Horse Riding Safari in the Okavango Delta

"The ultimate safari experience in the top safari destination", is what Travel Writer Carrie Hampton says about a Horse Riding Safari in the Okavango Delta This accolade is not given lightly as Carrie has had many adventures while visiting more than 100 safari lodges in Southern and East Africa. She qualifies her praise, by adding, "…as long as you are an avid horse rider!"

Novice riders need not apply, as competence and experience is a pre-requisite for a Horse Riding Safari in the Okavango Delta. This is not just to cope with fit and raring-to-go horses, but because you may need to extricate yourself from a potentially dangerous situation in somewhat of a hurry.

The Okavango Delta is one of Africa's greatest wilderness areas where lion, leopard, wild dog, hyena and cheetah may be encountered around any corner. Elephant can be grumpy if you get too close and buffalo are renowned for having a bad temper.

These dangers of the African bush seem far less fearsome when you are actually there, and your armed guide, who is experienced in reading the signs of the bush, takes any remaining apprehension away. The horses also provide very vigilant pairs of eyes.

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 lilly lagoons.

Expansive floodplains and rich savannah grasslands are interspersed with shady forest glades and palm-tree islets. This extraordinary range of habitats provides the perfect environment for African animals to thrive.

Saddle sore remedies

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, with sofa mats and a refreshingly chilly swimming pool. The resident baboon troop drink from the pool and act as if this deck, and its supporting beams, was built purely for their pleasure.

As you sit at one long table for supper under the stars, a sudden warm glow reaches your saddle-sore posterior. 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!

Into an ambush

Food on a Horse Riding Safari in the Okavango Delta is superb 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 has been miraculously spirited home by grooms waiting in the sidelines.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 Horse Riding Safari in the Okavango Delta, 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, as do a herd of 1,000 buffalo! More subtle is that indefinable scent of impending rain. The mixture of challenging physical activity combined with all the best aspects of being on safari, is one of the most pleasurable holidays a horse rider could wish for.

© Carrie Hampton June 2003 This article may not be used without permission from the author.

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