Monthly Archives: March 2015

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound, at Macatoo in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

In February 2015, In The Saddle organised Lucy Higginson’s holiday to Macatoo in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. In her former position as editor of Horse & Hound, Lucy has been fortunate enough to ride in many countries (although she does rank Africa as her favourite destination) and as a guest on many hunts all over the UK.  We have picked this small selection of lovely images.

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Throughout her stay she had some amazing elephant sightings.



February in the Okavango Delta is known as the Green Season and you can see why from these next couple of images. When the flood waters come in April they flood across much of these plains creating palm tree islands.



But there are some incredibly dry areas which haven’t seen much flood waters or rain the last few months. And then, in summer months of January to February, there is the possibility of bush fires which run through the dead and dry bush.


After the fires it can look a bit blackened, but this will only be for a short time and after a shower of rain there will be lots of green shoots which the animals will love. So game sightings over the next couple of months are predicted to be amazing.


Did you spot the hyaena in the picture above? Here he is a bit closer.


This cheeky fellow (below) is a reminder of why you should always zip up your tent when you go to lunch or to ride.


But the highlight of the week was this amazing sighting of the rare wild dog.

wild dog high res

If you would like more information on how to book an In The Saddle horse safari at Macatoo camp, please click here.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Abbie in the Okavango Delta – part 3 – Macatoo

I’ve now reached the third camp in my two week trip to Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, I’d learnt plenty about our camps there and always enjoyed hearing about our guest’s experiences on their return. Even though December isn’t usually considered the prime time to see the Delta, I had high expectations. Would the ‘Jewel of the Kalahari’ live up to its reputation?

my very comfortable tent at Macatoo

My very comfortable tent at Macatoo

As I sit on the deck outside my tent at Macatoo, the heat of the afternoon is beginning to wane and I gaze out at the horses grazing contentedly. What a day it has been, beautifully warm and filled to the brim with adventure, excitement and good company. Soon it will be time to drag myself from my reverie and don my riding gear for a leisurely afternoon ride. Each evening we gather around the dinner table and recount the day’s adventures. Bongwe or Mod might regale us with stories of past safaris, colourful characters or camp traditions. We may have known the staff and other guests only a few days but it already feels like a dinner party with friends. Each time we gather, whether it be to ride out across the flood plains, for delicious meals or sundowners, such is the relaxed atmosphere and lively conversation, you feel at home, settled, welcome.

Abbie at Macatoo

Abbie at Macatoo

During dinner one evening we are seated around the table and over the conversation we hear a crashing noise close by. It sounds as though branches are being torn down, but nobody turns a hair. ‘Its just Henry’ somebody murmurs. Food continues to be eaten and wine continues to be sipped…as the noises get gradually closer, we turn in our seats to see a huge bull elephant only a few metres away. Henry has a bit of a cheeky reputation for helping himself at mealtimes and occasionally having a little fun chasing people, but tonight he seems content to eat for a while, before turning around and walking away into the darkness.

giraffe almost hidden

Giraffe almost hidden

My instructor always told me “there’s no such thing as a perfect horse”. But on my first morning ride I am given Zorba, a handsome bay gelding who proves the exception to this rule! He is brave, balanced, forward going and full of character. We have a fabulous time together cantering beside impala, following giraffe and careering along twisty forest tracks.

hippo skull

Bongwe & hippo skull

At one point we stop to look at a hippo skull but before long off we go again, zooming along sandy vehicle tracks and hopping over rough ground. As we canter along in some tall grass, we catch sight of a couple of elephant and pull up to watch them. The next moment we see there are many more in the bush to our right and suddenly Bongwe says “go” and we do – off across open ground, our horses only too happy to oblige for another blast.

Then Bongwe calls to us to stop and we turn our horses to see the elephant herd gathered in a circle formation, the youngest safely in the centre. More slowly we make our way back to Bongwe and watch for a while. He flashes a wide grin and remarks at how far we cantered away. Behind us, back-up guide Thomas grins sheepishly; he wasn’t taking any chances!

