Based on the enthusiastic recommendation from friends of Equitours, we are eager to check out for ourselves the riding and gorilla trekking in Uganda. We have scheduled an exploratory Nile riding safari with Mel Fox February 11-18, 2018, which will be followed by gorilla treks in the Bwindi Inpenetrable Forest National Park, February 18-21, before continuing on to Tanzania for the Serengeti Safari February 21-March 1. Spaces are limited, but we still have room to fill for all or part of what is sure to be a wonderful African experience!

Price for the ride in Uganda is $4,000 per person, and the meeting point is Entebbe, where you will be picked up from you accommodations on February 11. Please see further details below.

Price for the gorilla treks will be approximately $3,870 per person, subject to change based on airfare to Kihihi and total number of participants. Accommodation will be at the Silverback Lodge at the park, and includes two days of gorilla trekking. Now is an excellent time to visit Ugandan gorillas, as the cost for visitation permits here is likely to rise after this year, as it has recently done for Rwanda, from $750 per permit to $1,500. The permits included in the Ugandan trip price is $600 per trek, and so currently remains a great savings.

Click on the graphic for full details

The Nile Safari

The ride is based out of Jinja, a few kilometers from the official source of the River Nile in Uganda. It gives you a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the African landscapes and the traditional way of life of the Ugandan people. The country is one of stunning beauty, and the area around the Nile an exceptionally fertile place. The people are some of the most friendly, easy going people in Africa, and Uganda is one of the safest countries in the world. Foreigners are treated with great respect and violent crime against tourists is almost nonexistent.

Experienced riders must be competent in English tack. There are options for a steady pace or one that is more adventurous. A fit and proficient rider is of big advantage out on safari. The horses are well trained trail horses, with a mix of local breeds. All horses are given lots of love, care and attention, resulting in good characters. English saddles are used, and all the horses go in snaffle bridles. Also each rider will carry a small saddlebag with essentials.

Day 1: 9am pick up from accommodation in Entebbe Uganda, then transfer to Jinja. Enjoy a late lunch overlooking the Nile before an approximately 1.5 hour short ride to warm up and try out horses around the local village and along the banks of the River Nile. Tonight you lodge at Holland Park, Jinja.

Day 2: Horses and riders are transferred to the starting point of the trip. Today’s trek will be approximately 4.5 hours riding around an enormous peninsula that lies in Lake Victoria, with a drinks stop and then lunch in the hills overlooking the lake, the source of the Nile and Jinja town. Fabulous views and open terrain, rural villages and sugar plantations. Long canters are possible for those who want to indulge. Overnight again at Holland Park.

Day 3:  After breakfast, depart the lodge for a 2.5 hours ride through various plantations and villages, over some hills with stunning vistas of the country side. Stop to visit the local school and chat with the kids and teachers. Morning tea overlooking the sugar plantations and Mabira forest. Another couple of hours riding to the Rainforest Lodge before a late lunch. You can have an afternoon swim in the pool in the forest or a guided walk or just relax in the tranquility of the lodge.

 Day 4: Today’s ride consists of 3 hours exploring Mabira forest with a morning tea stop on the way in the thick jungle. You will be looking for rare forest primates: a new subspecies of Grey cheeked Mangabeys that are only found in Mabira forest. In the late afternoon a short ride on sunset up into the hills overlooking the plantations and rainforest. Overnight again at Rainforest Lodge.

 Day 5: Ride today for approximately 2 hours through the Mabira forest and then into the tea plantations for a stop for morning tea. Another couple of hours in and out of the forest until you arrive at the Haven lodge for a late lunch. The lodge is a great spot for a swim in the river or at the swimming pool while overlooking some stunning white water rapids.

Day 6: Today you can head out to experience some of the most beautiful white water rafting in the world (warm water thrills and spills). Please note rafting is optional; you may prefer to rest or do some of the other adventure activities in the area. Quad Biking, Bungee Jumping, Kayak school, Mountain biking or birding trip on the river.

 Day 7: Optional early morning for swimming your horse in the Nile. Your swimming hole is a beautiful bay with a sandy bottom, no hippos or crocs, then back for breakfast at the Haven. For your final ride we will be riding up to a lookout for a birds eye view of the Nile before stopping for morning tea at another stunning vista overlooking the Nile. A fast paced ride to finish at Kalagala falls. Say goodbye to your horse and board a boat to the breathtaking Wild Waters Lodge. Located on an island in the middle of the Nile with massive white water all around the lodge. Enjoy the pool in the afternoon that is actually a part of the Nile.

