riding holidays namibia

I Left my Heart in the Namib Desert

In this blog entry Abbie from In The Saddle tells us about her trip to Namibia earlier this year.

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A blog is something I do when I return from a trip, to summarise and recount amazing horsey adventures in far off lands. But I’ve been putting off writing this one. Why? Because writing a blog means the trip is over, as if stamping the experience with a definitive “The End”, and if I’m honest I don’t really want to do that.

The Namib Desert Ride is more than a riding holiday, more than the sum of its parts – fast riding, camping and long days in the saddle – it is an experience like no other. I’ll tell you all about it, and although I am sad it is over, I’m sure I will enjoy reliving the most incredible adventure I’ve ever had.

When I last visited Namibia in 2012 I fell in love with the wide open spaces, a nothingness which has to be seen to be believed. The vast plains and endless horizons seem to encourage you to take time out from everyday life and just stop, and breathe, and take it all in. What stayed with me particularly was being in the desert, the feeling of freedom above the deep red soil and below the bright blue skies. I simply couldn’t wait to get back to the Namib Desert, where mile upon mile of open space seems to call you – it has to be the ultimate place for limitless canters.

PIC 1 Endless canters

Namibia – the perfect place for limitless canters

In August I travelled to Namibia to cross the oldest desert in the world on horseback. The Namib Desert route is one of In The Saddle’s more challenging rides, encompassing a journey on horseback of some 320km from close to the desert oasis of Solitaire to Swakopmund on the fierce Atlantic coast. Ever since I joined In The Saddle back in 2006 I’ve been dying to do this ride and when the opportunity came up I literally jumped (up and down) at the chance!

Our riding group meets for the first time at River Crossing, a comfortable guesthouse on the outskirts of Windhoek. We are twelve riders in total, from France, England, South Africa and Denmark. About half the group have their own horses, but everyone has ridden for many years and all are experienced in the saddle. Our guide Andrew Gillies meets us at 17:00 for the ride briefing. After a thorough run through of ride safety and the signals Andrew will use to chance pace, we begin to relax and look forward to the adventure ahead. Over a cool gin and tonic we introduce ourselves and Andrew asks us what sort of riders we are and what we look for in a horse. Requests vary from “fast and spirited” and “fun and forward-going” to “easy to stop”. It is this information along with the details from travel companies like In The Saddle that Andrew and Telane use to allocate horses. A delicious three course evening meal and plenty of wine awaits, before early to bed after a long day of travelling.

The next day we are up early for our transfer to our first campsite at Ababis. It is a journey of about four hours and we spot oryx, springbok, baboons and secretary bird along the way. We stop at a viewpoint on the way and Andrew points out where we are going to be riding in the days to come. The incredible view heightens our excitement as we imagine the journey ahead – think of the amazing views, the adventure, the endless canters – we cannot wait! The sheer open space and lack of people will take some getting used to…whether you come from busy London or rural Shropshire.

Pic 2 viewpoint

The viewpoint – taking in the vast desert landscape

We reach camp around midday and are met by Phoebe, Telane and Kim. The team take it in turns as back-up guide, but on this particular trip we are in the very capable hands of Kim from Germany who is on her third stint as volunteer. Kim is great fun to ride with and clearly loves her forays into the wilderness of Namibia. Phoebe is a constant beacon of fun and positivity. Cheerfully waving us off each day and then racing against the clock with the back-up crew to set up the lunch spot or the next campsite whilst at the same time preparing mouth-watering meals – she accomplishes so much that we begin to wonder whether she has an identical twin!

PIC 3 Phoebe_s Food Truck

“Phoebe’s Food Truck” – always a welcome sight

Telane, biologist and wild horse researcher, is in charge of the horses’ welfare. During the trip Telane is more often found with the horses than the humans, as she carefully checks them for sore spots, lameness and other ailments. I was fascinated to hear that when she meets a guest for the first time Telane will often ‘see’ a horse. For example when she met Claire on our trip, Telane ‘saw’ Lavoca. This was a great match as throughout the week Claire rode her horse with great sensitivity and I loved seeing them at a speedy canter weaving in and out between other riders, eager to get to the front, a big smile on both their faces!