Fantastic sighting of elephant - the youngest hidden in the middle of the group

Fantastic sighting of elephant – the youngest hidden in the middle of the group

On one afternoon I’m riding a stunning ex-show-jumper called Casa. We’ve just had an amazing sighting of a bull elephant so close we could make out the grooves and wrinkles in his grey skin. As we make our way through the Mopane forest, we see a soft glow lighting up a huge termite mound. As we get closer we see a beautiful bush dinner has been laid out. Some of the staff ride our horses back to camp, whilst others stay and have drinks and dinner with us. On our way back to camp we use the spotlight to see bush babies and other nocturnal creatures as we hang out of the side of the vehicle to get a better look.

a very pretty safari horse at Macatoo

Abbie’s last ride Macatoo – on Apache

The next day we have a fabulous ride in another direction. At a large pool we see about 25 hippo relaxing in the cool water. We have wonderful canters thought the water and even zoom alongside a herd of zebra…wow! This is once in a lifetime stuff and I am enjoying every moment. Later as the heat begins to build, we are cantering through some more water with water lilies either side of us. As we approach the tree line we look upwards and see a huge treehouse up in the branches. There are Katie, Kobus and Riana waving to us from above.

We hop off the horses and climb up into the boughs for a magical view of the Delta. I can just imagine it in the height of the floods – it is beautiful now, but must be really spectacular then. Some of our clothes have been brought from our tents and there is the chance to get changed if we want to. Soon afterwards a delicious lunch is ready and we pile around the table for another magical meal.

a magical tree house lunch

A magical tree house lunch

What a time I’ve had in the Delta. It’s been an experience of a lifetime, I’ve seen amazing game, met some wonderful people and now sadly, it is time to go home. But I can’t wait to be able to recount my experiences and help In The Saddle guests plan amazing adventures of their own.

You can read more about In The Saddle’s wonderful safaris at Macatoo here.

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Abbie in the Okavango Delta – part 2 – Motswiri

In December Abbie had a two week trip to Botswana visiting Kujwana, Motswiri and Macatoo camps. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, she knew plenty about the camps but are they going to live up to her high expectations. Read on as she visits Motswiri.

“As our little plane nears Motswiri camp I peek through the window and watch immense grey shapes cluster around waterholes joyfully spurting water from their trunks. A few moments later I see huge herds of buffalo seething across the plains as though one solid mass of muscle. Soon after the plane takes off again there are more elephant right in front of us crossing the airstrip…and I know my stay at Motswiri is going to be special.

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

I’m met at the airstrip by Cliffy who will be my riding guide for the duration of my stay. I am in good hands, as Cliffy has been involved in the guiding industry since 1993. Not only is he an experienced guide and passionate conservationist, but he also trains aspiring new guides and is involved in restructuring the nature guide qualification in Botswana.

As we draw close we are met by the harmonious voices of the staff as they welcome us into camp. After being shown around and hearing about the usual day-to-day route, I am shown to my tent. Wow! It really is fabulous, with a huge high bed giving a great view out over the water, a lovely bathroom with hot/cold running water and a flush loo. In my room I find everything you might need, from shampoo and soap, to insect repellent and mosquito coils. My tent is a short wander from the swimming pool, which is so refreshing after a few hours in the saddle. The central mess tent is superbly located overlooking the spillway, where elephants often come to drink. Sundowners here are often accompanied by the sound of grunting hippo making their way along the water channels.

my really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

My really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

In camp with me are a Swiss couple, who are on safari celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Therys is a non-rider, but tells me what a wonderful stay they have had so far. Each day she has been out with two guides on fabulous game walks and exciting game drives. She tells me it has been the perfect trip, because they have each been able to take part in their favourite activities, but mealtimes, sundowners and afternoons have all been spent together.

I am given Mopani to ride, a stunning liver chestnut gelding who is fit and ready for action. The saddles are comfortable South African trail saddles, although English saddles are available if you prefer. My first afternoon ride takes us along the river. As we round a bend in front of us a disgruntled hippo has been pushed from his watery wallowing place by a large herd of elephant. Our horses graze and we watch enchanted by these amazing creature so close to us. The elephant cross the river as the young ones splash and play. I’ve never seen a hippo out of the water before and it is an amazing sight!

hippo out of water is an amazing sight

Hippo out of water is an amazing sight

We ride back to camp, where the stable staff are waiting to take the horses from us. We dismount to the sounds of popping corks, as the champagne is opened to celebrate our arrival. Sundowners are enjoyed on ‘Motswiri beach’ as we recount our adventures and look forward to what tomorrow might bring.

I am visiting in December, when the days are warm and the bush is green and lush. Cliffy tells me in October the bush is drier but there is more water around. Having said this, there was more water then I was expecting – we still waded through plenty of water and had some fabulous splashy canters.