 Day 8: Departure today from Entebbe. Transfer back after breakfast at Wild Waters Lodge.

 **This itinerary is flexible. Daily schedule is subject to change due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances, in order to find ideal riding conditions each day.**

From Travis Brinck, 2017

I thought I would share a few pictures with you of our trip, Horses, Dunes & Nomads in March.  We had spoken with Bayard about this ride before we went, and he had told us it was “the best horses and the best guides in the world,” and I will tell you after experiencing the ride he could not have been more right!  Having been to Spain and Botswana, which are both amazing, I can tell you that this ride was on a different level and truly amazing. We did as Bayard suggested and spent a few days in Marrakech and had really just the best time!  Our hotel was amazing and the people and the culture are so beautiful. Morocco is really a country that more Americans should travel to, because it is truly the only place I have been that feels like stepping back in time.
The horses on the ride were UNBELIEVABLE, and Abdel, our guide, was so wonderful!!  What a great horseman he is!! Everything went off without a hitch. Anyway, I just wanted to share the pictures and let you know how amazing it was. Thanks for everything, and we’re trying to decide where we’re going next year to match the adventure of this ride!!
Happy Trails….

 

By Narda Sherman, March 14, 2017

I think I may have just had one of the best days of my life. Awoke here in Estancia los Potreros, after a fine dinner and good company last night, to a sunny warm day.  Wandered over to the group of young horses, mares, yearlings, 6 month and 2 month old foals waiting to be let out to the larger fields. There I was love-bombed by the 6 month and 1 year old horses; they nibbled on my shoes, hair, and one rested his velvet muzzle on my shoulder. They followed me about, pushing and insisting on pets. Eventually the 2 month olds let me ever-so-cautiously touch their downy faces.

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Back to breakfast on the hacienda porch – coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, cereals and to-order eggs. Toast came with local jams and, of course, dulce de leche si tu quieres. The  three of us polo wannabes changed into our white breeches per instruction, saddled up and, extra horse in tow each, rode off to the newly mown polo field 20 minutes’ ride away.

Our Argentine polo coach awaited us. She has been playing polo for over 20 years and is a 4 goal player, the first woman in all of Cordoba!!! She grew up playing with boys and, I’m told, can swear like a sailor when the games get intense. All we saw was a charming, friendly and engaging instructor who assumed we would love the game as much as she and so, after some basic but very helpful instruction, COWGIRLS UP and we were on the field! Stick and ball at a walk and trot and, 20 minutes later, “now hit the balls at a slow canter! It’s easier” And so we did. Two Swedish woman who are experienced riders and twins and I are the guests, so the teams were completed with the coach and staff from the Estancia. Soon we were playing chukkas, slow at first with lots of ball line fouls, but in time at all we were focused on the ball and running like hell.

Learning the polo ropes

Learning the polo ropes

Our horses knew how to play but were kind and pretended to wait for our instructions. Our coach yelled encouragement, ran ahead, hung back and gave us tips between gallops. We were fast and focused and thrilled and not very good, but having the best time of our lives. Novices, we learned to respect the line of the ball, to never ever let our horses stop and to forget about missed balls. If we were close enough to hit the ball, we were good. Missing happens.  Unacceptable is to be off on our own and to not follow our Captain’s shouted instructions.  Final score 2-2. Panting and sweaty, we finished, thrilled to know we would be back tomorrow.

Playing hard at polo

We rode back to the Estancia, arriving by 1:30 to another breezy outdoors lunch, then coffee and and hour or so of resting, chatting and, for we polo players lot of stretching on the lawn, hanging out with a pack of Estancia dogs and each other. Tea at 5:00 and back in the saddle at 5:30.

Estancia los Potreros outside dining area

Porch setting for sunny day meals

This time we were on gaited Peruano Paso horses. 90 minutes with our gaucho guide, who took us through grassy fields and hills with no roads or towns or any signs of humans – all part of the 6000 acre ranch.  We ran!   And yelped with happiness.  A fellow guest from the UK was so happy and thrilled with the unexpectedly smooth gaits that she started giggling with joy – contagious so we all started laughing.  And there were some tears – being overwhelmed with beauty and happiness and profound gratefulness for being here now in all of this.

