been tracking the gorillas for us. They start from where they saw them yesterday and 95% of the time are able to find them again. As we get close our porters have to stay back (with our walking sticks) and we are just 8 people, approaching the gorillas with our guide and rangers. It is incredibly exciting and at first we cannot believe what we are seeing amongst the leaves and trees.

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But the gorillas are incredibly relaxed and we soon realise that they are quite happy for the rangers to move branches for us to see them more clearly. A zoom lens is barely needed because we are very close.

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Our hour quickly goes by – and in fact we seem to sense the gorillas telling us “time’s up – you have enough photos now – off you go!”.

On our way back we stop for our packed lunch (which the hotel has provided) and then quickly descend from the mountains. It’s almost as tough going down, the track is narrow with loose stones and our rangers don’t hang around – I think they want to get home. But the porters take their jobs very seriously and help us up and over tricky bits.

What a day – we relive it over dinner that night and all agree that it has been a spectacular end to this amazing journey in Uganda. Tomorrow we fly back to Entebbe and home.

To read about earlier days on the trip, click below.

Arriving in Entebbe

Riding by the Nile and Lake Victoria

Schools, sugar and tea

It’s wet in a rainforest

Wild waters of the Nile

If you would like to join this fantastic riding adventure in Uganda, here is a link to our website with more details of the ride, the itinerary and the forthcoming dates and prices.

Categories: Equestrian Travel | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Wild waters of the Nile

The Nile can be smooth and calm or raging & wild. We’ve ridden along the banks of the Nile and seen people going about their business. We’ve also enjoyed the water itself. A big treat of the Nile Horseback Safari is the change to swim with your horse in the Nile. We kept the saddles on (although without stirrups) for extra security.

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A quiet bay is chosen which has a deeper channel running through it so that for a couple of strides you can feel the immense power of your horse swimming underneath you. It’s just a short hack from our lodge and we choose to do it early one morning before breakfast.

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Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face!

One day on the itinerary is free to join a white water rafting trip. Even if you have done it before, this is such a fun day on the river. There are options depending on how brave or cautious you are. Everyone journeys together down the Nile (for about 2-3 hours) and encounters 8 rapids with lovely leisurely sections in between where you can paddle and enjoy the view.

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The pilots are very skillful and so you can join a boat which is going to give you lots of excitement but 95% chance will not chuck you into the river.

Lots of fun and water, but we did not tip up.

Lots of fun and water, but we did not tip up.

Or you can join a boat which will take the challenging route at each rapid and you might just be in the water a lot! You could even come down in a tandem kayek.

Some had lots more thrills & spills

Some had lots more thrills & spills

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But an even more leisurely option was a sunset boat trip.

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On the trip we stayed at four different lodges. One was in the rain forest, but the other three were alongside the Nile in stunning locations.

The calm waters of the Nile at Holland Park

The calm waters of the Nile at Holland Park

Stunning view from our cottage at The Haven.

Stunning view from our cottage at The Haven

But one of the most amazing places I’ve ever stayed at is Wild Waters Lodge, which is actually on an island in the middle of the Nile. You and your luggage travel out by boat and the lodge and rooms all overlook fantastically noisy rapids.

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Photos don’t do it justice at all, so you will just have to visit for yourself!

From the Nile we continue onto visit the Mountain Gorillas at Bwindi.

To read about other days on this trip, click below.

Arriving in Entebbe

Riding by the Nile and Lake Victoria

Schools, sugar and tea

It’s wet in a rainforest

Mountain Gorillas

If you would like to join this fantastic riding adventure in Uganda, here is a link to our website with more details of the ride, the itinerary and the forthcoming dates and prices.

 

 

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Dressage in the Alentejo

In May In The Saddle guest Frances Meier travelled out to Portugal to stay at the beautiful Monte Velho. In this post, she tells us a little about her stay and explains why Monte Velho is the place to go to improve your dressage skills.

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João working Don Quixote in the outdoor arena

“At the beginning of my stay I was introduced to my first horse ‘Estello’, a beautiful grey stallion and Coralie, one of the instructors. I’d just got on and was walking around on a long rein when a tacked-up riderless 3 year old mare came galloping past the arena hotly pursued by her rider…’oh no’ I thought, a near death experience already? But no Estello only looked up and then carried on without batting an eyelid! These horses have the most fantastic temperaments and are incredibly well behaved.