A real thrill between May and September is the opportunity to ride to fly camp for a night and experience riding in a totally different area.

the very comfortable fly camp

The very comfortable fly camp

Next morning our ride takes us out onto the floodplains, which in the flood season are completely full of water. Right now (in December) there is still a good amount of water left – enough for some refreshing splashy canters which have us grinning from ear to ear. We ride to an ancient baobab tree, a beautiful spot for a snack break. As we make our way along the edge of a forest we hear buffalo not far away and at one point we catch sight of them. Next moment we are crossing over to the other side of the bank and as if from nowhere, we spot a long table laid out for lunch! We dismount and pat our horses, and as if on cue a big herd of elephant cross in front of us.

A spectacular sight at lunch

A spectacular sight at lunch

In the afternoon I try out a new horse called Roman, a Namibian Warmblood. He is cheeky, forward going and great fun. We spot tsessebe, impala and warthog and just catch sight of a beautiful antelope which Cliffy thinks is Oribi.

Next day we ride to King’s Island and have great fun popping over logs and fallen trees. Roman, Sambuca, Mr B and Amigo seem to love the chance for some bush cross country as much as we do! My final morning ride is a long one to Hippo Pools. We have plenty of fast riding along vehicle tracks and over the flood plains, the horses expertly hopping over the fish nest holes. After a few hours we reach our destination and pause to watch about ten hippos in their big pool of water. One female is really curious about the horses and gets closer and closer to us. Finally she plucks up the courage to leave the water and comes within about 10 metres of us, before turning and going back into the water. Not long afterwards, we are riding through a wooded area and come upon a breeding herd of elephant. Some of them are eating and others are digging the ground for minerals. As we begin to skirt around the herd, a big bull elephant begins to charge. But we stand our ground and he pauses, then turns his back to us and retreats. What a way to finish off my time at Motswiri!

Abbie at Motswiri

Abbie at Motswiri

You can read more about the fantastic In The Saddle horse safaris at Motswiri here.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbie’s trip to the Okavango Delta – part 1 – Kujwana

In December I packed my bags ready for a longed-for trip to Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, I’d learnt plenty about our camps there and always enjoyed hearing about our guests’ experiences on their return. Even though December isn’t usually considered the prime time to see the Delta, I had high expectations. Would the ‘Jewel of the Kalahari’ live up to its reputation?

From the very start of my two week trip I am on a high. My senses are overloaded; glistening ribbons of water meandering over the flood plains as we fly overhead, elephant walking into camp during dinner, lion roaring in the night so close to camp we almost think we can feel his breath, a surprise champagne lunch in the bush and swimming in the Xudum River as little fish nibble at our toes.

Most guests arrive into camp in style with a helicopter transfer from Maun to camp. But since I am visiting in the dry season, we can be driven into camp in a game drive vehicle. We are met at Maun airport by one of Kujwana’s longest –serving guides Person. He expertly negotiates rickety bridges and deep sand during our 3.5 hour journey to camp. Although only the beginning of our adventure our road transfer is a great introduction to the Delta, as we see zebra, kudu, leopard tortoise, giraffe and elephant.

The fantastic bridge into camp.

The fantastic bridge into camp.

We are met on arrival in camp by owners PJ and Barney Bestelink and their team. Barney takes me to the stables to introduce me to the horses. They are contented, glossy and cherished. We watch from a rise in the ground as the horses are put away in their barns. Barney assessing each horse’s well-being as they trot towards their stable.

My tent is gorgeous; spacious and airy atop a decked platform overlooking the river. My bathroom has a flush loo, hot and cold running water, soft fluffy towers, soap, shampoo and shower gel – bliss! As we sip pre-dinner drinks around the fire, the African sun slips towards the horizon turning the sky beautiful shades of soft velvety orange. Gathering around the dining table we are treated to stories of close encounters, fishing successes and exciting rides. Fellow guests Helena and Dan, David, Richard and Coco have had the time of their lives.

Next morning I am woken with tea in my tent at 5am. Breakfast is eaten around the fire as the sun rises over the plains. For my first ride I am teamed with Mahale, a stunning chestnut Arab. Led by experienced guide Thabu, we head out across the Delta, swishing through tall grasses and splashing through streams. We are treated to excellent sightings of buffalo, giraffe, zebra and hippo. We also see the plucky little honeyguide, giant eagle owl and saddle billed stork.