Riding for joy

Riding for joy

After quick showers, sore and sunned, we all met in the kitchen where the two chefs taught us to make empanadas, ravioli and quick breads, accompanied by some very fine wines. We ate in the big wooden table in the kitchen this time and chatted away, telling stories and enjoying our varied company until 11:00. Then off to bed, all relaxed and exhausted and happy, delighted to know we would have more in the morning.

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We are pleased to announce that our very own Bitterroot Ranch has been featured in the newest full color third edition of 1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. Long considered a reliable resource for must-do travel in North America around the world, it’s an honor to be featured by this author once again!

“In the embrace of a remote valley surrounded by the Shoshone National Forest and a 52,000 acre-game and fish wildlife refuge, Mel and Bayard Fox operate this 1,300 acre horse ranch, breeding and training their Arabian beauties exclusively for the use of their 28 guests, who bunk in hand-hewn log cabins scattered along the river that runs through the ranch. Horse-loving visitors will think they have died and gone to heaven. The availability of more than 100 prize specimens means guests can change horses frequently so mounts remain fresh and ready to go throughout the season. Within minutes, guests are totally immersed in a wilderness setting, in the competent hands of guides who know it intimately. Terrain is extremely varied: Riders pass from sagebrush plains and grassy meadows to rocky gorges that give way to forested mountains and alpine clearings.”

  • From “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” by Patricia Schultz

Please enjoy the slideshow below of our new Korta Ride in India, scouted by Mel and Bayard Fox in January 2017.

The following account is written by Jane Lomont, a client of Equitours who was among the first to visit Monte Velho

I was met at the airport by Monte Velho’s driver, Tiago, who was very pleasant and knowledgeable about Portugal — history, present government, well known sites we passed by: e.g., Europe’s longest bridge, the cork trees and cork industry. Although very convenient, I learned that if one is traveling with a companion it is better to rent a car because then you are free at your convenience to explore the area around Monte Velho. Not far away is Évora, UNESCO World Heritage site.

quartospre001-1-edMy room was modern, bright, inviting, and comfortable. It looks like the color photo in the Equitours description. The first day I arrived I met a Swedish couple and I accompanied the attractive and very pleasant Elizabeth B. as she hiked down the driveway to a group of mares and foals in a nearby pasture. One of the foals is hers, so this was a rather sad goodbye until I see you again — but as she is returning in September, the wait is bearable!  I took some photos of her and the darling filly for her with her camera.  I was a little sad to see her leave as well.

The first ride I had was a trail ride and not a disappointment.  A bit curious though.  My horse, Quinine, was lazy or stubborn. Joao gave me spurs to put on and during the ride he loaned me his crop. The next day Quinine was a different horse!  He pepped up and was a pleasure to ride.  Half way through the week, I was asked would I like to ride Sensual and as I always opt for a new experience, I said yes and had my choice of either one the rest of the week, which was nice.

Note:  That is an example of how accommodating the staff is.  They may notice something, or overhear a remark, and before you know it one is being asked if he or she would like such and such.

The first day there I asked for a lesson and, of course, they said of course! and arranged for me to have a private lesson with Coralie.  I am so glad I had that lesson!  I have experienced nothing like it. Of course, I am not a dressage rider anyway, but here I was getting a lesson from the crème de la crème of instructors (they all are that at Monte Velho) and it was a fascinating experience I will always remember. The Lusitano I rode was a popular bay, good sized as they all are, good natured and what fun to ride him and get that instruction which was non stop commentating! The weather was very warm to hot.  So with the lessons we got quite a workout.

Most of the other riders signed up for the mix of a dressage lesson in the AM and a trail ride in the afternoon, or the reverse. But some  doubled up on lessons.

