South Africa and Botswana Horseback Safari
May 14-23, 2020
The perfect getaway for experienced riders! Few vacations will take you out of your routine faster and more completely than an African safari. The experience of watching wild animals in their habitat—running in herds, caring for young, and going about their daily routines—is magical. Imagine being able to watch antelope, giraffe, zebra, and elephants from the saddle, where you and your horse are viewed as part of the natural environment. Come visit the bush for an unforgettable horseback journey with dedicated horseback guides and accompanied by licensed safari guide Christina Tabacco.
Custom eight-night horseback safari in two countries (South Africa and Botswana)
Small group of up to ten rider-guests with two dedicated guides at both locations.
Ride once or twice daily over beautiful and varied scenic terrain to watch game and adventure on in a beautiful Waterberg reserve and the world-class Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana (renowned for elephants!)
Enjoy luxury bungalows and ‘glamping’ of the finest variety including outdoor heated showers whether staying in classic African tented chalets or a sleep out under the stars (on plush mattresses with high thread count linens, of course!)
Price inclusive of healthy and delicious five-star quality meals cooked on site and unlimited alcohol including South African wines and spirits
Ride well-schooled horses lead by knowledgeable, experienced, and wilderness first-aid certified safari guides from an award-winning safari company in the business for over twenty years
The dates are May 14-23, 2020 and the price is set at an excellent value for $2,500 USD, all inclusive (more details below, including below note re: rider ability)
Riders must have the ability to canter and gallop in the open, control horses in a group, and ride over varied terrain for several hours at a time. Riders will be asked detailed questions about their riding experience to match the rider to suitable horses. 210lbs is the rider weight limit.
OUR TRIP BEGINS
With a private mini-bus from O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) to the Waterberg in northern South Africa. The Waterberg is a mountainous area characterized by rolling terrain, dramatic escarpments, and woodland habitat. The three-hour drive from Johannesburg is scenic. After exiting the major highway, we navigate the gently winding roads past small but bustling African towns, farms, game reserves, and roadside sellers hawking oranges, avocados, and potatoes at bargain prices. It feels secluded, with its quiet nights and starry skies, yet isn’t far from Jo’burg, a cosmopolitan metropolis and international flight hub.
We arrive at Horizon Horseback in time for lunch. Horizon is a scenic Waterberg lodge set on a spacious lawn in front of a dam frequented by hippo, African fish eagles, antelope, and horses. From Horizon, we meet our mounts and ride to Bellevue Plains, our home for the next three nights. The Horizon Horseback horses we’ll be riding are well-trained and suitable for a range of rider preferences. Breeds range from appaloosas, to draft crosses, to boerpeds (a South African breed known for its hardiness, endurance, and mild temperament), to tall warmblood types. Rider experience and preferences (i.e., tall, short, forward-going, calm, not-too-wide, arabs) are taken into account in horse selection.
Bellevue Plains reserve boasts a custom-made lodge with private bungalows, a luxurious communal dining and lounging area with stylish African touches, a pool, a sundeck and hot tub. The lodge’s architecture and charm is characteristic of the area. The bungalows are ‘rondevaals’ (the Afrikaans phrase for ‘round house’), circular huts with thatched, pointed roofs. The dwellings overlook beautiful plains where blesbok, eland, kudu, ostrich, impala, and warthog come to graze and browse.
Each morning from Bellevue Plains, we will enjoy a light breakfast before riding out to explore the surrounding terrain and wildlife. We will cross plains, wander up mountain passes, canter along sandy trails, and wind through forests where we may encounter Cape buffalo, giraffe, eland, nyala, birds of the bush, and more. Lunch is served upon return, then there is time to relax, nap, swim, or take a walk of the grounds. Later in the afternoon we’ll enjoy tea and coffee accompanied by unbelievable tea-time treats (think warm scones with thick cream and homemade raspberry jam). We will ride out again for a slower and relaxed ride thereafter, taking in the scenery and animals at golden hour.
Sundowners are a must in Africa. Our stay in the Waterberg and on the Tuli Trail will be no exception. Gin and tonics, South African wines, beer, and ciders, as well as non-alcoholic beverages are served with a light snack as we watch the orange sun drop to the horizon. We return to camp with time to freshen up before our evening meal. Dinner is a delicious affair. A three course meal will be prepared by Horizon’s excellent chefs including a starter, fresh vegetables and meat or fish, and is concluded with a delightful dessert. The deck is a great place to stargaze and review the day’s sightings with a cup of tea, coffee, or Amarula.
After our third night at Bellevue Plains, we’ll ride back to Horizon for our drive in a private mini-bus to Limpopo Horse Safaris in southern Botswana. The drive is three and half-hours on a mix of tar and dirt roads. We’ll cross the border at the Pont Drift border post, then head to the stables for a briefing and lunch. Afterwards, we change into riding gear and meet our mounts before we set out for a sunset ride to our first camp, the beginning of our custom Tuli Trail adventure.
The Tuli trail
The Tuli Trail marks the second and a delightfully different phase of this safari for a couple reasons. First, the Tuli is a mobile safari. We cover a distance of 120 miles along the Limpopo River in the Mashatu Reserve in southern Botswana’s Tuli Block. Second, unlike the game in the Waterberg, here we will be riding with so-called ‘dangerous game’: lion, leopard, and most notably, elephants. Huge herds of African elephants roam Mashatu and have been documented in numbers over 150 at a time. It’s likely that we will get to spend time viewing these gentle giants from a safe distance on horseback, during our game drive, or perhaps around the unfenced camps (that’s difference number three).
