BY INGRID SCHULZ
It’s hard to beat life in the West. Ours, after all is an unparalleled view – one of greatness and freedom, fiery blue skies, magnificent mountains and earthy plains. In our rein hands lie the exhilaration of a run down the fence, the adrenaline rush from the back of a cutting horse, or a barrel equine, or almost any rodeo animal, while out of the competitive arena and out on the range, in the mountains, the prairie – our vista of a view, wide and endless – is unequalled in the world.
Except, perhaps . . . in South Africa.
The Triple B Ranch, near Waterberg, South Africa was settled by the pioneering Baber family over a century ago, and today, several outfits offer adventure-based horseback safaris into the grounds of the 20,000 acre ranch. Horizon Horseback is one such company. Established in 1993, it is based in the malaria-free Waterberg Biosphere Reserve in northern South Africa, an unspoiled part of the country with varied topography, from bushveld savannah, to rocky outcrops and mountains. Over the years they have developed a collection of horse riding safaris which offer not only close encounters with game, but also a diverse range of other rewarding riding experiences: polocrosse, western games, jumping, cattle mustering (Africa-speak for round-ups) and swimming with your horse.
Loping across the grasslands of a 100-year-old cattle ranch in South Africa, with herds of giraffe and wildebeest in your peripheral is a pretty decent equal to our Wild West. Weave in evenings with the endless song of the cicada, the smells of the land permeating your tent, and just outside of the canvas walls of your luxury tent – the stars running over the sky, and impetuously the idea of falling in love with another land becomes a plausibility. For Africa is a special land. And, seeing it by horseback could be nothing less than magical.
Safaris in Africa are an intimate experience: there is simply no better way of taking in the African bush, than by horseback. Becoming part of a herd of zebra as they canter across the plains, or quietly approaching a browsing giraffe or basking hippo is a truly amazing feeling. Perhaps it is just as author and African coffee plantation owner, Karen Blixen wrote in her love story, Out of Africa: “You know you are truly alive when you are living among lions.”
Sample Eight-Day Itinerary
Day One: land at Johannesburg International and transfer to Camp Davidson. Meet your safari horse. Day Two: ride out to track herds of giraffe, zebra, eland, wildebeest, kudu and impala. Day Three: visit the historic Baber homestead for a poolside lunch, followed by a culture tour with a trip into the local village. Finish off with dinner under the stars back at camp. Day Four: a big-five (rhino, lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard) game day with afternoon craft workshop visit back at the Triple B. Day Five: a last ride through the reserve soaking up the sights and the sounds of the African bush at sunrise. Day Six: Now in the Tuli block, renowned for its large herds of elephant, as well as antelope, zebra, fox, jackal, hyena and the big cats. Later ride along the Limpopo River. Day Seven: The option of a game day drive, more riding in the reserve, or a visit to a local village to mesh with the locals. Day Eight: after a last morning ride, a quick breakfast and drive back to Johannesburg.
Cost: $323.00 per person per night based dependent on current exchange rate. Land transfers extra and flights to South Africa not included.
BIO – Thank-you to Patricia Blanchard for providing us with the research and details for this trip. Blanchard is an independent advisor with Travel Professionals International. She moved to Calgary in 1993 from Newfoundland and has always had a passion for travel and helping others. She made the leap to being a travel agent and is now doing travel full-time from Chestermere, AB. Blanchard has contended in both reining and western pleasure since moving to Alberta but now has just one retired horse. She loves to ride her Harley and travels at any opportunity. For more info please visit: tpi.ca/PatriciaBlanchardTPI/