Pic 4 Claire and Lavoca Joes pic

Claire and Lavoca – a perfect match (image courtesy of Joe Davies)

Next we are given a run through of what to do when we reach camp each evening. The horses are un-tacked, allowed to roll and led to water. Then they are left to dry and are brushed off later (we usually do this whilst waiting in the shower queue). Then we can take a stretcher bed, bedroll and bag to a spot of our choice, be it beside a tree, next to the horses or close to the campfire. The bedroll (each one named after animal species such as rhino, bush pig and impala so they don’t get mixed up) is ours for the duration of the ride and encompasses a sleeping mat, feather duvet and two pillows all tucked inside a waterproof and windproof canvas swag. The duvets are incredibly warm even if the pesky east wind is blowing, although there are extra blankets to use if you feel the cold.

After a lunch of oryx skewers, stuffed peppers, salad and fresh bread it is back on the road again as we travel the 150km to the famous red dunes of Sossusvlei. Andrew tells us about the different types of dunes. These dunes at Sossusvlei differ from those in the Kalahari because they are dynamic, ever-shifting in the wind and taking on a variety of shapes. We kick off our shoes and climb Dune 45, a few of us happy to go part of the way up and then sit and take in the view, whilst others climb right to the top. It is just beautiful.

Pic 5 Sossusvlei

Karien taking in the view at Sossusvlei

Returning to camp we have time to de-sand ourselves with a hot shower before dinner. We are spoilt this evening as we are eased into camp life, for tonight we have hot running water and flush loos. There is much giggling over the ‘mini-Sossusvlei’ left in the shower by a fellow rider – how on earth did she manage to get that much sand into her shoes and still walk?! Making my way back to my stretcher after a shower I make the mistake of hanging my towel to dry on a nearby tree…only the following morning do I realise I’ve used a camelthorn tree and it takes a while to extract my towel from its fierce spikes!

Today’s the day – we get to meet our horses and set off on our desert adventure. There is Marnie a sweet grey Arab mare, Xerox the ‘photocopier’ horse, speedy Sundown, the chestnut ‘pocket rocket’ whose speed has to be seen to be believed, Titan a handsome dun gelding, fast and spirited Raven, front-runner Zarron, well-mannered Coco and my own diminutive ‘black Philip’. He was in many ways exactly what I’d asked for (small and straightforward), but he was also so much more than this; I cherished his professionalism, sweet temper and polite enthusiasm from start to finish.

Pic 6 Philip and I

Philip – the perfect gentleman

After a hearty breakfast it is time for a saddling demonstration. The horses are groomed and tacked-up with an incredible level of care, which is continued throughout the ride. After the usual first-day adjusting of stirrups and saddles we set off towards the oasis town of Solitaire about 15km away. The horses are keen, but controllable except perhaps Raven and Joe’s first horse, each having their own ideas about the speed we should be going at. At one point Joe disappears off in front at a purposeful but unintentional canter, only to double back at great speed heading straight for us. A swift bridle change makes little difference, so a horse change is quickly carried out instead – much better, and well ridden Joe. At Solitaire we enjoy a delicious lunch of quiche and salad, followed by the bakery’s famous apple crumble – yum. A further c. 15km ride in the afternoon takes us to the first of our beautiful wilderness camps, Koireb, nestled in a dry riverbed.

Over the next few days we settle into the wonderful rhythm of camp life. Literally we eat, sleep, ride and repeat. It is priceless, absolute bliss, as if you are in a little bubble where it is only your fellow riders, your guides, the back-up team and your horses and it feels almost as though your normal, everyday life doesn’t even exist.  The day begins with Zarron’s high-pitched whinny and the call of the French rooster. We wake up each morning and watch dawn creep onto the horizon, getting dressed as quickly as possible in the cool of the morning. That first cup of tea and a rusk has never been so delicious as you gather your riding gear and break down your little camping spot. Breakfast is taken around the fire, and then perhaps there is time to snatch a quiet moment with your horse before the adventures of the day begin.