The Mashatu Game Reserve is somewhat of a hidden gem. The region is arid and the season changes drastic .The reserve’s rivers provide food, water, and sanctuary for animals such as eland, waterbuck, giraffe, zebra, hyena, bat-eared foxes, and African wildcats. It is renowned for birding and provides a scenic fixture in southern Botswana. Because there are elephant and lion in Mashatu Game Reserve, it is essential to be a skilled rider, competent at all paces over varied terrain. Riders must be ‘riding fit’ and have have an independent seat, command of the basic aids, and must be comfortable on long rides each day for the duration of the safari.
Limpopo Horse Safaris (the Tuli Trail operator) has a large and diverse herd of horses ranging in size and breeds from Boerperd, Fresian-crosses, thoroughbred crosses, and appaloosas. The number and array of horses provides a memorable selection for riders. They are athletic and versatile, and used to taking riders through the bush. Comfortable cavalry saddles with seat covers and saddlebags for water, cameras, sunscreen, and jackets are provided (the same type of saddles used at Bellevue Plains).
Because we will be covering quite a distance, we will spend four to seven hours a day in the saddle, interspersed with refreshment and lunch breaks. Each ride varies. We will often walk and enjoy the peace and scenery of the bush, occasionally stopping to look at bones, identify scat, watch an interesting bird, or observe browsing giraffe. Our Botswanan guides will interpret the scene, providing a meaningful education about ecology and animal behavior, conservation, and the area’s rich human history. We will also do short and long canters over varied terrain either in single file or in a group as the terrain permits. We may also jump ditches and logs knocked over by elephants, though jumping is optional.
On some days, evening rides may also part of the itinerary. On other days a bush walk provides a nice break from the saddle and a chance to explore the ‘little things’ up close. We will also participate in a Mashatu Game Reserve game drive from a safari vehicle one afternoon. The top-notch guides have excellent bush knowledge and provide guests with up-close game viewing experiences and the opportunity to take phenomenal photographs (the galley photographs shown above were taken at Bellevue Plains and on the Tuli Trail with either an iPhone or on the game drive with a single-lens reflex camera!). If we are lucky, we will have a chance to see lion, leopard, cheetah, or elephants up close.
Each morning on the Tuli Trail, you will be woken early with your choice of a cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. The food here, as at Bellevue Plains is outstanding and plentiful. As for accommodations, we will spend our first night and the last two nights at Two Mashatus Camp in roomy safari tents (canvas with sliding doors on wooden platforms) with en-suite bathrooms complete with hot and cold running water. This camp has a beautiful plunge pool and deck most enjoyable on warm afternoons. On the trail, we move between wilderness camps, most of which have showers and flushing toilets, while one may have long-drop toilets and hot bucket showers. We will also stay at the Majale River Camp, a cluster of rustic cabins with a platform overlooking the river for dining and recliners ideal for stargazing.
We will spend an evening or two sleeping beneath the stars in an old tribal court called the Kgotla, bounded by a sturdy an impassible (to wildlife) fence. There are warm showers and flushing toilets here. If Limpopo Horse Safaris’s new camp is finished, we will have the pleasure of spending a night there on tree-house platforms. As mentioned, the camps are not enclosed with fences so game can move freely through them. This presents a rare opportunity to see, hear, and even smell animals up close. Sleeping at the camps is a pleasure and true bush experience.
We end the five day safari after a morning ride back to the stables where guests will have a chance to freshen up, shower, and eat before boarding a small plane flight back to Johannesburg in time to catch flights to Cape Town or international destinations.
pricing and faqs
The cost of the safari is $2,500.00 USD per person. A payment of 20% of the price is required to confirm the reservation, a place cannot be guaranteed with deposit by November 1, 2019. The rest of the cost is due eight weeks prior to the start of the safari.
Eight nights of accommodations (three in luxury bungalows and seven on the mobile safari ranging from ‘glamping’ in tented chalets to beds beneath the stars)
All meals (vegetarians, vegans, and other dietary allergies and preferences are happily accommodated)
Unlimited alcohol including South African wines and spirits
All horseback riding and bushwalk activities
Game drive with Mashatu Game Reserve
International airfare (other than flight from Botswana, Limpopo Valley Airfield, to Johannesburg, Lanseria, on the final day of the safari)
Mandatory travel and international health insurance
Souvenirs (available at Limpopo Horse Safaris and at a local village that we may visit)
Gratuities to guides and staff (optional and payable in local currency, USD, or Euro). As a ballpark, for a eight-day horseback safari, tips might range from a total of $100-$500. More specific tipping guidelines will be dispensed to confirmed guests.
Who will like this safari: An experienced rider who is also a horse-lover with a keen sense of adventure. This is an incredible experience on horseback that provides guests a chance to observe and learn about the bush, ride in wild country with elephants and other game, create unforgettable memories with new friends, and explore one of the planet’s last great frontiers. The trip is ideal for singles, friends, or family members. Tabacco Travel has limited the number of guests on this safari to eight, plus Christina. Space is available on a first-come, first-serve basis!
Malaria: The Waterberg of South Africa is a malaria-free; the Tuli Block in Botswana is low risk, particularly in winter-time (May-August). Many people choose to take Malarone, but just as many choose not to! Consult your physician or a travel clinic for a medical recommendation.
Weather: We’ll be in South Africa and Botswana at the end of the austral summer. This means warmer days and cooler nights coupled with incredible sunsets and starry night skies. The weather will likely be dry and mild, though rain is not out of the question. Layers and waterproof gear encouraged.
When to arrive: Because of the drastic difference in time between the States and southern Africa, it is advisable to arrive a few days early to acclimate to both the change in time and season.
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