Writer Carrie Hampton says that horse riding through Botswana's Okavango
Delta is, " The ultimate safari experience in the top safari destination."
HORSERIDING THROUGH THE OKAVANGO
Novice riders need not apply, as competence
and experience is a pre-requisite for a trip with African Horseback Safaris.
This is not just to cope with fit and raring-to-go horses, but because
the big game of the Okavango like lion, leopard, wild dog, elephants and
buffalo, may be encountered around any corner.
GALLOP THROUGH THE FLOODPLAINS
This leaves you free to gallop joyfully through the Okavango's seasonal floodplains and join in a zebra stampede, or try and keep up with surprisingly speedy giraffe. Soaked with the spray from horses hooves, not one rider isn't grinning from ear to ear at the sheer exhilarance of riding free from formality, in one of the most beautiful game areas in the world.
The Okavango Delta is an incredible life source in an otherwise parched country. It reaches out like a hand of hope over the Kalahari sands, and creates a vast series of winding waterways and papyrus-lined channels, which open out to reveal peaceful water lily lagoons. Expansive floodplains and rich savannah grasslands are interspersed with shady forest glades and palm-tree islets. This extraordinary range of habitat provides the perfect environment for African animals to thrive.
BABOONS BY THE POOL
African Horseback's Macatoo Tented Camp is no normal camping experience. The large walk-in tents come equipped with instant hot water in your en-suite bathroom and hot water bottles warm up the bed on cool nights. Rooms are decorated with African batik fabrics and each has its own veranda looking out to the floodplains. You can also relax at the lagoon-side wooden viewing deck, and take a dip in the refreshingly chilly swimming pool. Resident baboons drink from the pool and act as if this deck, and its supporting beams, was built purely as their playground.
Food is superb at Macatoo Camp and special surprises confirm that this camp rates alongside the best in the Okavango Delta. Some mornings you ride into a 'Bush Breakfast' ambush, where a fully laden brunch table includes a seemingly endless supply of 'buck's fizz'. To save from remounting your steed under the influence of champagne, your horse is miraculously spirited away by grooms waiting in the sidelines.
Evening meals are a gastronomic treat too and everyone sits at one long table under the stars. Soon after you are seated, your saddle-sore posterior starts to burn. However, the heat in your buttocks is not from the 5-6 hours riding per day, but from glowing hot coals shoveled under each chair to warm you up just where it is needed!
As darkness descends and nocturnal animals like lion and hyena announce themselves, guests and guides gather around the campfire where everybody has something in common. The overriding ambience, not only of these evenings, but of the whole African Horseback safari, is one of laughter and joviality.
Other impressions are governed by your senses - the sounds, smells and colours of Africa. Horses of course oblige in each of these categories, with flowing maned palominos the same golden hue as the thigh-high grass, and chestnuts and bays matching the various shades of autumn leaves and well worn leather. Wild sage crushed underfoot gives off a pungent aroma, and so does a grazing herd of one thousand buffalo! More subtle and delicate is that indefinable scent of impending rain.
The occasional rain is as warm as the shallow lagoon you gallop through, and the gigantic white clouds give relief to a too blue sky. Whatever the weather - which is usually warm to hot - the mixture of challenging physical activity and all the best aspects of being on safari, is one of the most pleasurable holidays a horse rider could ever dream of.
This article is based on the authors
personal opinion and experiences.