Riding Okavango Delta

An unforgettable safari

Earlier this month In The Saddle guest David Faen headed out on a long-awaited visit to Kujwana in Botswana. David has written this super ‘blog’ of his safari which he describes as “unforgettable”.

“I booked this holiday 22 weeks before my departure date – I know that because I put a weekly count-down note in my electronic diary, and for quite a while it seemed like it was a long way off, then all of a sudden, it was about to happen. I was very excited!

Whist this was my 5th riding holiday with In The Saddle, I was hoping that it would be something really special, not only because I had never been to Africa, but the thought of seeing, and riding alongside big game was just so incomprehensible.

I arrived at Johannesburg from Sydney and had a night in an airport hotel, and the next morning took the short flight to Maun, Botswana where I was met by a representative of Okavango Horse Safaris. She assisted me with the formalities, and before too long I was up in the helicopter for the 25 minute flight to Kujwana camp. I hadn’t been in a chopper before, so that in itself was exciting, but then seeing the landscape change from burnt scrub, near Maun, to lush green as we flew over the delta was quite an experience.

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Pic: Flying into camp by helicopter – the only way to travel!

On landing at the camp I was greeted by camp manager Duncan & Katie, and some of the staff. I was given an iced tea, and we walked to main dining tent, where I met some of the other guests, who had arrived earlier.

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Pic: Camp manager Duncan & Katie

I then received a safety briefing, was shown to my tent, and was told to return to the dining tent at 4.00, dressed to ride, as we would have afternoon tea and then go on a short 1 hour ride to acclimatise. I think that this was also for Duncan and Katie to assess our riding, to ensure that they would match us with suitable horses for the rest of the stay.

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Pic: Heading out on a ride with Rogers as lead guide

Two items that I vividly remember from the safety briefing were:

  1. Don’t leave any items like shoes, gloves, towels etc . out on my deck, as they would be stolen by the monkeys, and
  2. When walking from my tent to the dining tent, if I came across an elephant on the path, turn around and go back. Someone will soon work out there is a problem, and will come and get me.
Pic: David's tent at Kujwana camp

Pic: David’s tent at Kujwana camp

It made me realise very quickly that the animals I had only previously seen in books and on film, were now very real , and very close.

Pic: Elephant in camp

Pic: Elephant in camp

We were told that on the short, 1 hour ride, we probably wouldn’t see much game. WELL, we only saw elephant, giraffe, baboon, impala, red lechwe, kudu, waterhog and an eagle – not a bad start!

Pic: Great game sightings from day 1

Pic: Great game sightings from day 1

After dismounting and getting our drinks, Duncan indicated for us to stop speaking, as a young elephant had come right up to the camp, and was feeding only 3 or 4 metres away from us.

During that first night I heard hippos in the water directly in front of my tent. I couldn’t see them, as it was dark, but I could certainly hear them.

Pic: Hippo in the water

With a few exceptions, we then fell into a comfortable daily routine. At 6.00am the staff would come to our tents with a thermos of boiling water and some milk, so that we could enjoy a tea or coffee.

We would then assemble in our riding clothes for breakfast at 6.30, after which we would be introduced to our horse for the day, and then head out around 7.00. We would normally return around 11.30/12.00 and lunch would be at 12.30. The next activity would then be afternoon tea at 4.00, after which we then did a variety of things – sometimes going for a short ride, sometimes going in the safari vehicle searching for game, sometimes going in the boat and then doing a walk.

Pic: Gliding along in a mokoro

Pic: Gliding along in a mokoro

If we wanted to do something that wasn’t on the itinerary, it was never a problem – like the time 3 of us wanted to try out the mokoros (traditional dug-out canoes). That afternoon we had our chance, and whilst we found going in a straight line relatively easy, turning them around was a different matter!

Safety was always paramount. On every ride, car trip, boat trip or walk, we were always accompanied by two guides, and we were given briefings specifically relating to the area that we were in.

Pic: Your guide / back-up will carry a rifle and bear-banger

Pic: Your guide / back-up will carry a rifle and bear-banger

The knowledge of the Botswana guides was totally amazing.  On horseback my guide was always Rogers (obviously his English name, but as everyone referred to him as that, I don’t know his African name). In the safari vehicle or boat, it was Percy.  They knew everything there was to know about footprints, dung, breeding habits, age of animals etc, and could spot game kilometres away, when all we could see was trees and termite mounds, although we did become more skillful as the week progressed. They were both passionate about the birds in the delta, and when asked, said that they could identify all of the 500 species in the area.