PIC 7 Philip eating marmite on toast pheobe's pic

A quiet moment with Philip (image courtesy of Namibia Horse Safaris)

Each day we set off to journey through amazingly diverse desert scenery, cantering across the plains with oryx on one side and zebra on the other. We enjoy a cold Savannah cider and lunch in the shade, before setting off again for more incredible canters and gallops across the open terrain. We arrive in camp, un-tack and let the horses roll and drink, before sipping a cool G&T whilst grooming the horses. Then a quick bucket shower to wash away the red-brown dust of the desert.

Pic 8 Grooming the horses at sunset

Ganab camp – Phoebe grooming the horses at sunset

Each evening Andrew gathers us around the fire saying ‘Dearly Beloved’ and outlines the plan for the following day. Each day is different and yet filled with the same magical ingredients of good company, incredible riding and thrilling gallops; the only thing that seems to remain the same is that “breakfast is at seven”! After a delicious two course meal we go to bed each night feeling nicely weary and drift off to sleep playing ‘join the dots’ with constellations or counting shooting stars in the amazing inky-black African sky.

Pic 9 night sky courtesy of Tony Marshall

The Namib night sky (image courtesy of Tony Marshall)

One day we are doing some LSD (Long Slow Distance – Andrew’s term for a steady canter) and Andrew stops us all, saying he can see something unusual ahead. So we approach slowly and to our disbelief, there in the middle of the day is an aardvark! He is so intent on his quest for termites that he seems oblivious to our presence and we sit and watch him for ten minutes or so. We edge closer and closer until finally he spots us and darts away in confusion.

PIC 10 Aardvark

An unusual sighting – an aardvark out in the daytime

Another day we are not far from camp and during a canter, our guide takes us on a winding route through bushes and low trees as the sun starts to fade. Before we know it we are out in open ground again and in front of us, as if by magic are three giraffe. What a wonderful sight to end another incredible day in the desert (although Coco is not a fan and is still snorting by the time we reach camp!).

PIC 11 Three giraffe

Spotting three giraffe – the perfect end to an incredible day

One day the group splits off into pairs and has ‘wacky races’ along vehicle tracks which make for perfect going. A day or so later we canter across grassy plains so vividly green after the calcrete plains we have just crossed and then we’re invited to let loose, whoop it up and let loose our inner cowboys as we set off at a roaring gallop. My horse Philip is wonderful and tries so hard, but he’s not the fastest horse in the world. We set off feeling good, galloping well, but are soon enveloped in a huge billow of dust as those with more impressive turns of speak streak past us. Quite literally streaking in the case of Ben, whose wardrobe seems to be in a permanent state of malfunction, shirt undone and chest showing!

On our longest riding day from Ganab to Marble Mountain, we ride 40km before lunch and our 20km afternoon ride is one of my most memorable. The entire late afternoon ride takes us along sandy plains of perfect going and we ride towards the sinking sun,  literally riding off into the sunset – magical. During a long canter, Joe who has been part of the ‘rear guard’ until now suddenly storms to the front of the group, taking most of the others with him and setting off an impromptu cavalry charge – whoops!

It is incredible to be cantering along in the remote Namib Desert hearing only your horse’s breathing and the beat of his canter. At one point the evening light and the dust begins playing tricks on me, making it look as though the horse in front is in fact cantering towards me – eerie.

Pic 12 riding into the sunset izzys pic

Riding into the sunset (image courtesy of Izzy Crane)

On Day 6 the landscape takes a dramatic change and ahead of us lies a real challenge; crossing the Kuiseb Canyon. It was here that geologists Hermann Korn and Henno Martin went into hiding during the Second Wold War, as told in the book ‘The Sheltering Desert’. We ride into the badlands where we have an amazing sighting of a magnificent lone zebra who is really intrigued by us. Then we make a technical descent down steep terraces leading our horses on foot.

