Hours spent on a horse are great, but add to that sunshine, elephants and being treated like royalty and you have the most perfect holiday ever! (So it took me more than 3 years to save up for, it was worth every penny).
It’s a long trip to the Okavanga Delta in Botswana – Edinburgh to Dubai to Johannesburg to Maun then onto a little plane where we already spotted our first elephants and zebras as we flew out to Motswiri camp. Did I already mention elephants? So exciting! Ever since I kept an imaginary enterdink (elephant) in our hen house when I was 4 years old it has been my dream to see proper wild elephants. This is what I came here for. I was promised elephants and was not disappointed.
Arriving in the late afternoon we were greeted by a song from the camp staff, then a quick G&T and we were off on a boat trip up the river. Immediately we saw springbok and a buffalo then just round the first corner a young bull elephant contentedly standing in the water eating weed and completely unconcerned about our presence.
Further along as we stopped for sundowners (more gin-oh yes!) we watched a whole family of elephants come down to drink.
Next morning we were introduced to our horses. I asked for one that “goes when you kick and stops when you pull- and not the slowest horse”- I don’t want to be on the slowest horse if we meet a lion (though I’m told even the slowest horse suddenly finds a turn of speed in such a situation!). These horses were the best condition trail horses I have ever seen and my two, Mopani and Geezer, were both perfect, exactly what I ordered.
We settled into the daily routine- breakfast round the camp fire, ride about 4 hours, lunch, G&T and a siesta (what luxury!) then a late afternoon ride or boat or land rover trip. It’s great to try all and see different animals from a different angle but of course the horses are the best safari vehicle to get completely off the beaten track and to get up close to the wild life.
We saw wild dogs hunting and then eating their kill and later in the week they brought their pups out to play on the airstrip right in front of us. A rare treat apparently.
We saw a good selection of antelopes-roan, sable, reed buck, kudu and loads of Springbok (aka Wild Dog fodder), giraffes, zebras, buffalo and elephants. Lots and lots of elephants. Fabulous! My dream come true to be able to stand and watch real live wild elephants doing what elephants do. A few scary moments though – we were standing watching a group of elephants at the river when the 2nd guide indicated we should move off quietly to the left but not to panic- (what better way to generate instant terror than to be told “don’t panic!”)- turns out there was a big old elephant standing in the middle of a bush right behind us and we were standing right between him and his buddies. Amazing how such a huge creature can move so quietly and hide so easily!
On a different day we met a bull elephant in “must”. He looked really quite demented so we didn’t stop around for too long. They say that hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa and we were treated to a demonstration of why that is- we were just mounting up after a half-time tea- break when a 50mph 10-ton-truck/hippo came straight through the middle of the group. It all happened too fast to even clench buttocks but fortunately everyone was fine if a little shaken.
Aside from the big things, being on a horse lets you see all the small things at a leisurely pace- the plants, small animals and birds- and to take in the vast expanses of the Okovango delta scenery. It takes several days to drive to the nearest town and more than 4 hours to the nearest camp so you never meet any other groups.
As mostly there was just the 2 of us guests we could choose the pace and our guide was very happy to let us stroll along and to stand and look as long as we liked -at the animals not him, though I can’t deny he was very easy on the eye and very charming. However, for one day we were joined by an Irish guy with a need for speed so we went much faster with lots of jumping and galloping through water. Great fun, though you have to be really careful due to the elephant holes – like massive heffalump traps- easy to somersault a horse if they hit one at speed in the water. Of course I won the chase-me-charlie over logs even though I’m not at all competitive……
What else? Food-fabulous! Accommodation- luxury! They call them tents but they have polished wooden floors and walk in wet-rooms- posher than any hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Service-perfect! Everything you could possibly need, but friendly and comfortable. Company- great! You eat with some of the staff and any other guests that are in camp. It’s so nice to meet new people and hear their adventures, and one night the staff sang and danced and made us join in with the African frog dance (fortunately I have no photo evidence of that!). Wildlife – A-m-a-z-i-n-g! Especially the elephants (Did I mention the elephants?)- absolutely wow! And fortunately we didn’t see any lions from horseback although we did see enough footprints to scare the sh** out of us!
So, already I’m saving up and dreaming of my next trip with Zara’s Planet Riding Holidays. (Excuse the advertising, but it’s got to be done since they so kindly sponsored me with new rugs to go to Golden Horseshoe last year.)
Where to next? Peru? or Iceland? or maybe Spain? or Mexico? or…….? or………? (Warning: riding holidays are just as addictive as endurance riding!)