Big 5 Safari on horseback, South Africa

One of the few places in the world where you can see wildlife in its natural environment from the back of a horse. Luxury eco-lodge accommodation. Highly professional fast paced horse safaris in the private Karongwe Game reserve close to the Kruger National Park. Top quality South African Boerperd horses are selected and schooled for this purpose. There are a total of 36 horses here for just 6 riders (max number in the group). The base camp is an eco-lodge with pool and bar (great cocktails and cappuccino!) You sleep in stylish bush tents each with safari style open bathrooms and game viewing decks. The camp is in a beautiful flower filled garden overlooking a river but has no fences. The lovingly cared for horses live as a herd and are free to gallop around. New: Fit for Safari weeks to prepare you for riding with big game in the open bush, with a combination of flatwork and game rides.

The reserve contains 30,000 hectares of African Bushveld against the stunning backdrop of the Drakensburg mountains. It is stocked with unimaginable wildlife, including rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo, cheetah, zebra, monkeys, hippos, crocodiles and many different species of birds. Seeing wildlife from the back of a horse in its natural environment, without disturbing the fauna and flora, is an absolutely unique experience.

Riding generally takes place early in the morning for about 3 hours, then again later in the afternoon for another few hours, to catch the magical African sunset in the bush. Two trips are offered; the Big 5 Safari (7 nights) and the Garonga Makalali ride (9 nights), both beginning with 4 nights at the base eco-lodge, then either 3 or 5 nights in the neighbouring Makalali reserve, one of the largest private areas of wilderness in South Africa. Safaris here combine exhilarating fast-paced riding and wildlife encounters, with every comfort. View the full itineraries for the Big 5 Safari and for the Garonga-Makalali ride.

This exclusive, highly specialized horse safari is only for experienced riders. Sporty and long canters require a good level of riding. Bushwhacking with little jumps is one of Philip's specialities and with a good balance it is great fun. It is also an advantage if you are a fit and proficient rider and used to long hours in the saddle.

Andrea Moffatt from Horse and Rider magazine visited Wait A Little and really loved every minute. Read her full report.

Guest comment: ''This was just the most magical holiday. Gerti and Philip our hosts, were fun, informative and gave us a truly personal experience. I cannot recommend this enough and for anyone wanting to see wild game, doing it from horseback is the most exciting way. The horses are true sports horses, well schooled and mannerly and the riding takes in lots of fast canters so you need to be competent in the saddle but this is one holiday I wouldn't have missed for the world'. Carol Alcock, UK

Eye-witness account

At first we followed an elephant track into the dry riverbed. After a short while Philip could make out an elephant bull. We fought our way through the thick reed. No one said a word. We must have been very close but couldn't see anything. Suddenly there was a loud trumpeting and snorting; the reeds opened up, and there he was standing with his ears pricked, the big elephant bull, probably 8 metres in front of us. After that, everything was quiet again. The gentle giant started grabbing big pieces of reed, putting them into his mouth. He didn't pay any further attention to us or the horses.

After a long wonderful canter we encountered two male cheetahs, which had just killed an impala. We got slowly closer until only about 6 metres separated us. The pair didn't seem to be fazed at all and even more unbelievable, the horses were just as unfazed and stood quietly next to these two cats. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't been there myself. The cheetahs carried on munching with blood all over their faces.

We continued our ride and again encountered elephants, this time the whole breeding herd of cows and their calves. They walked slowly over a nice open plain, a beautiful sight. We were about 50m away. Whilst we were enjoying this sight I asked Philip 'have you ever been charged by an elephant bull?' With hindsight, I think the bull had been waiting for exactly this question. He now started walking toward us. First slowly, then faster. Philip calmly said to us 'just back up slowly!' These were the last words that arrived in our panicking brains because everything else went so fast. The bull charged towards us and Philip galloped towards him, cracking his whip, trying to draw his attention away from us. We managed to get back to the path; my pulse was racing; it was an unbelievable sight.
(Simone Beuschel).

Accommodation

All three lodges used have a dining area, lounges, swimming pools, sun decks, en suite bathrooms, outside showers, king-size beds, private viewing decks, private fireplaces and offer three meals a day with excellent cuisine including bush breakfasts, sundowners and picnics.

Wait A Little (base camp eco-lodge): Luxury secluded canvas tents on platforms, with hot and cold outside shower under a thatched roof. Spectacular look-out loo and free-standing bath with a view over the Makhutswe river.

Beacon Rock: Sleep-out camp (en route to the Makalali) situated on a high rock formation, with a magnificent view over the Lowveld Escarpment. Sleep on mattresses around a big camp fire, under the stars, listening to the night sounds of the African bush.

Garonga and Phiva lodges in the Makalali reserve which has some of the finest private game lodges in the world, with its thatched spires and earth walls, ancient mystical ornaments, and Pan-African cuisine. Highlight of the Makalali ride is a stay at the Garonga Safari Camp, inspired by the ochre-red spires of nature's termite mounds. The stylish luxury chalets have been designed by one of South Africa's top architects to reflect the textures of the earth; thick earthen columns, generous cushions on low beds and billowing white fabrics epitomise this oasis in the middle of the South African bush. All camps are limited to 12 guests.