Pic: Guides extraordinaire Rogers & Person (aka Percy)

Pic: Rogers & Person (aka Percy)

On day 4, we were told to pack a backpack, as we would be changing camp for 2 nights. Apart from a siesta on camp beds after a picnic lunch it was a full days ride, culminating in a short bareback section to arrive at the campsite. Some of my group had not ridden bareback before, but we were all in our swimmers, it was only at the walk, and everyone enjoyed it immensely.

The second camp was called Moklowane, and it felt more remote than Kujwana, however, our facilities were just the same as the main camp.

Pic: The mess tent at Moklowane

Pic: The mess tent at Moklowane

Over the whole week, the riding didn’t change a lot. It was not like rides in Europe, where you have a destination. We would head out, in a different direction each morning, looking for game. Whenever we spotted some, Rogers would always steer us around, so that we approached from downwind, and then we would get as close as we could, with safety always in mind. We would be walking, trotting or cantering, with the canter through the shallow water always being so much fun. As there were no major landmarks on the horizon, I asked Rogers if he ever got lost, and he replied in the negative, saying that he had an inbuilt GPS in his head!

Pic: Splashing through the delta was great fun

Pic: Splashing through the delta was great fun

I found all the food very good, well balanced and healthy, particularly the ‘baboon curry’, which turned out to be lamb, but which gave the staff the opportunity to play a trick on us.

Pic: A magnificent breakfast spread at Moklowane

Pic: A magnificent breakfast spread at Moklowane

My last night there also happened to be Duncan’s birthday, so after dinner 5 of the Botswana female staff came out to the dinning tent and sang a couple of songs for him. The simplicity of the song, and their natural harmony just gave me goose bumps.

Pic: Zebra blending in with the bush

Pic: Zebra blending in with the bush

I loved everything about this holiday – Africa to start with, then the accommodation, the staff, the horses and horsemanship, the food, the fact that there are not too many guests (in my case – 5), the knowledge of the guides and the planning that has gone into making every guest’s stay so memorable. I found it to be a once in a lifetime experience, and I urge anyone thinking about it to do it – there is no point ending this life with an unfulfilled  bucket list.”

A huge thank you David for writing this wonderful blog which has brought back fabulous memories of our visits to Kujwana.

Please contact abigail@inthesaddle.com if you’d like to add a safari at Kujwana to your bucket list.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Ride reviews, riding botswana, Riding Holidays, riding kujwana, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

These boots were made for riding

At In The Saddle, we really love our Ariat boots. We’ve taken them everywhere with us, from Ecuador to the Azores, Kenya to Mongolia!

The endurance-type boots (such as Terrain and Telluride) are a perfect hybrid of a hiking and riding boot.

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Lucy in Spain – Terrains are great if you have to do any leading on foot

These boots are comfortable for long days in the saddle, but tough enough to withstand everything an adventure might throw at them – from wading through the floodwaters of the Okavango Delta, to the humidity of the Pantanal or the ferocious winds of the Cotopaxi National Park.

 

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Chris sporting her Terrain boots in Mongolia

Country boots are also a great option and last really well. Sarah from In The Saddle has taken her Ariat Grasmere boots all over the world; Kenya, Botswana, France, Spain and South Africa.

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Sarah with her trusty steed and her Grasmeres in Kenya!

For an instructional holiday you might be more comfortable in a tall boot like the Volant, or perhaps a paddock boot/gaiter combination.

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Abbie in Portugal – tall boots are perfect for instructional holidays

Then of course, for a ranch holiday you might want to look and feel the part in a Western boot.

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Western boots for Western riding at El Bronco (ITS recommends you wear a hard hat)

We love our Ariat boots and take them all over the world with us. But we’d love to hear from you too. Is there anything you take on riding holidays with you that you just can’t do without?

Do feel free to like, share or comment.

Categories: Dressage, ecuador, Equestrian Travel, Horseback safari in Kenya, riding botswana, riding holiday brazil, Riding Holidays Portugal, Riding in Spain, Riding Okavango Delta | 2 Comments

Mad about Macatoo

Famous for its exciting riding and thrilling game viewing, In The Saddle guests continue to be ‘mad about Macatoo‘. Here are just a few recent comments;

“Exceeded the highest expectations. It will almost certainly remain the most memorable and enjoyable riding experience in 25 years of riding holidays abroad”. (Ingrid, UK).

“Another brilliant ‘holiday of a lifetime’! The highlight of the riding this time was cantering full speed with a group of about 20 giraffe so close we could almost hear their heart beats!” (Linda, UK).

“This was my fourth visit. The riding was excellent as ever. Saw so much game, the highlight being a big male leopard which was just magical”. (Karen, UK).

“The horses are amazing. I cannot think of a single thing to improve. It was absolutely incredible”. (Noga, Israel).