I found it a little difficult to get the feel of both the horses I rode on the first day, keeping the shoulders upright, so had some steering issues and it was tricky getting into canter initially, also ‘blocking’ in the hand, but on Alfonso eventually I did a bit of passage into extended trot and a few changes, but have to admit that I found it rather hard work.

Both of the instructors, Coralie and João, were very clear when teaching us and quickly spotted my many faults and set about correcting them. It was interesting also watching the others ride when time allowed.

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João and the super-talented Ecuador

The next day I had ‘Triunfo’, a beautiful 16 year old stallion who has competed at Grand Prix and was a champion of Portugal a few years ago. I found him a little hard to ride to start with, not off my leg and very wriggly, but gradually Coralie helped me and got on Triunfo herself. This made a big difference and made me feel better as I had been struggling with him. A short break, before my next session on Alfonso again…only to be completely pathetic and getting off after 20 minutes….. It turned out I was very dehydrated. So off I went to bed with a large bottle of salt/sugar water solution.

Manager/Owner Diogo very kindly changed the schedule round the next day so that I had a private lesson on Thursday morning and a trail ride in the evening. I also booked myself in for a lunge lesson, something I would strongly recommend and should have done earlier!

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João and Triunfo in the indoor arena

Strength and positivity regained, I really enjoyed my lesson on Triunfo. Coralie had me sitting better and releasing my seat. We did lots of forward and back in trot and canter and ended up doing walk pirouettes into canter pirouettes and passage into piaffe into passage again, all by myself. Absolutely great!

In the evening the sun came out and I had the most glorious trail ride on ‘Altar’ with Diogo on Don Quixote (aka ‘Donkey Shot’). The best behaved trail horses ever. We rode out onto beautiful flower meadows and by lakes through the many scattered boulders and cork oaks that are everywhere. We did the slowest collected canter ever on my delightful horse, so quiet and peaceful. The only noise was the clonking of the bell on the dog who came with us – he was charming, making sure we came to no harm. It was so interesting learning about the breeding programme and the training plans for the future as well as the expansion of Monte Velho next winter from Diogo himself. He said it was the best part of his day, I was thrilled!

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Enjoying a trail ride through the pretty spring flowers

My last day and I had a lunge lesson on the gorgeous bay gelding ‘Bemposto’ in the indoor school. No reins or stirrups and João really worked on my seat and core strength, doing canter/trot/canter transitions on a circle just from my seat. It was a very useful 40 minutes.

My last lesson was on back on Triunfo. I felt really strong and was sitting well at long last. I was able to do straight lines, leg yield, half pass into canter with changes, followed by changes on the diagonal down to two-time changes….YEAH! Then into piaffe passage and trot passage, trying to stay in the same rhythm. Such a clever boy, the feeling was fantastic and I was thrilled to finish on a really good note.

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Frances and Triunfo being put through their paces by Coralie

Monte Vehlo is in the most beautiful location; very peaceful and comfortable. My room was spotlessly clean and luckily had a very efficient towel rail to dry my hat and clothes (after the rain showers). There is a homely bar and seating area for everyone to chat and catch up with the day’s activities and the dining room is opposite where we ate our meals with a verandah overlooks the main arena.

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João teaching, with the dining room in the background

The food is plentiful and delicious; Alices’ puddings were divine and we all exceeded our wine quota! Diogo and the staff were very helpful and friendly and the horses are amazing. I learnt such a lot in just 4 days and would love to go back one day.

It is a very good place to stay if you are travelling alone, we had some hilarious lunches and evenings. Bad luck though if you had a 2 pm lesson and couldn’t linger over lunch….!

Should you wish to go on a holiday to improve your dressage, Monte Velho is certainly the place to go. The teaching was excellent and the horses are amazing, so well behaved, fit and they all look so well.”

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Frances and Altar by the lake

A huge thank you to Frances for taking the time to tell us about her trip.

If you’d like to learn more about Monte Velho then please call us on +44 1299 272 997 or email abigail@inthesaddle.com

 

 

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Uganda – it’s wet in a rainforest

Here, near Jinja, we are slightly north of the equator (at Bwindi we will be south of the Equator) and so the sun rises and sets about the same time each day. At six it is quite dark but by 7 the sun is up (or what we can see of it through the forest).


