Enjoying the African Explorer after Pandemic shut downs

I made my African Explorer reservation back in November of 2019 with plans to go in May of 2020, only to have Covid happen.  What at first was a 2 week shutdown, turned into 2 months and on and on…2 years plus and countries were on lockdown with borders closed.  I postponed my riding safari trip a total of 5x, fretting over when borders would open, when testing requirements might loosen up and also knowing that I had to take the chance that  23 hours of flying would also be a risk in addition to being just a super long flight.  Time was also of essence because I am not young and I really wanted to do this ride.  Megan of Equitours was so helpful, accommodating all my postponements, as we all worked our way through the Covid situation.  In June of 2022, I decided on September for the trip and luck had it that the 24 hour testing requirements were dropped, which made traveling much easier.

The first 4 days are in South Africa.  A gorgeous setting with very comfortable permanent tents that have a full bathroom connected to each tent.  The food was really delicious and always something cold to drink after each ride.

We rode out that first afternoon and within 3 minutes were cantering down the trail.  What a thrill to hit the open plains and canter as a herd of antelope crossed our path and to be so close to giraffe and zebra.  Be sure to have your camera on you at all times to capture the animals and the sunset.  The sunsets are stunning!

We were in the saddle by 8:30a the next 3 mornings and off to explore returning to camp around noon and then lunch.  A mid-day break since viewing of wildlife is best early and again late afternoon.  Then we’d go out again around 4p for about 2 to 2-1/2 hours, returning to clean up and have dinner.  The horses were terrific and the riding had a lot of cantering which made it super fun.  A couple of the riders wanted to gallop so the guide picked a spot where he felt we could do that…this was our first gallop and there were many more in Botswana.

On the 4th day, we were in the saddle at 7:30a since we rode out to Bellevue Lodge.  What a treat!  The next morning we were in the saddle by 7a and we made very good time, with lots and lots of cantering, getting back to Horizon Horseback to return the horses before a 4 hour drive to Botswana. That was so fun and we really flew on those horses. They are so in shape and so familiar with the terrain!

Aha, Botswana.  Three nights and 4 days in Botswana.  After we arrived in Botswana and had lunch, we got on our new horses and did the riding test.  The test is to make sure that you are capable of riding and controlling your horse in the wide open terrain since the Tuli Block has lions, leopards and elephants in addition to giraffe, antelope (kudu, impala, sable, etc), warthogs, jackal, wildebeest.  Then we rode out to our lodging for the first night…the new Tree Camp. Since we needed to get there before dark, as the guide would say, ‘Let’s kick up some dust!’ and we cantered out to this incredible Tree Camp.  So apparently there is also the original tree camp but this one was built during Covid since they had a lot of time.  It is simply gorgeous!  Raised above the ground, you could see animals roaming around and under.  In fact, they had someone on 2 hour watches all night to make sure no animals got too close.

The next morning we rode to Two Mashatus Camp where we would spend the remaining 3 days and 2 nights.  Again, fantastic permanent tent with full bathroom connected to each tent.  Food was delicious.  At this point we were in the saddle at 7 and 7:30am. Yes, early but what the heck.  From here we had our adventure with elephants, a lion, jackal, and the usual sightings of giraffe, antelope etc.  One afternoon we had a vehicle drive and spotted a pregnant leopard in the tree napping.  Then she climbed down to continue eating her kill which was an impala…to get her fill before the hyenas who would eat at night.

The riding in Botswana was terrific.  We had tons of canters as well as a lot of fast galloping.  The horses are so athletic and so reliable, you can really trust your horse to take care of you as you go flying over the red soil.

This ride really was a once-in-a lifetime dream come true, terrific adventure for me! Thanks to Equitours and Horizon Horseback for making it happen.

By Verna Lin