PIC 13 Descending into the Kuiseb Canyon

Descending into the Kuiseb (image courtesy of Namibia Horse Safaris)

After watering the horses and a quick picnic lunch, it is time to begin our climb out of the canyon. From the base of the canyon the climb looks impossible, but the horses, guides and back-up team are incredible as they clamber across sheer rock and make light work of the steep, rocky ascent.

PIC 14 Karen and Sundown climb out of the Kuiseb Izzy's pic

Karen & Sundown climbing out of the Kuiseb (image courtesy of Izzy Crane)

We make it to Aruvlei our next camp by mid-afternoon, in plenty of time for a fabulous sun downer in celebration of surviving the Kuiseb.

Pic 15 Celebratory Sundowners after surviving the Kuiseb

Mariette & Gill – sundowners at Aruvlei

As our adventure begins to come to a close we make our way up the Swakop River, the energy seems to change and the horses are on edge a little. Perhaps they can sense their journey is almost over? We have wonderful canters along the dry riverbed and gaze up at the rock formations on either side.

PIC 16 Riding up the Swakop River

The Swakop River – riding towards civilisation

On the way to our last stop on the trail we pause for a break under the shade of a tree and notice that the ground underfoot looks like huge fish scales, crunching underfoot.

PIC 17 Fish scales Rebecca's pic

The Swakop riverbed looks like huge fish scales (image courtesy of Rebecca Hast)

Signs of civilisation begin to appear, a house, a fence, dogs barking; it seems so strange after having been isolated in the desert for ten days.

Our final ride is bittersweet, we’ve nearly done it, but we don’t want it to end. An idea circulates about heading north when we get to Swakopmund, riding up the coast to explore Damaraland and then on to Etosha, before turning south and heading back to Windhoek. Then having a little rest and doing some washing before riding south to see the Wild Horses and then on to explore the Fish River Canyon. What an adventure that would be…shall we start planning?!

As we ride towards Swakopmund we cross a railway and a few roads, before passing towering dunes and then we catch our first sight of the Atlantic Ocean. Our incredible Namibian adventure ends with a final thrilling gallop along the beach at Swakopmund, champagne corks popping as we reach the end of the beach.

It has been a wonderful ten days, full to the brim with adrenaline-fueled gallops, wonderful company, amazing food, ever-changing landscapes, dust, sunshine, and incredible game. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried and we’ve finally fulfilled our dream of crossing the Namib Desert. As Joe put it so eloquently in his thank you speech to Andrew and the team, “we’ve ridden like hell and eaten like horses”.

PIC18 We_ve done it

We did it – arriving into Swakopmund

So there it is, I’ve finally faced it and written my blog. I now have to write “The End” and admit that my adventure is over. But what will keep me going is the hope that one day I’ll return to the wide open plains of Namibia, where friends are made, challenges are met and the memories last until the call of the wilderness becomes too strong to resist.

The End

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As well as this adventurous ride crossing the Namib Desert, In The Saddle also features other challenging trail rides in Namibia including the Damara Elephant Safari, Desert Canyons Safari and Wolwedans to Wild Horses.

If you’d like to find out more about our Namibian rides, please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or email abigail@inthesaddle.com

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

Big Adventures on the Big Rivers Ride

In this blog post we hear from In The Saddle guest Sarah Grant, who was part of an intrepid group of riders who undertook the adventurous Big Rivers ride in June 2017.

This exploratory ride journeyed into the Caprivi strip, Namibia’s tropical paradise whose borders are determined by several big rivers. The charm of this area is that it is a corridor for game moving between Botswana, Zambia and Angola. This extraordinary area of biodiversity is in contrast to Namibia’s normally arid landscape. In summer the floodwaters spill out over the riverbanks onto the wide open plains of Linyanti and Liambezi, much like the Okavango does in Botswana.