We are away nice and early at 8. Soon we have to cross a major road to get to the riding area. At this small village there are many stalls preparing food for the minibuses and trucks passing by. Our horses are quite bomb proof.

This is the rainforest and it rains all year round. The rains last night have made everything vibrantly green. There isn’t much wildlife, but we do catch a glimpse of a couple of tiny monkeys high up in the trees.


One of the hazards we have to negotiate on this trip are the cows which are tethered by the side of the tracks. Although the cows have probably never seen a horse before, these ones are quiet.

On our very first morning a bull had become a little agitated and broken his tether. We “galloped out of danger” being pursued by a very fast running bull (fortunately with no horns). When we reckoned we had tired him out we stopped and turned to see him off and he meekly ran past and back to his owner ( we hope).

We continue to see many happy friendly people. There are no working horses or donkeys in Uganda, most likely because of the risks associated with Tsetse fly. Natalie takes her horses’ temperatures every morning and at the slightest increase will treat the horses for suspected Tsetse fly sickness or tick bite fever. Fortunately the treatment has good success if caught early.

Who can resist a photograph of another excited bunch of school children.

When the sun comes out you can almost feel the grass and crops growing. This open area in the forest is along a clearing for the hydro power lines.

But we also walk through the dense forest. The huge trees grow straight up towards the light and underneath is a thick vegetation. It is muddy underfoot.

Barbara is smiling here but not long after at our coffee stop, she accidentally stands on some fire ants. These little things quickly run onto your boots and trousers and bite like fire. But they don’t do any lasting damage – the attack is just surprisingly quick. With plenty of hands to help, we quickly got all the ants off her.

Later back at River Lodge I tried to take a photo of some crossing a track, but even though I was about 2 feet away, some quickly changed direction and headed for my feet. But the rule of walking in the forest is to always check where you are walking and have a torch at night.

Although Uganda has two main rainy seasons in April/May and again in November, actually it can rain at any time and it does.

We get a couple of minutes notice to get our ponchos out of our saddle bags and they keep us (but more importantly our saddles) mostly dry through an incredibly heavy tropical thunderstorm (the heaviest I’ve ever ridden in). The horses aren’t phased at all and so obviously such heavy rain is nothing new to them as we trot and canter back to the lodge.


I think reception at River Lodge were incredibly accommodating to allow us to bring the horses underneath the porch so that we could get the saddles off in the dry.

Tomorrow we head out of the forest and back to the Nile.

To read about other days on this trip, click below.

Arriving in Entebbe

Riding by the Nile and Lake Victoria

Schools, sugar and tea

Wild waters of the Nile

Mountain Gorillas

If you would like to join this fantastic riding adventure in Uganda, here is a link to our website with more details of the ride, the itinerary and the forthcoming dates and prices.

Categories: Equestrian Travel | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Uganda – schools, sugar and tea

Having all suffered a bit from the heat yesterday, we planned for an early start and so had breakfast as it got light at 6.45 and were on our horses by 7.30. As it turned out we woke to a grey sky and so it was very pleasant riding temperature of c. 18C – 20C (although still very high humidity). Although the main rainy season is April / May and November in fact it can rain all year round in Uganda. Everything stays green and with an all year round growing season the farmers can get four crops of maise.


We set off meandering along close to the banks of the Nile. About six years ago the Nile here had many rapids and the fishermen would often drown. Then a dam was built downstream for hydro electricity, the river rose about 6m and the water became flat and safe.


Education is supposedly free throughout Uganda but unfortunately the buildings aren’t always maintained nor the teachers paid and so they end up charging school fees which of course not everyone can pay. TJ and Natalie of Nile Horseback Safaris, along with others, set up a fund to build a school in their local village 5 years ago. It now has 400 pupils between the ages of 3 and 13. A local charity called Soft Power supports this and a number of other schools in the area. A number of us had used up our airline luggage allowance and brought children’s books etc and we’ve given them to the Soft Power charity to distribute where they think they are most needed.

It’s a humbling experience for us to visit the school. The teachers have a blackboard but not much else and the children are crammed in four to a bench seat in classes of up to 60 children.

But they are overwhelming pleasant and polite. We sneak a look at their exercise books and their work is very neat. One class is studying history of Uganda and copying from the blackboard in beautiful handwriting. Another class is working on fractions. “If a farmer plants 3/8ths of his field in maize, how much of his field is left?”