“A fantastic team on site, felt like part of a family or of a group of old friends. Knowledgeable guides with a passion for their country, all this in a very special bit of paradise – loved it !” (Amelie, France).

In other news…

You may already have heard about 23 year old Khwai’s retirement. He has been a firm favourite throughout his working life at Macatoo and many of you will have some wonderful memories of cantering across the Delta on this lovely boy. Khwai is off to Maun for a relaxing retirement. Happy retirement Kwai!

Mod taking Khwai out to the paddock

Mod taking Khwai out to the paddock

Recently Macatoo has gone green with the addition of solar panels. Camp is now operating completely on solar power.

Macatoo goes green! We are now operating completely on solar power!

Showing off the new solar panels

Earlier this month Macatoo was blessed with some much-needed rainfall. Now the bush is looking lovely, with bright green grass and foliage.

Just look at that atmospheric sky!

Just look at that atmospheric sky!

Down at Hippo Lagoon this little one was spotted recently, making a balance-beam out of a fallen tree.

Adventurous cub at Hippo Lagoon

Adventurous cub at Hippo Lagoon

There have been some amazing sightings from the scenic helicopter flights. Why not plan one during your stay to see the Delta with a bird’s eye view?

Hippo pod from above

Hippo pod from above

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Check out this video from In The Saddle guest Kim Simkins: Cantering at Macatoo

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, riding botswana, Riding Holidays, Riding Macatoo, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

News from Kujwana

Kujwana in the Okavango Delta is looking really amazing at the moment. Game is hiding around every corner and the landscape is vibrant shades of green after the rains.

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Kujwana main camp has seen many improvements over the last 12 months.

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A lovely new pool went in last year and there are now two gorgeous Riverside Suites for those who would like some added luxury.

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Some of the young horses have been out and about, getting used to their surroundings. These two homebreds, Bongo and Africa are doing really well with their training.

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There are many elements that make Kujwana special, but one of the things that really makes it stand out is that not only do guests stay at Kujwana main camp, but there is also the chance to go to Moklowane for a few nights as well. The long adventurous ride between camps with a sumptuous picnic lunch en route is an experience not to be missed. At Moklowane you stay in treehouse style accommodation with amazing views out over the Delta.

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Camp manager Duncan Over is working hard keeping things running smoothly. Many of you may have met Duncan at our Riding Holidays Show in December. You can read more about him here: Meet the Guides – Duncan Over.

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Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, in the saddle, riding botswana, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, riding kujwana, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – John Sobey from Macatoo, Botswana

Continuing with our meet the guide blogs here is another talented and popular guide, John Sobey from Macatoo –  you will be able to meet John at the Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015.

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1.    How long have you been guiding at Macatoo?    

We started Macatoo back in 1995, so it is over 20 years now.

2.    Where did you guide before this?

Before Macatoo I was based in Maun, Botswana doing mobile safaris (1993-95), as well as guiding in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. I have also guided on horseback in Kenya and Tanzania.

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

For as long as I can remember I had always wanted to live and work in Africa, so guiding seemed to be the natural route to take.  Also I knew more about horses than cars so horseback guiding was really the only option for me! I first went to South Africa, but soon realised that Botswana was the only place offering the true wilderness that I was searching for.

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

I have no idea, there was no Plan B!

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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?

There really is so much that makes the job amazing, not least because guiding in the Okavango is always different, it’s never the same. High water, low water or no water, the seasonal variation is never-ending. That is why I came back to the Delta out of all the other locations. The down sides are you cannot watch enough rugby (but given England’s recent performance perhaps that’s a plus….?!).

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

My favourite horse was ‘Ambos’, a 16.3hh Hanoverian. He was an amazing powerhouse of a  horse but was the perfect, trusting lead horse. He would lead in to any problem without question. Who would he be if he was a human…that’s too tough a question to answer, but probably somebody brave!

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

I couldn’t live without the open spaces and the wilderness, it’s what I’ve become so used to now.

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

There really are so many memories, its hard to choose. Galloping alongside a herd of giraffe and zebra with Sir  Mark Todd was not bad!

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

With a book or newspaper back at my tent overlooking the floodplains.

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

I would say don’t think that it it’s going to be easy; there are no quick routes. You will have to be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up, but the end result will be worth it.

11.    Where do you go on holiday?

Holidays are few and far between, but where possible I try to get out to visit other camps and lodges in Botswana to learn more and get more ideas. After being out in the bush for long stints it’s also nice to just to relax and spend some time at home.

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

You can meet John from Macatoo 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 Safety, Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Ride reviews, riding botswana, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, Riding Macatoo, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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