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“We are riding alongside a wide stretch of water somewhere in the Caprivi, North Eastern Namibia, shortly before sunset. It’s the first day of the 2017 Exploratory Ride, an annual ride that Andrew Gillies of the Namibia Horse Safari Company runs each year, to explore somewhere new in the vast nothingness that is Namibia. It’s a chance to go somewhere that no one has gone before on a horse, but be prepared for the unexpected…

Back to the first day. Setting off from our first camp on the Kwando River, we’ve had a happy day getting used to our horses (mine, Big Red, is an honest, friendly red chestnut gelding, quite powerful and a bit cheeky), getting used to each other (a group of 11 riders from 6 different countries, all of whom have ridden with Andrew at least once and in some cases many times), and getting used to two constant features of the ride – the many herds of cattle herded by the local ethnic groups, with their rather fearsome horns, and the crowds of excited children, who follow us shouting with excitement at seeing 15 riders and 19 horses suddenly appear in their village.

who is herding who

Who’s herding who?

Now, with the sun slipping close to the horizon, I am secretly thinking: shouldn’t we be at camp by now? Time for sundowners perhaps? “No problem,” says our guide, Andrew, consulting the GPS, “it’s only 5km away.” Until we find a wide water channel, inconveniently placed between the camp and us. With virtually no daylight left, and no way round, the order is issued: “Swim the horses across! Bring the old campaigners first!” I’ll be the first to admit, swimming a horse I don’t know across a channel that may or may not have crocs in virtual darkness is not my perfect idea of an end to the first day, but there was nothing to do except point Big Red at the river, and hope for the best.

Expect the Unexpected

A river crossing at dusk – on an exploratory ride you have to expect the unexpected

We did all make it across, and we made it to our camp, tired, soaking wet but high on the adventure of it. Red usually crosses the Namib Desert, but he swam across that channel like it was second nature, and earned my respect and gratitude. We spent the evening futilely trying to dry boots and blankets around the fire, and cheerfully recounting the adventure.

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The handsome Big Red

This is my first Exploratory Ride with renowned guide Andrew Gillies. I went on the Namib Desert ride last October, which was an incredible, unforgettable experience. Only a few months later I’m back for more.

This is what life on safari should be all about, wonderful company, living close to the earth and time for those quiet moments alone, just you and your horse. Big River Safari, Caprivi,

What life on safari is all about…those quiet moments alone with your horse

The Exploratory Ride goes to a new area each year, although there is a recce trip some months before by vehicle. So when the ride heads off the road, it really is across open country, navigating by landmarks and GPS. You do need to be prepared for things to not go according to plan. When Andrew and Phoebe did the recce trip in November 2016, they found the Linyanti floodplains full of buffalo. When we got there on the fifth day of our trip, the floodplains were covered in three metre high reeds, towering over our and the horses’ heads. We spent hours pushing through them. Andrew had to resort to the simple navigation technique of standing on his horse’s saddle to try and see where we should be going.

CROP 4 who needs gps anyway (thanks to Clare and Jenn Lawson)

Who needs GPS anyway? (Thanks to Clare and Jenn Lawson for the image)

Andrew & co are fantastic at these rides. They have an amazing back-up team that bring food and water (for horses and humans) plus tents and bed-rolls and loos and showers and many other comforts for life in the bush. On most of the Namibian rides you sleep under the stars, but on this ride we had tents due to riding through areas populated with large predators. The horses were guarded by night, with their picket line surrounded by the rest of the camp and fires which were kept going through the night in lion areas.

This is what life on safari should be all about, wonderful company, living close to the earth and time for those quiet moments alone, just you and your horse. Big River Safari, Caprivi,

Savouring the simple routine of camp life, with great company

Camp life is refreshing in its simplicity. I wake each dawn to the sound of the horses on the picket line calling for their breakfast. My first thought is to get coffee (I’m addicted), which never tastes better than from a metal mug with a rusk as the sun rises. Breakfast is in the circle of camp chairs around the fire before grooming my horse and taking it to where the tack is stored on a long tarpaulin, secretly hoping to get some help from our guides, Andrew and Telane, as I find the saddles so heavy.