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Jane’s photo of Elizabeth W. enjoying a dressage lesson

I would like to add that the trail rides cross country were very enjoyable. We went on different routes, had wonderful canters and gallops, saw marshes, lakes, an old mill, through nice scenery.  Sometimes the leader stopped in a spacious field and let us canter around, do what we liked.  The horses were willing, too.

monte-velho-jane-trail-ride-2-ed monte-velho-jane-trail-ride-edI cannot express adequately the professionalism, expertise, and amiability of the instructors!  The week I was there the riding guests included couples from Sweden, Australia (the wife is a veterinarian and owner of a herd of 50 Lusitanos), a couple from France (wife is a veterinarian also), a youngish Englishwoman and at the end of the week a very young woman from Australia who had missed out on a yoga clinic at at Monte Velho and decided to come when she could and take riding lessons; she had never been on a horse before! During the week two girlfriends from Switzerland and Germany came to ride for an overnight stay.  So, matter not the age, language, or riding skill, Monte Velho graciously welcomed and provided for them all.  Among the couples, the husbands rode regularly as well, but it was the wives that had riding experience in dressage.

The delicious meals and camaraderie around the table added to the pleasure of being there. The food was fresh, as attractive to the eye as to the palate, and wine was included at lunchtime and dinner.

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A fellow guest enjoying the spread

Diogo, son of the owners, managed everything, with the help of his cheerful assistant, horseman Joao, and his parents who also could be seen occasionally tending to various details. Diogo knew I would like to visit Évora and asked me if I would like to go Friday, my last day.  Certainly!  He arranged for me to have a certified, professional guide/driver who turned out to be a great guide.  He spoke Spanish as well as English (in fact, his Spanish was better) and as I speak Spanish too, and as he was the amiable sort, we had fun speaking both languages.  I was having such a good time, and this fellow was so enthusiastic, I opted to see more and skip the final trail ride.  As it turned out, I missed out on a surprise visit by an Olympic dressage rider who came to try out one of the dressage horses that is for sale.  At dinner time I found the other riders, all big dressage enthusiasts, giddy with wide-eyed excitement from having witnessed such an exhibition!

I cannot thank Equitours enough for the Monte Velho Equo Resort experience! I am glad that I had dressage riding lesson with Coralie. It was exceptional, as was the pleasure I had spending the week at Monte Velho resort in the Alentejo region of Portugal!

I stayed three days in Lisbon afterwards, and it was not nearly long enough.  I would love to go back to both places!

The introduction to Hungarian culture and history that my stay at Homoki Lodge offered was wonderfully eye-opening to this fascinating region. The lodge and itinerary do a fabulous job of incorporating cultural aspects, from the yurt accommodations, to the saddles you sit in, the wines you drink and the destinations you ride to. All facets seek to celebrate the area’s Magyar roots, in a modern and luxurious way that make them completely enjoyable. There are a variety of yurt options; ours had a jetted tub, a lovely queen bed on a raised platform and a comfortable outside terrace. I loved it; it was just so fun, and beautifully decorated with clean, modern touches. The dining area and lodge rooms are equally lovely, with a more traditional than modern design, but with the same charm.

Home Sweet Yurt

Home Sweet Yurt

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The lodge restaurant at breakfast

The hosts, Bixie and Oliver, met us even at our tragically late arrival time. Following the small, winding sand tracks to the lodge in our massive mini-bus, we had been sure we were terribly lost on the puszta, but when we arrived at the lodge Oliver was waiting, pálinka (traditional local brandy) in hand. The (very stiff!) drink was much appreciated, as was the dinner they graciously served at the late hour while briefing us on our days ahead. With me was my sister, Liz, whom I had talked into accompanying me although she had not ridden much since our shared childhood lessons. Due to this, an introductory ride was scheduled for her the following day so she could see how comfortable she still was in the saddle and how much she would want to do. I decided to dive into the all-day ride, and she would meet me and the riding group at the ride’s destination, the Rózsa Sándor commemorative house.

Kristina educating us on the famous bandit

Kristina educating us on the famous bandit

Rózsa was a highwayman who operated in the area during the mid-1830s and gained the respect of the locals due to his loyalty during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. The museum had great tidbits of history, and although all in the (amazingly difficult) Hungarian language, our English speaking guide, Kristina, gave us the tour and provided translations.

