Monthly Archives: October 2012

Harriet Walker’s African Adventure: arriving at Limpopo

Harriet Walker is swapping hunting and horses in Leicestershire for three months as a working pupil at Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris in Botswana. Follow her journey on as she jets off on her very own African adventure…

Although I left Heathrow to both parents in tears, my flight was surprisingly good and I even managed to get some sleep! I was met by a car, and along with some of the guests who were travelling through In The Saddle, we began the 7 hour transfer from Johannesburg to Limpopo Valley Safaris. It was an amazing drive despite the length, with spectacular views. Everywhere is very dry – certainly different to what I left behind in the UK – and there is so much space and open land!

I arrived at 2.30pm and the first thing I noticed was the heat! At around 37 degrees I can safely say that packing three jumpers was three too many! I was made to feel so welcome, there are 18 members of staff and they were all there when I arrived, as it was the first day of the safari. At first I felt like a very small fish in a big pond but within minutes they had all welcomed me and we were talking like old friends.

Over the first couple of days I spent time schooling and lungeing some of the horses, went on a couple of hacks and then got to go on my first safari ride! It was awesome – I saw elephants, giraffes and all sorts of wildlife, including a young hyena, which thought it was very funny to pretend to stalk us! Every time I turned round it was frozen to the spot but a few yards ahead of where it had been before – it was very entertaining!

At the end of the week we had lessons with an English event rider, Jonathan Chapman who was over to go on safari and teach some of the staff. He picked up on the same bad habits that my instructor at home picks up on so in some ways it was very familiar, however instead of having 30 coloured poles with different wings to jump we had three painted tree trunks and a selection of barrels to choose from!

The horses are all lovely – I was really shocked at how beautifully schooled they all are. I have already fallen in love with a young horse called Foxy, he is only four years old and I am hoping they won’t notice if I sneak him back in my suitcase at the end of my time here!

I am enjoying everything and having so much fun! I can’t really believe that I have only been here a little over a week –it feels like so much longer!

As published on 11th October at 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Ride reviews, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I remember when… Across the Andes

In the first of our inspiring series of memorable trips, Cathy Holloway from In The Saddle tells us about her Across The Andes trip last year.

After travelling from the UK to Argentina, Cathy experienced a warm welcome at Estancia Huechahue, a working cattle farm that covers 15,000 acres. It was only a matter of hours before she got her feet firmly in the stirrups in preparation to cross one of the world’s greatest mountain ranges on horseback…

On being introduced to our trusty steeds, Zorro in my case, our Argentine/Irish guide, Diego made sure the group was happy and comfortable on their mounts before we set off on the first ride. Within minutes we were riding amongst spectacular scenery, surrounded by fields, rivers and undulating terrain. Although that first ride was only a few hours, I already knew that it was going to be a memorable trip, for all the right reasons!

In 1817 two of South America’s most celebrated heroes, Bernado O’Higgins and Jose de San Martin took on the supposed impossible challenge of crossing the Andes, so I have to admit I felt like a true explorer! The first day of our trail ride was exhausting but exhilarating. We saw our first condors circling overhead as we climbed our way to the most spectacular view point and caught our first glimpse of Lanin Volcano before having the most fabulous canter through the shrub land, dodging or jumping the bushes and tussocks! The heat was intense and even the horses seemed to be feeling it, so we spent some time walking before reaching our campsite for the night by a beautiful river.

The next day delivered similar vistas and some fast paced riding, including a breathtaking gallop with Zorrowhere we travelled at over 40km/hr! After another long day of riding the river provided such a welcome solace after being in the saddle. The current was powerful and we had to grab hold of rocks to stay near the shore – trying to climb out was hilarious as we had to practically crawl in order to stay upright. The water was icy but very refreshing! After hanging out clothes in the tree branches we sat around the fire drinking and then had dinner of steaks done on the fire. I don’t think you can get much closer to nature.

As we climbed higher into the Andes the intense heat was replaced with chilly temperatures and we were soon surrounded by snow covered ridges – at one point Diego even had to cut steps into the snow for the horses to scramble up! Once we reached the top of the ridge the view was amazing, and on a good day you could see three volcanoes from there. As we descended through forests of bamboo – which the horses love to eat – I remember it being cold and blustery, however soon we reached a sandy track which opened up for us to have a fast canter to warm up before we pulled up to our campsite for the night. Wrapping up in thermals we settled by the fire and ate a delicious dinner of traditional beef ribs and green salad. Some people headed off to bed but I stayed up until 11pm because we could hear a puma calling! Our guides, Jane and Diego had never heard puma before and so we felt very honoured.

The next day we were met at the border to cross over into Chile, where we became acquainted with our new mounts. My horse, Primero, was described as ‘rapido’ and so the adventure continued. The flora and fauna in Chile was noticeably different from the dry wide-open landscape of the Argentine Patagonia, to the lush green rain forests of Chile. Chile offered plenty of exciting riding over challenging terrain. The last two nights were spent under a roof rather than under canvas which gave us access to some of life’s luxuries, such as hot water and proper beds, making this trip a perfect balance of comfort, combined with the great outdoors.

It was a privilege to see some of the sights that are virtually inaccessible other than by horseback. The scenery is spectacular; you can ride through the barren rolling hills and along the narrow rocky gorges of the Andean streams or take a ride to the hills where the mighty Andes rise up behind you and the vastness of Patagonia stretches out before you. Watch the condors and eagles as they float high above you, gallop across water meadows or try your hand at working cattle with the gauchos. It was certainly a trip I will always remember and I would recommend it for anyone with an adventurous spirit!

