Posted Jan 30, 2010
Firstly we would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2010!! We hope you enjoyed your feastive break and now in the swing of the New Year.
HORSE RIDING IN THE OKAVANGO DELTA (Botswana)
As horse riding is my great passion, I didn’t need many excuses to recently take a group of 6 clients/friends ranging from the ages of 16 to 75 years,to the Okavango Delta in Botswana to partake in a horse safari with African Horse Safaris. Some of our group had ridden on previous horse safaris in different parts of the world but others had no idea what to expect. So our little intrepid team of mixed nationalities flew from Lusaka to Livingstone and from there we went across to the Kasane (Botswana) by road and flew by light aircraft to the Mactoo Camp which is situated within the Okavango Delta.
The Okavango supports a diverse and fascinating ecosystem. Seasonal waters flood the Kalahari sands at certain times of the year, leaving the Delta a mosaic of palm islands, papyrus lined waterways, grassy flood plains and mopane woodland. As the floods are seasonal the Delta always looks different during the course of the year depending on when the water levels rise and fall. The area is an ornithologists paradise and renowned for its many different species and large concentrations of wildlife.
"Mactoo Tents" "Okavango Delta" "Barred Owl"
Upon arrival by light aircraft, our group was collected from a bush airstrip and taken to Mactoo Camp which was to be our home for the next 7 nights. This incredibly well run tented camp, is built within a million hectare concession of pristine wilderness within the Okavango Delta. We met the camp’s staff, management and guides, who after giving us a debriefing and made us sign our lives away before showing us to our extremely comfortable tents. The camp has seven large classic tents with en suite shower / toilet facilities. Each tent has been carefully located amongst the vegetation to give optimum privacy but each commands a view over a flood plain.
"Afternoon rides are at a more gentle pace than the morning rides and a great time to take photographs"
We regrouped at 4 pm for tea before we would go out with our guide for a 1 half hour ride in the evening. Full of excitement, we were allocated our steeds that were a mixture of Namibian warmbloods, boreperd crosses, thoroughbreds, arab crosses. They were all shapes, sizes and types to cover the same with regards their riders. We were advised that the afternoon rides are always gentle compared to the morning and usually just a walk and trotting and a great time to take photos with the evening light. We all mounted up and went out with our guide Sekongo, who led the ride and proved to be an excellent and knowledgeable guide and looked after all of us incredibly well during the course of the week.
"Who lives in here?"
That evening over drinks, we discovered that the amongst the other group of English girls who were staying at the Camp was Nicky Coe who had won Badmington in 1990, Samantha Alberts who rides for Jamacia and represented her country in Eventing and at the Olympics in Hong Kong and few other “hot” riders! At first we felt a bit intimidated been surrounded by such good riders and we were relieved they were riding in their own party. But they were all great fun but their stories of how they had galloped out of control through the swamps during that day to get each other off had some of our party rather anxious and not sure what we were in for, the following day.
At 6.30 am our party would meet each morning around the campfire for a light breakfast before partaking in a 4 hour ride. Over the next week we had the most amazing experience, galloping through the swamps, getting close to elephant, giraffe, buffalo, and various species of plains game. On one particular day we rode within 10 meters of two young leopards. One youngster was so inquisitive that it only ran a few meters further and watched us from behind a log to watch the horses. The viewing of lion is avoided from horse back and if spotted the guides will take you to see them by vehicle. We were fortunate enough to see a pride lazing around in the shade one afternoon.
After a good 2 half hour ride we would dismount from our horses to give them a half hour break and rest our weary butts and have a tea break, before continuing on our ride. We would return to camp for lunch or sometimes were surprised with a lunch in the bush. In the afternoon was time for to chill out, have a siesta or soak in the pool, we would regroup for afternoon tea and a more leisurely ride. During the course of our stay each of us rode many different horses; however, we all started to like our favorites. The horses were all incredibly well behaved and the stable manager and guides did well to match us all to horses that were suitable to our different riding abilities. Anyone who didn’t feel like riding that day could relax, go fishing , an evening game drive or on the "Gin and Tonic Wagon", as we called it!!
"Bonding time with our new equine friends" "Surprise bush lunch"
Evenings were always very social discussing with other guests in the camp how their rides had gone and what they had seen. Half way through the week when the English girls left we were joined by some French Race Horse Breeders and another couple who owned a riding school in France – it was their 5th trip back to Mactoo Camp to ride. Always a good reference to hear when a camp has had repeat business. John Sobey the Managing Director and his team of staff were brilliant hosts and there were many late nights of party games, which caused much hilarity.
"Drenched but on an adrenline high!!"
Thankfully we all returned in one piece without any major mishaps. We had lots of laughs when a mongoose ran between Helena’s horse as she was talking so much and not concentrating that when her horse jumped side ways she found herself on the floor. Alison who was galloping through the swamps, lost her stirrup and fell off and went underwater (best place to land if you do fall off) and came up looking like a Reed Cormorant full of weed and totally drenched. Being our oldest rider at 75 years old we were all greatly concerned but being a great sport that she was, she just laughed about it. Sandra was so busy watching the giraffe she was galloping next too that she didn’t concentrate when her horse jumped a foot side ways and she bailed off. The rest of our merry crew managed to stay on their horses. Thankfully during the odd mock charge by an elephant everyone was wide awake and had their backsides firmly glued to their saddles. However, Helena was teased for not waiting around when one large elephant bull did a mock charge and she was seen for dust, getting out of the situation whilst the rest of us stood watching the elephant.
One particular morning was most memorable for me. It was during our tea break we got off our horses to watch a herd of about 100 elephant having a wonderful time swimming in a pool, splash and spraying themselves, disturbing the resident hippo who didn’t seem to amused. Before we knew it more herds of elephant started coming in behind us and if we didn’t move fast we probably would have been surrounded. So with some haste we quickly remounted and watched the different herds of elephant that came in from all directions on horse back. It is amazing how close you can get to the game on horseback without the animal been aware of your presence.
Mactoo is an incredibly well run and professional operation. Our little group loved it so much that most of them have rebooked for this year. We will be taking more safaris to Mactoo in June and November 2010. For those of you who love riding, wildlife, want a bit of adrenaline thrill, good food and a comfortable camp then it really is a safari we recommend. Riders must be able to gallop confidently, however anyone not keen on riding can join the group and go out fishing, canoeing, boating, birding or out for game drives instead. Mactoo make plans for non riders to meet up with riders at various spots in the bush. Anyone interested in joining us on one of these trips or which to have their own tailormade safari to the Okavango Delta should drop us ane-mail. This safari is a definite recommendation!!!
TIGER FISHING ON THE ZAMBEZI RIVER (Zambia)
Towards the end of of 2009, Jill Lewis from Agricultural Travel Bureau, UK, who normally visits us with her clients decided this time to take a break and come visit us on her own holiday/safari with her grandson, Oliver. This was Oliver's first time to Africa. They spent a few nights each at both Kulefu Camp on the Lower Zambezi River and Sussi Lodge at Livingstone. Jill sent us this photo of herself and Oliver after having a successful time catching Tiger Fish at Kulefu on the Lower Zambezi River.
"Oliver I think you better come back soon and visit us in Zambia, you can't let your gran beat you at fishing!!!"
Ian and Daphne Lindsay
ZAMAG Tours & Safaris
Postnet 726. P. Bag E891. Lusakacell: 00 260 977 618 194.