NEW!! Gerti gives flatwork lessons to prepare you for going on safari: How do you make a horse stand in front of a lion without running away? Learn how to gain your horses trust. During the mornings you have theoretical or practical lessons in the riding arena or on the cross country course, then ride out in the afternoons with the chance of seeing the Big Five from horseback. The aim of this course is to learn the methods of riding your horse in a supple, submissive and relaxed manner. Gerti teaches according to the German Training Scale, which starts with rhythm, looseness and works towards riding the horse on the bit. We want you to understand how to have fun with your horse whatever you do: dressage, showjumping, eventing or just enjoy your horse as a lovely hack. Each group is between 4-7 people all following the same itinerary. Good riding skills are essential. The aim of this course is to learn the methods of riding your horse in a supple, submissive and relaxed manner that this might be a nice way of introducing horse safaris to people that are a bit nervous about the idea of animals and horses and riding in the bush. Available from June-September.

NEW TRIP: FIT FOR SAFARI (8 days, 7 nights safari and flatwork lessons) Dressage Rider and FEI coach Gerti Kusseler offers flatwork lessons in combination with a horse safari lead and guided by her husband Philip Kusseler.

Day 1 Arrival and Safari in the afternoon.
Day 2 Theoretical lessons Horse Safari in the afternoon
Day 3 Practical lessons Horse Safari in the afternoon
Day 4 Practiacl lessons Game Drive
Day 5 Polework Leaving for beacon Rock
Day 6 Horse Safari from beacon Rock Cross Country
Day 7 Last Practical lesson Horse Safari in the afternoon
Day 8 Horse Safari and then departure.Get in touch for the details day by day itinerary and the dates for these special trips.

Andrea Moffatt from Horse & Rider magazine visited Wait A Little and describes her first encounter with a lion. 'It is the horses that first alert you to the presence of lions. ..(My mount) Joe took a sharp intake of air, nostrils flared and I could feel his heart beating harder. The horses were all alert now, ears pricked, moving slowly, we were close. Breathing quietly is so hard when you concentrate on it, especially when at the sight of a magnificent male lion, all you want to do is squeal with delight or fear or both. The lion shook his full, thick mane defiantly and yawned, displaying a fine set of incisors, a reminder of why he ruled the bush. Then he rose to his feet making every hair on the back of my neck stand up and I gasped at his sheer size. Our courageous horses stood their ground and the lion turned and walked off into the bush, no doubt to find a more private sleeping spot....
The hot afternoons were spent dozing, dipping in the infinity pool and sitting on the platform overlooking the river watching the hippos cooling off in the heat of the day, partially submerged and occasionally coming up for air, nostrils flared gasping a huge intake of air or yawning a wide-mouthed hippo yawn exposing ivory canines and a powerful jaw. We felt like we had stumbled across a piece of heaven..'

Getting there

Fly from Europe to Johannesburg in South Africa.

BA
South African Airways.
Lufthansa.

Transfer options from Johannesburg to Wait A Little base camp:

  • Private charter flights direct from Johannesburg to the nearby Letaba Airport Cost 2300 R per person (min 3, max 6) including the short drive to Wait A Little.
  • Daily scheduled flight (South African Airlink) from Johannesburg to one of the airports serving the Kruger National Park (Hoedspruit or Phalaborwa) with South African Airways. We can arrange for a car to meet your flight (£45 and £67 pp respectively).
  • Car transfer from Johannesburg (takes about 5 hours, £240 per person one way, based on 2 travelling, larger groups from £190 pp). Avis and Europcar will collect and drop off directly at Wait A Little should you require a car for your transfer

We will organise your transfers on your behalf, once your international flight is confirmed.

Travelocity - internet travel agents for schedule services.

Riding Ability

Due to the possibility of encountering big game (including lion and elephant) and for your own safety, this trip is only for confident, regular and fit riders. Expect 4-7 hours in the saddle each day. No novices can be taken on trail and will be dismounted if the riding ability is not sufficient or a threat to the rest of the group.
No children under the age of 12 years. 20% discount for competent riders aged 12 to 16.
Weight limit: 95kg, 210 lbs, 15 stone.

When to come

Year round sunshine! Summer (Oct to March) temperatures hover around 32 degrees at midday with occasional thunderstorms. Winter (April to Sept) warm days up to a very pleasant 25 degs, with cool nights (down to as low as 5 degs in July and Aug). Current weather.

Riding style

The riding style is English on Leon Liversage Endurance Saddles which are perfect for this way of riding. We regret no western riders. We keep our horses in a steady, fast pace in walk to keep their attention at all time (and yours). We have a constant leg contact which is an advantage when all of a sudden an antelope jumps out of the bush. In canter, especially over long distances, we stand up to relax the horses' backs. Seat savers and sheepskins available.

Type of horse

We mainly ride a breed called 'South African Boerperd'. A beautiful and elegant type of horse, sensitive, responsive, well tempered, forward going and very brave. Other appropriate breeds we use are Thoroughbreds and crosses, Warmbloods and Arabs. The heights of our horses vary between 14,2 and 16,2 hands. There is a suitable horse (30 horses) for the competitive rider as well as for the steady hack. Every effort is made to match horse and rider. All horses are getting trained in basic dressage in the riding arena. This ensures that your horse is responsive, well mannered and fun to ride. The training loosens their backs and softens their mouth so the horse is more in balance on trail. All horses are spirited and forward going, some obviously more than others.

Credit cards: only cash payments are accepted at Wait A Little so take enough cash in SA Rand, US dollars, Pounds sterling and Euros.