I see a group of buffalo on our first morning ride

I see a group of buffalo on our first morning ride

Mahale, also known as ‘Mr Posh’ is a real delight. He is well-balanced, polite and willing, with a special presence rarely seen in a safari horse. After two hours or so we dismount and walk the horses on foot for about 10 minutes. Mid-way through our ride we stop in the shade for a snack as the horses graze nearby. We are back at camp by around 11am, giving time for a refreshing dip before lunch. During siesta time, we head back to our tents to sleep off the heat of the day. Afternoon tea refreshes before we head out on the mokoro with our guides. It is such a peaceful way to see the Delta and so relaxing (if you are not poling!).

A mokoro trip is a very relaxing way to experience the delta.

A mokoro trip is a very relaxing way to experience the delta.

The next day is an exciting one as we bid Kujwana camp goodbye and head to Moklowane camp on horseback. Today I ride the mighty Mpumalanga, a grey Boerperd whom PJ describes as “the perfect safari horse”. He’s not wrong; Mpumalanga is sure-footed, experienced in front of game, eager to go, but easy to stop. He adjusts his stride easily as we pop over puddles or dips in the ground. It is almost as though he has lived before; he seems all-knowing and very wise! We spot wildebeest, buffalo and giraffe, the rare roan antelope and the curious-looking tsessebe. Our mud-spattered faces grin with glee as we canter across open ground. We stop to let the horses drinks at a large pool; lead guide Rogers never stops scanning the horizon for game. His eyesight is truly amazing. “It’s because he has never had to sit in front of a computer,” PJ tells us.

We reach a wooded area dotted with palm trees and a young male giraffe ambles close to us. As we emerge on the other side of the wood, suddenly Rogers stops, focussing on something at the base of an island. We follow his gaze and just make out a barely-there golden shape. All is quiet as we question our eyesight. “Lioness,” breathes Rogers. We watch in silence for a few precious moments before PJ signals to Rogers to lead the group quietly away.

Lioness and cub (viewed from a safari vehicle!)

Lioness and cub (viewed from a safari vehicle!)

Less than a mile further on a small army of Kujwana’s staff are waiting to greet us. Our horses are un-tacked, groomed and fed and then led out to graze. We pile into the waiting vehicle and are off in search of the lioness. Skirting the wood we search for the lioness and finally see her lying in the shade. Well-camouflaged she is relaxing contentedly, two exquisite cubs gambolling beside her. We gaze at her for 20 minutes or so, until it is time to leave her to her family. Back at the picnic spot a delicious lunch is served; quiche, fresh bread, salad and potatoes, washed down with cold drinks from the cool box. Camp beds are set out for us in the shade to relax on after lunch. Having had the chance to pack a ‘day bag’ before leaving Kujwana, we can change into shorts and then relax with a book.

After whiling away a few hours, we drink tea, still dozy from our siestas. Soon it is time to mount up for the final few hours in the saddle. Approaching Moklowane you can see that the vegetation is quite different, with taller bush and large islands dotted with palm trees. We have some splashy canters and Al and I argue gently about whose horse would win in a race. In some dense bush we have wonderful elephant sightings. I love the deep slow rumble of these magnificent animals (my favourites!).

doesn't really need a caption!

doesn’t really need a caption!

Moklowane camp is north of Kujwana, situated on the Matsebi River. Five tree houses line the river, high up in the tree line so as to appreciate the view. The beds are under cover, but open to the elements at the front. The en-suite bathrooms have hot and cold running water, a sink and flush loo. We wander down to the deck gin and tonic in hand. We watch the sunset and re-live the adventures of the day. I am so sad to be leaving and wish I could stay longer.

Spacious treehouses at Moklowane

Spacious treehouses at Moklowane

People go on safari for many different reasons; perhaps to get away from it all, to see the ‘real’ Africa, to spot game and to experience a true wilderness. A fellow guest turns to me and says, “this is the best thing I could ever have bought for my wife”. And that’s it; this is no relaxing beach holiday, it is no ordinary gift. This is an experience, something that will stay with you forever. It is something you can keep in your mind for years to come. The horses you have ridden, the game you have seen, the laughs, the thrill, it’s all there to be conjured up in your memory whenever you want. Priceless? Yes I think so.

Abbie at Kujwana on Mpumalanga

Abbie at Kujwana on Mpumalanga

You can read more about the In The Saddle holidays at Kujwana here:

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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