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Harriet Walker’s African Adventure: Preparing for the off

Harriet Walker is swapping hunting and horses in Leicestershire for three months as a working pupil at Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris in Botswana. Follow her journey on as she jets off on her very own African adventure…

The past two years have been focused on completing my A-levels which has meant the time spent working with horses has been curtailed, however after all that hard work I am rewarding myself with a gap year before I go to university, to spend some time following my ambitions.

I was lucky enough to take a trip to Madagascar a few years ago which fueled my love for Africa – I was totally taken aback by the beauty of the country and it has been my mission to return to that part of the world ever since.When I was talking to hunting friends who had visited Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris in Botswana through equestrian travel company, In The Saddle, they suggested that I combine my ambition to see more of Africa with my desire to work with horses. I sent my CV to Louise Carelsen who is the managing director at Limpopo and after an exchange of emails she agreed that I could spend three months working with her on the Mashatu Game Reserve that her and husband Cor, call home.

I will be spending my time at Limpopo helping to break and school young horses and generally learning a different method of horse management. Although the horses at Limpopo are all ridden in English saddles and trained to a high level I am expecting a bit of a culture shock!

At the moment I have very mixed emotions! I am nervous because I really don’t know what to expect and three months away from my family and friends is quite a long time – however I am mostly very, very excited! I cannot wait to see the vast open spaces, wild animals in their natural habitat and experience the thrill and exhilaration of a horseback safari. It will be so different to any experience I have had in the UK and a once in a lifetime opportunity.

So wish me luck for the first steps of my journey! I fly from Heathrow into Johannesburg on 29th September where I will be met, hopefully by someone holding a sign with my name on, and will start the five hour transfer to Limpopo in the South East of Botswana, where my African adventure will truly begin!

As published on on 25th September 2012.

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Decisions, decisions: Blakeney in South Africa or Singita Grumeti in Tanzania?

In this blog we are looking at two very different horseback safaris at opposite ends of the price spectrum! Depending on your priorities and budget, both destinations offer a fantastic holiday, guaranteed to give you lasting memories and a once in a lifetime experience, but which one to go for?

Blakeney in South Africa

Blakeney in South Africa provides the perfect, reasonably priced safari, approximately four hours’ drive north of Johannesburg and about five hours west of the Kruger National Park. The 3500ha privately owned reserve is an un-spoilt wilderness area where you can see a multitude of wildlife including giraffe, kudu, blue wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck, monkeys, baboons, bush pig and warthog amongst others! The absence of any big game means that you are safe to walk and explore on your own making for a peaceful and relaxing holiday.

You can virtually tailor make your trip to suit your requirements and have a small herd of well-schooled horse available to you. Your guide is Corne du Plessis, an experienced horse guide who has many years of experience guiding horse safaris in both South Africa and Botswana. His wife, Pam, has hosted and managed safaris on some of the top Botswana lodges. The terrain here does not permit wild gallops but there are plenty of opportunities for long trots and canters on the beautiful sandy tracks. You have many options available, from riding just in the mornings, to spending hours in the saddle all day, going on game walks or drives, or simply relaxing in the beautiful surroundings.

If you are feeling adventurous why not take a night game drive for some nocturnal wildlife viewing? If you are looking for the perfect place to unwind, Blakeney offers this, allowing you to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You stay at the former farmhouse on Blakeney. The river runs in front of the house and the gardens and patio are a beautiful place to relax during the day.

The nitty gritty…

As a year round destination the trips at Blakeney offer flexibility. You can arrive and depart any day and stay for as long as you wish, however we would recommend at least seven nights to fully absorb the wonderful scenery and allow yourself to relax. Prices start from £914 per person for seven nights.

Singita Grumeti in Tanzania?

The Singita Grumeti Reserve is situated in northern Tanzania, adjoining the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. On this vast private concession you stay in exclusive luxury lodges ideally positioned on the epic migratory route traversed annually by two million wildebeest. The reserve is teeming with magnificent wildlife and in addition to the herds of plains game in this area there are large populations of elephant, many carnivores including lion, and primates such as a the rare Patas and Colobus monkeys.

The lead guide, Alison Mundy, has many years experience in Africa working previously as a guide and horsemanager in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Singita has a reputation for creating the ultimate luxury safari and this magical experience is now available from a wonderful horseback view, with the added bonus if you visit between June and September that you may get to see one of the greatest migrations on Earth! You should be a confident and fit rider as the pace is moderate, with the opportunity for faster paced canters in places, and will be riding carefully selected, well-mannered horses.

For the non-riding partner this destination offers plenty of activities, including game drives and walks or simply the chance to enjoy the exceptional facilities at the reserve. The Singita lodges are fabulous. Sasakwa Lodge is built in the style of an Edwardian manor house with stone walls, deep verandas, high ceilings, stately furniture, silverware and ornamental pieces. Each of the nine cottages has a private infinity-edge pool. At Faru Faru Lodge there are nine open-style suites, each with an outdoor shower or bath. The elevated viewing decks over the watering hole allow you to view game without even leaving your suite.

The nitty gritty…

Safaris at Singita Grumeti run from 1 December to 31 March and from 1 July to 31 October and there are a range of options from four night stays to seven night mobile safaris, or the option to tailor make your trip. Prices start from £3,757 per person for four nights.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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