The guides did a great job and often went above and beyond, whether providing translation or cooking stew and singing in the evenings. The two head cowboys both aren’t English speaking, but they definitely understand perhaps more than they’d like us to think, and provided plenty of English instruction (“Trot! Keep distance!”) and we always had an English-speaking backup guide. Their horsemanship was impressive and they kept a careful eye on all of us and the horses, especially as we moved into faster gaits. And we did go fast! After being advised, “trot, then canter, then gallop…” gallop we did indeed! The flat, sandy terrain is perfect for this, and the horses fit and well-accustomed, making it an awesomely fun experience! Thanks to the wranglers’ watchful eye and the horses’ ratability, Liz also felt comfortable at the canter, and our second day we all rode out together to the buffalo reserve in Mórahalom.

Happy Bubalus Bubalis

Happy Bubalus Bubalis

These bovids originated in in South Asia, as did the original Magyar inhabitants. They now enjoy their wetland reserve and can be viewed along with prolific birdlife from a raised viewing platform.

This was a long day of riding, much of it on the ever-present sandy roads, past crops of potatoes and fields of poppies, and homes with the Hungarian Puli dogs in the yards.

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Endless fields

Although my muscles were aching at the end of the day and I looked forward to the jetted tub back home in the yurt, I appreciated the comfort the unique Hungarian saddle afforded. Styled in the traditional way, the high front and back afforded good stability, and modern padded seat and English style stirrups provided much-appreciated comfort. The final trots through rows of trees, with the warm sun dappling through the vibrant green surrounding us, were utterly peaceful and a lovely way to end the day of riding.

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The comfortable Hungarian horse and saddle

When the riding is done, the enjoyment isn’t – as I appreciated sitting on our terrace with a cool drink, and then joining the rest of the guests for dinner in the evening. The dinners were fabulous treats, with different set three-course dinners each night. The hosts are very knowledgeable about local wine, the production of which is hugely successful in Hungary. A highlight was our musical evening, when we were serenaded by a local award -inning musician and the boldest among us danced along while the cowboys sang.

The multi-talented wranglers preparing the goulash

The multi-talented wranglers preparing the goulash

I so enjoyed all aspects of my stay at Homoki, the fun riding with interesting routes, the unique and luxurious accommodations and food, and the beautiful and temperate landscape. Upon our departure we spent a few nights in Budapest, a fascinating city which is also well worth the visit. It was a wonderful introduction to a region I knew little about, and whetted my appetite for further trips!

By Megan Barrett

By Megan Barrett

 

Mel Fox has recently returned from  the Kilimanjaro ride in Tanzania, followed by gorilla trekking in Rwanda and a stay in the Serengeti to witness the wildebeest calving. The ride around the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro offered excellent opportunities for fast riding among giraffe, wildebeest and zebra. There were also chances to interact with the traditional Masai and their herds of cattle. Please enjoy the photo slideshow here of her time in Africa, and read George Richardson’s letter for more on this spectacular adventure.

 

Upon the conclusion of his second ride in Tanzania, George Richardson describes his appreciation for the experience.

For more on this incredible trip, please see Mel Fox’s photo slideshow.

Having so thoroughly enjoyed the Lake Natron ride in 2014, I wondered if I might expect too much of this year’s Kilimanjaro adventure. Not to worry…all expectations were once again exceeded beyond description!

For me the highlights of the horse safari from Mt. Kilimanjaro to the Kenyan border started with one of the finest horses I’ve had the privilege to ride: the rock-solid and gallant Phoenix. What a horse, and what fun galloping with wildebeest and giraffe across those wonderful pans.

Our close encounter with the elephants and their young calf was another great thrill. As their trunks sniffed our air and they shambled and trumpeted a few steps forward they more than demonstrated their protective nature for their own. What magnificent creatures and a moment I will always remember.

The second leg to Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas was its own special experience, which I would heartily recommend to everyone as a great extension in East Africa.

Then to return to the Serengeti and the mobile “camp” (I hesitate to describe the luxury of the operation as “camping”) to witness the wildebeest calving was an amazing topper.

Besides putting us on lion, leopard and cheetah, I was very excited to view the rarely-seen honey badgers. By my calculation, the horse safari and game drives produced sightings of more than 40 different mammals and 70 birds, not to mention the various reptiles, butterflies, etc.

Every moment was a treasure which I will savor until my next return. Please accept my appreciation to you and your staff for a fantastic two weeks.

Kwaheri,

George Richardson

George Richardson, pictured here with gorilla in Rwanda

George Richardson, pictured here with gorilla in Rwanda