One room which looks like it might have been a shack turns out to be the nursery with a range of children from 3 years to 10 years who hadn’t been to school before and they were singing and reciting songs.

Riding on, we leave the small subsidence farms and enter a huge sugar plantation. The cane grows tall but there are great tracks for some long trots and canters. The clay is a little slippy this morning because of the rain last night and so we don’t go quite as fast as might be possible at other times.

Cutting cane here is a hard manual job. We pass some of the workers’ accommodation and the people here are poorer than we’ve seen before.

Next to the huge sugar plantation we ride past tea gardens.

Very unusually, the picking was being done by men with machines which were cutting the leaves and vacuuming them into a huge sack. I always thought tea picking had to be done manually so that the tips could be ‘plucked’ by hand but perhaps this was going to a lower grade tea and it didn’t matter so much?

We have a delightful stop for coffee and croissant (yes, we are being that spoiled on this trip!) at a lovely lookout.

Some kids have come to watch what is going on.


And of course delight in seeing themselves on camera.

One little chap is brave enough to ride – on my gentle giant of a horse – Jack Daniels.

Seeing people along the way is a big highlight of this trip. And one never feels so bad taking a photo when even the teacher takes out his phone and takes photos of us.

More great riding through this open countryside.


Our destination tonight is Rainforest Lodge set in the Mabira Forest.


There are 12 chalets set throughout the rainforest and connected by rather treacherous paths. It gets dark about 7 and the deafening frog chorus begins.

To read about other days on this trip, click below.

Arriving in Entebbe

Riding by the Nile and Lake Victoria

It’s wet in a rainforest

Wild waters of the Nile

Mountain Gorillas

If you would like to join this fantastic riding adventure in Uganda, here is a link to our website with more details of the ride, the itinerary and the forthcoming dates and prices.

Categories: Equestrian Travel | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Uganda – Riding by the Nile and Lake Victoria

It is the end of day 2 of our ride and already it feels like we have been in Africa for a long time. Although only 100 Kms from Entebbe to Jinja the journey takes almost four hours although we do stop for a coffee and a quick supermarket shop for forgotten things.

At last we bounce up a track and arrive at the stables and alongside them a lovely lodge where we stay for two nights.

Here is the view over the Nile from our porch.

After a beautiful lunch, our guide Natalie allocates us to our horses. We are each to have two horses to ride over the week and she lovingly explains their characteristics and foibles.

Natalie breeds most of the horses – the stallion, a striking coloured chap of about 16.2, rides out with the group. They are Irish sport horses crossed with thoroughbred, many of them competing in eventing in Kenya (a two day drive away) as well as being trail horses. They are fit and strong. Here are a couple of the young horses curious to see what was going on as we mount up.

This is me on the right on Jack Daniels, a much bigger horse than I’m used to and a wonderful ride.


The little nets over their noses are to stop them snatching at the crops as we ride past. Many of the crops are only inches from their noses and would be temptation to any horse. For the rural community through which we are riding each plant represents their livelihood


We walk where the track is narrow or there are a lot of people around but also have lots of long trots and canters some of them quite fast. The terrain is perfect for riding and we don’t have a single gate to do. We are just riding through the countryside along the tracks used by the locals. Some are very narrow but passable, some are being used by people and motorbikes and some are wide and we see the odd car.


We ride through lots and lots of villages. There are people living everywhere and they are overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming. The children run out screaming, their mothers and fathers wave. There are also many young men without any visible signs of work and we wonder how the country can cope with such a huge population and not enough work. Although there is clearly enough food to go around the young people with their smart phones and Internet access are going to want more.


As we approach this school during their break time there is a huge scream and much excitement. With an impressive respect for their teachers they were quickly brought into line.


This is Lake Victoria in the distance.


I’m particularly proud of this photo of a kingfisher taken with a point and shoot camera!


At the end of a spectacular day, we go on a boat cruise on the Nile.

Tomorrow we move onto the rainforest.

To read about other days on this trip, click below.

Arriving in Entebbe

Schools, sugar and tea

It’s wet in a rainforest

Wild waters of the Nile

Mountain Gorillas

If you would like to join this fantastic riding adventure in Uganda, here is a link to our website with more details of the ride, the itinerary and the forthcoming dates and prices.

Categories: Equestrian Travel | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

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