South Africa is one of our most popular destinations for a horseback holiday, with a diverse landscape, big game viewing opportunities, excellent accommodation, beautiful horses and all offering value for money. In The Saddle’s own Gail Tennant finally got to find out why so many people choose South Africa for their equine adventure, here is the second instalment of her blog where she enjoyed a stay at Ant’s Lodges in the Waterberg…
Pure luxury and exploration at Ant’s
After a short drive between Horizon and Ant’s Lodges I settled in to my cottage at Ant’s Hill. Ant’s Lodges are two beautiful and luxurious lodges each set in their own private game reserve owned and run by the Babers, whose family have lived in the Waterberg since 1865!
I was shown to my accommodation for my stay, which was the Family Cottage. This consisted of three bedrooms, a spacious living room and a verandah. The master bedroom had a king size four-poster which was extremely comfortable. One of the highlights of this room had to be the waterfall shower, which was quite a unique experience. There is a twin bedroom with a bathroom, which is shared with the annex children’s room. Both rooms were also spacious and it was very tempting to sleep in a different room each night! It had been beautifully decorated complete with twisted tree trunks to make the door frames. The views from the verandah were spectacular with everything rich and green, although unfortunately I didn’t spot any game only a few lizards! It was very peaceful to just sit on the verandah and read a book when not out riding. All the cottages at Hill were spaced out from each other allowing for guests to feel secluded enough to enjoy their own private holiday/honeymoon.
The first morning started with a lovely breakfast and then a ride at 8.30am. I rode Phinda who was very straightforward and a comfortable ride. We were taken out by Sam, who has been guiding at Ant’s for 13 years and before that at Horizon for 7 years so he was extremely knowledgeable, particularly about the bush plants and which ones were most commonly used in medicines. After lunch we went out again, this time I rode 19 year old Noosa who was older but still a fast and fun ride! We got to see lots of game and rode for about 2 hours before enjoying sundowners back at the lodge around 7pm.
The next day I rode Shakira as we went on the hunt to find some buffalo! It was fun tracking prints and we eventually found them, along with some giraffe too! We also got to have a lovely gallop along a sandy track and to swim in the dam with the horses. That evening some of the guests had opted to go do the big 5 game drive in another reserve whilst others went to the rhino feeding at Nest, so it was just me riding in the afternoon. I rode a chestnut mare called Nairobi who was a young ex-racehorse. She was a lovely ride, really uncomplicated, easy to stop and moved well off the leg. I couldn’t believe her age and that she had been a racehorse, as she did not behave this way! This ride was fast and we could go for some long canters that were really exhilarating. We made our way up to the highest point on the reserve of 1200 metres. Just the other side of the hill, Jan was waiting with some sundowners and snacks, the view watching the sun disappear from up there was amazing and you could see right across the Waterberg.
A change of scenery
The next day I rode from Ant’s Hill to Ant’s Nest, we saw various game along the way and had some great canters. After a delicious buffet lunch of chips, bruschetta, melon and feta salad, venison gazpacho and calamari we rode out hoping to help find a buffalo bull who had been injured fighting with another over territory, we saw lots game, including rhino, but didn’t find the buffalo!
At Ant’s Nest I stayed in the Sable Suite, which is upstairs of the main building. There is a large spacious living area with a beautiful fireplace for those winter nights. The master bedroom had a lovely four-poster bed with a large window which looked out over the pool and reserve. The bathroom off the master bedroom was huge and probably about the same size as the bedroom itself! There was a twin room as well with its own smaller bathroom. Both rooms had some beautiful paintings on their walls of various bush animals, some of which were painted by Ant Baber. The rooms at Nest are closer together and there were plenty of other guests to chat to around the pool making it a very social atmosphere.
While the game sightings were spectacular at both Lodges and we could get extremely close to giraffe and sable for some photos, the rhino are often sighted close to Nest as they are fed near to there. After arriving back from sundowners one evening the rhino were grazing the grass just beyond the wall of Nest. We were able to sit and just watch these beautiful creatures which were almost close enough to touch. It was a truly magical experience!
The next morning we were still on the hunt for the injured buffalo. The rangers who look after the rhino had found fresh tracks in the early hours of the morning so we headed off to one of the hills. Ant was in radio contact with those looking from a vehicle and we soon found the bull and were able to get quite close to it. The wounds had healed so the vet did not need to be called thankfully.
The food at Ant’s is out of this world and my diet went out the door! There was plenty of choice at breakfast from fruit, yoghurt, pastries to full English breakfast. Lunches were quite light usually accompanied by a salad. There is high tea before the afternoon activity with plenty of cakes to go around! Dinner is always introduced by the chef and the description alone will have your mouth watering before it arrives on your plate! My particular favourite were the salmon pancakes!
Saying goodbye to Africa
On my last morning I had the chance for one last ride out. The sky was very dark in the distance and we did wonder how long of a ride we would get until the storm hit. We rode for about 45 minutes only seeing a few kudu and blesbok as the storm rolled in and we had to abandon the ride. Once the storm had passed Moses took us out for a game drive and we saw a range of types of deer and also a small herd of giraffe. Then it was time to head back to Johannesburg to fly home!