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 www.horseandhound.co.uk as she jets off on her very own African adventure…
I have just returned from my first mobile safari, staying four nights in ‘the bush’ with some of our guests from In The Saddle, and having experienced true outdoor life – a bush bathroom and washing outside – I can honestly say it was fantastic!
I hear that the weather in the UK has been ‘typically British’ and I have to admit to seeing my first drop of African rain. However it is a far cry from what we have back home! In Botswana when it rains, it pours, but unlike the grey drizzle and damp that I am used to the rain lasts for a matter of minutes and returns to glorious sunshine straight afterwards. The great thing is that it refreshes the temperature, so all the animals come out – meaning that our guests get to see even more game than normal!
I was riding Foxy again to give him experience and show him what life is like on a safari, he was so good and took it all in his stride. The riding is really fun on safari, especially in the Tuli area of Botswana. You walk quite a bit so you can take in the sights and also negotiate some of the more challenging terrain, but equally there are some lovely places to go for long canters and jump logs and ditches if you wish.
One evening when I was on nightwatch, there were a pack of hyenas around 15 metres from the camp because a Zebra had died on the edge and they were making the most of the meal. I did find it a little daunting at first but out here it is just part of life.
While we were out on safari we also did a game drive, which was amazing. On horseback you try and avoid cats – for obvious reasons – but when you are in the car you can get closer. We saw nine cheetah and four lions, amongst other animals. There was a lioness with her three one-month-old cubs , they were so cute and looked like little puppies – playing and chasing each other. The cheetah were hunting wildebeest, so we got to see them stalking their prey and hiding in the bushes. It is so surreal to watch this all happen and think that this is just nature and really does happen every day!
I am thoroughly enjoying my trip, although I am feeling quite tired after the safari, the staff sleep outside under the stars, which is beautiful but you are naturally more alert, and getting up at 5am every morning to get the horses ready to leave by 6am, together with around 6 hours in the saddle means long days!
My main job when we are out with guests is to school and get horses used to going on safari but I also help waitress during meals, clean tack, and generally look after the horses. One of the things that still makes me smile every time is that West, our guide, cracks the bull whip just before we arrive at camp to alert the staff ahead who have set up camp, and three grooms will be standing waiting to take the guests’ horses the second we arrive.
The Tuli Safari is one of the most thrilling and exciting adventures I have ever been on and I can’t wait for the next one!