5 beautiful Namibia at daybreak

Beautiful Namibia at daybreak

We are riding about 30km a day, from the start at the Kwando River to the final camp at Mutoya on the Zambezi. The going varies, between long stretches of open bush (or ‘veldt’), small areas cultivated by the locals, scrub, floodplains and woodlands. There are many shouts of ‘holes!’ (belonging to aardvarks) and ‘thorns!’ (the ‘wait a little bit’ bush). Where we can, we make up distance by doing some of Andrew’s famous LSD – Long Slow Distance – at a steady canter along the road shoulder. There can be anything from elephants or zebras crossing, to villagers greeting you, to lorries sounding their horn right by your horse (thank you Red for only shying a bit).

6 one of many water crossings

One of the many river crossings

When we reach camp, the first thing is to see to the horses. They are un-tacked, allowed to roll and taken for water. Then they are put on their allocated place on the picket line and fed.

coming home at the end of the day 2 cropped

Walking the horses the final few hundred metres into camp at the end of the day

Later they will be groomed and fed again, and Andrew and Telane, will do the ‘ward round’ to check for any sore backs or other ailments. Once they are seen to, the bar will be open – G&Ts (with ice, even here) and Windhoek beers all round. Then find your tent, have a shower, have some delicious food that is incredible considering where we are, and chew the fat until bed.

horses enjoying a cool off

The horses enjoying a roll and a drink at the end of the day

The joy of these rides is the freedom. It’s hard to put into words the immense nothingness of Namibia. It’s beautiful. Seeing it from a horse you have time to take in the huge mackerel skies, the vivid greens and yellows of grasslands and bush, the belts of trees on the skylines, the blue of the water channels. You have time to talk and bond with your fellow riders, and time to think and let the city life of home recede.

8 mackerel skies cropped

Beautiful mackerel skies

There was also the local life to see. In the Caprivi, life is harsh on this unyielding land, with the challenges of living with elephants and lions, and the clash of old and new cultures. We had a talk from Lisse Hannsen of the Caprivi Carnivore Project about how to ensure conservation and humans can co-exist.

Horses are a rare sight here and the leader of one village begged us to stop until the whole village could see the horses (he got a ride on Andrew’s horse).

Although hard to believe in the 21st century these locals have never seen a horse

Many of these villagers had never seen a horse before

There are many other tales from this trip I could write about – galloping through water (someone got a ducking), trucking the horses home one day with the riders sitting on top because we couldn’t make the full distance before dark, the time Big Red decided a short cut through a thorn bush was a good idea – but perhaps the best thing to do is go to see for yourself the immense nothingness that is Namibia. The best way to see it? From the back of a horse, of course”.

9 wide open spaces

The wide open spaces are unforgettable.

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A huge thank you to Sarah for writing this wonderful account of her adventures in Big River country. What an incredible experience and a huge well done to you and fellow In The Saddle guests Clare Anderton, Nicole Appert, Clare Lawson and Jenn Lawson for completing this challenging ride.

If you’d like to experience some more of their epic adventure, then check out Namibia Horse Safaris’ video from the ride here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbCR4xTuI7w

As well as the annual exploratory ride, In The Saddle offers a range of adventurous trail rides in Namibia guided by Andrew Gillies:

Namib Desert: A challenging 300km journey across the oldest desert in the world to Swakopmund on the coast.
Damara Elephant Safari: Fast riding through the vast and spectacular landscapes of Damaraland, tracking elephant and rhino along the way.
Desert Canyons Safari: Explore the open plains of the Southern Namib and see the famous Fish River Canyon.
Wolwedans to Wild Horses: A breath-taking journey taking you from the great dune sea of the central Namib to Klein Aus Vista near the home of the Wild Horses of the Namib.

For more information or to book your place please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or via email abigail@inthesaddle.com

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, riding holidays namibia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

News from Namibia

Preparations are well under way for the month-long Epic Safari in Namibia – the very first of its kind.

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The Namibia Horse Safaris team are busy preparing the 70 horses required for this incredible ride. Vehicles are already beginning to transport 45 tons of food, water and equipment in readiness. The horses will require some 28,000 litres of water during the safari – that’s a heck lot of water in a desert environment!

The Epic Safari route will run from Damaraland in the north to Lüderitz in the south.

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The first leg of the journey will include mystical Twyfelfontein with its famous rock engravings, the incredible landscapes of Damaraland home to desert-adapted elephant and the forbidding Skeleton Coast.

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Next the group will cross the oldest desert in the world, the Namib, from Swakopmund on the coast to the Namib Sand Sea of Sossusvlei.

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On the final leg of the trip riders will journey from the beautiful Wolwedans reserve, over wide open landscapes and remote plains until they reach the coastal town of Lüderitz. Here the adventure comes to an end.

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What an amazing sense of achievement the riders and guides will feel dismounting at the end of this Epic Safari having covered an amazing 1,000km on horseback!

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Will any other trip ever compare to this unique adventure? Memories of this Epic Safari are sure to last a lifetime.

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There is just 1 place remaining on this ultimate adventure. Are you intrepid enough to take up the challenge? If so, please contact Abigail@inthesaddle.com or call us on 01299 272 997.

South Africa and Namibia pictures 530-Quote

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Riding expeditions, riding holidays africa, riding holidays namibia | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Ingeborg from Namibia

The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December will be full to the brim with talented and experienced riding guides from around the world. Here, we have an article by a talented and popular guide who is well know for her love of Arabian horses – Ingeborg from Okapuka in Namibia.

0821.How long have you been guiding at Okapuka?

I’ve been guiding since 2000 when my ex-partner and I set up the riding safari operation at Okapuka.

2.    Where did you guide before this?

I used to be an HR manager before I decided that Namibia would be my home. I started riding when I was a youngster. My first pony was a white Shetland mare, called Walda who was most probably not bigger 11hh; later I had a chestnut gelding, a New Forest pony called (believe it or not), Quicky! During my riding years in the Netherlands I saw one of my competitors in the dressage ring riding a white purebred Arabian and I was completely in awe. That’s how my fascination and love for the breed started and I promised myself one day that one day, one day I would be the owner of such a magnificent creature. I stopped riding when I turned 18 and only started again just before coming to Namibia on a holiday (not a riding holiday), not knowing riding would become my profession. When we started the horse safaris there was doubt that the Arabian horse would become our partner. In a way I’m still an HR manager, but now it’s Horse Resource Manager.

Almost in tears

3.    How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?

When my ex-partner and I set up the company there was no question in my mind that I would do the guiding as well. It wasn’t a person, but the country inspired me; wide open spaces, abundance of wildlife, 360 days of sunshine and the smell of the earth after the first rain (if Chanel, Dior, or whoever could put that smell in a bottle I would be the biggest user). I love horses, especially purebred Arabians, horse riding and what better way to do that than in Africa.

4.    If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?

I would either have stayed an HR Manager or just mucked out stables, I guess. I have never thought about it. I don’t think there ever was a plan B!

Rider & giraffe 03

5.    People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?

What is it there not love about the job? Being outside, enjoying beautiful scenery, having gorgeous Arabian horses around me and seeing smiles on the faces of my guests. The downside? Well I could say there is none, but then I would be telling a lie. The most horrible thing is to have to say goodbye to a much-loved horse. That is something I cannot and do not want to get used to.

6.    If your favourite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?

I have a few favourites, but the one who always makes my heart beat faster is my Monster as I affectionately call him. His official name is ‘Nabilah the Makers Masterpiece’, a straight Egyptian Arabian grey gelding who is turning 20 in December. He has a wicked sense of humour, is a drinker of the wind and I trust him with my life. If he would be human, most probably he would be my husband!

Masterpiece & Ingeborg

7.    What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?

When guiding I couldn’t do without a good lead horse. In general it’s difficult for me to live without sunshine, white wine, my horses, dog and cats and my family – and not in this particular order.

8.    What has been your most memorable riding holiday week?

My most memorable endurance ride was the competition where my guests and I all came first in our different weight categories and distances, and won some Best Conditioned Horse Awards. My most embarrassing competition was where I fell off my horse in front of my guest rider and ended up in hospital. Thank goodness, the guest rider continued and finished the ride!

Jacoza on Dune 7

Finding my most memorable safari week or ride is very difficult; there have been so many memorable riders and rides, and situations. My most memorable rider is a Belgian lady, saying that even though she loved the place, horses and rides she would not return as there were so many more beautiful riding places that she were on her bucket list. But then she came back every single year, once or twice until the year she passed away. My most memorable ride was earlier this year when taking guest riders on their first ride and meeting 2 male leopards having a springbok breakfast, followed by a rhino sighting, followed by being enclosed by giraffe, followed by ….. I had to explain to them that this was exceptional and to please don’t expect this every single day! My most memorable situation was when we were having a good canter and suddenly 2 rhino came thundering out of the thickets deciding to join us for a short while; our tempo increased slightly and so did our adrenaline level!!

9.    How do you relax after a day in the saddle?

I sit on my stoop with a good book, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc being greeted by Doggos, my dog and being surrounded by purring cats.

10.    What advice would you give a 21-year-old who wants to train for your job?

Look, listen and learn, be aware of your surroundings, horses and guests and the interaction between those 3.

11.    Where do you go on holiday?

To Europe to visit family.

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Thank you Ingeborg for some fantastic images and another interesting article. Olwen and the team look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.

You can meet Ingeborg from Okapuka at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015. Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.

38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, in the saddle, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, riding holidays namibia, Riding safaris, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Andrew Gillies from Namibia Horse Safaris, Namibia

The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015 is all about “Meeting the Guides” – in fact that’s what we called the event when we first ran it in 2007. It’s a chance to learn about wonderful riding holidays all over the world, directly from the people who will be guiding you day by day. As well as an opportunity to renew friendships and chat about past experiences.

We thought it would be interesting to run a series of profiles of some of the people who will be at the Riding Holiday Show and here is another legendary guide, Andrew Gillies from Namibia Horse Safaris.

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  1. How long have you been guiding at Namibia Horse Safaris?

I started with NHSC in 2011.

  1. Where did you guide before this?

Before this I guided for The Conservation Corp and Wilderness Safaris in Namibia and also Equus Trails (as a riding guide).

  1. How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?

Peter Starke has been my biggest inspiration. Author of “The White Bushman”, he spoke fluent San and was the most respected conservationist in Namibia (in Etosha).  Peter Starke was my Commander in Chief in the Cavalry, and I went on to become an instructor in the Cavalry.

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  1. If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?

There was never a Plan B – guiding is my life and love it.

  1. People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?

It is the ideal job – out in the environment in beautiful Namibia. It’s the best place to be, especially with horses.  Every day is a surprise and there are always unexpected experiences to be had. There is no downside except perhaps time spent away from family.

  1. If your favourite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?

Winston Churchill – no nonsense, just get the job done!

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  1. What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?

My saddle! I don’t need much in life; perhaps nice people and being in nature.

  1. What has been your most memorable safari?

Very inspired by some of our riders who in their 70’s and 80’s are still living life to the full. Some rides in Damaraland with encounters with big game are pretty memorable. During one ride we spent a half-hour watching an unusually relaxed Black Rhino. On another occasion we rode with a herd of Elephant. These experiences are rare and exciting; remember that Namibia does not have the tourist-habituated game one finds in Botswana and Kenya.

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  1. How do you relax after a day in the saddle?

With a beer, grooming horses – it’s very relaxing.

  1. What advice would you give a 21-year-old who wants to train for your job?

Learn to do everything from the bottom up.  You need to experience everything.

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  1. Where do you go on holiday?

Mainly the beach or the bush.

Thank you Andrew for the fantastic images and another insightful article.

You can meet Andrew from Namibia Horse Safaris at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015. Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.

38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, riding holidays namibia, Riding safaris, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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