Combine 4 nights camping in the South African bushveld with 3 nights camping in Botswana, land of the Giants. The camp in South Africa, high in the bushveld above the Matlapeng valley, offers the opportunity to explore from a base nestled in the heart of the wooded mountains of the Waterberg. The camp commands a wonderful panoramic view of the central highlands of the Waterberg massif, while overlooking the picturesque Sunset Lake at the eastern boundary of Horizon Ranch.
In the late 19th century, Ted Davidson, one of the first members of the family to settle in the Waterberg, was a young man trading by ox wagon to remote cattle outposts of a young ranching area. A good days travelling may have been only five miles or so by rugged track, and so an itinerant life in the Waterberg meant a life by the campfire. Camp Davidson has captured that early camp atmosphere through beautiful decked canvas tents nestled amongst the sandstone ridges overlooking grassy game filled valleys. Each tent is appointed as it would have been in Ted's day with items that would have been essential to the traveller accustomed to regular nights in the bush.
Then we travel by road to the vast Mashatu Game Reserve in the Tuli Block of south eastern Botswana. This is an area of great diversity, magnificent vistas, ancient civilizations and dramatic rock formations bordered by the great Limpopo River in the south. Aptly named the "Land of the Giants" for its baobab studded plains and large herds of elephant, the land remains largely untouched by man and is home to a wide variety of wildlife species including lion, cheetah, leopard, African wild dog, a multitude of plains game like zebra, wildebeest and giraffe, as well as over 350 species of birds. Accommodation throughout is in comfortable tents with en suite facilities. A great combination, 2 countries in one ride with a huge diversity of wildlife and landscapes.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from JC of Ashburton on 11/08/2019
Guests are met at Johannesburg International Airport (ORT) and transferred to Horizon Horseback’s Camp Davidson, your base for the next three days, in time for a late lunch. That afternoon you will be introduced to your safari horse. We will ensure that you are matched to a horse that suits your ability and experience before heading off on your ride. This first introductory ride is a relaxed affair, giving riders the opportunity to settle into their new surroundings. Crossing the plains, enjoy your first close encounter with wildlife on horseback: ostrich, impala, zebra, kudu, eland, giraffe, warthog and jackal are all frequently seen in the open bushveld. A stunning lookout spot for sundower drinks is a welcome moment to take in your first taste of Africa after a long journey. A three course supper is served at Camp Davidson that evening.
Today’s ride sets off from the high country overlooking a beautiful wilderness area to the east, and heads south, winding along the banks of Sunset Lake with its resident pod of hippos and the odd sly crocodile, before trekking upstream to an adjoining reserve. The lake itself is rich in birdlife, including the impressive Fish Eagles, dainty Dabchicks, elegant Jacanas and a variety of geese. Later, riding through the open savannah, wildebeest and zebra can be encountered. The riding is varied, from canters along sandy tracks to winding through rocky outcrops and densely wooded areas. The ride then crosses the reserve and returns to Camp Davidson in time for lunch. Guests can then relax by the pool, before a shorter afternoon ride. In the evening there is the option of a night sky safari with a local astronomer, Dr Calcott, who will guide you through the amazing constellations (subject to weather conditions and availability). Additional cost R300 pp, Min. 4 pax.
Setting off in a westerly direction, this ride tracks past a brown hyena den, skirts past the upper reaches of the Horizon dam before crossing a wide grassy valley. At one point the ride enters into dense woodland, home to shy species such as kudu, bushbuck and Vervet monkeys. Emerging from the woods, the horses have a chance to stretch their legs along open sandy tracks. Finally the ride swings back to the north, through mixed bushveld and fascinating rock formations. Two highlights of this ride are the jumping lanes and the chance for riders to swim their horses bareback in the Horizon dam next to the main lodge. For many guests, this is an exhilarating and unforgettable experience. Once dried off and back in the saddle, the ride climb back up to Camp Davidson is particularly intriguing, as it follows a mountain pass cut through boulders and outcrops. After lunch, enjoy a sundowner ride across the plains on the reserve. We are very fortunate to have a large herd zebra. Over the years, the herd has become quite habituated to the horses and it is now possible to ride really close and experience being part of the zebra herd. A wonderful way to watch the foals frollick.
Having left Camp Davidson for the final time, this ride heads south to the Game Conservancy which is home to Savannah Lodge. The ride traverses a wide wetland, home to reedbuck and grass owls, before entering dense woodland dotted with wild fig trees and large fruited bushwillows. Here it crosses the watershed and descends through open grasslands with sweeping views to the upper reaches of the Conservancy’s main water system. The route passes the favoured habitat of waterbuck and Cape buffalo. The open plains that follow are aptly known as “Little Serengeti”; large herds of blesbuck, eland, wildebeest and kudu are all on view, as are groups of elegant sable, swift red hartebeest and impressive journeys of giraffe and Cape buffalo. After a lunch at the lodge and a rest by the pool, the afternoon ride continues to explore this game rich area, closing with sundowners overlooking the African plains.
We depart the lodge early and enjoy an exhilarating ride back to Horizon Lodge in time to change before departing for Botswana at 09:30 am. We arrive in Botswana in time for a light lunch. Enjoy an introductory ride to check you are suited to your horse, before embarking on your first ride out to our Two Mashatus Camp. This will be your first opportunity to experience the beauty of the Mashatu Game Reserve and view the wildlife on horseback. Mashatu Game Reserve is home to the largest herd of wild free-roaming elephants on private land in Africa, and, although not a guarantee, it is almost assured that there will be great viewing of these incredible creatures. As evening falls at Two Mashatus Camp, relax in the cool of the thatched lounge and dining areas, before enjoying a three-course dinner.
Sunrise, the dawn chorus and tea or coffee which is brought to your tent, sounds the start of your first day. After breakfast, it’s time to mount and depart from the dense woodland that hugs the Limpopo River and head towards the rocky hills that delineate the edges of the great river valley. As the ride traverses the heartland of Mashatu, you will encounter plentiful game: plains game, many giraffe and herds of elephants. You will arrive back at Two Mashatus Camp in time for lunch and a cooling afternoon rest in the shady camp or lazing by the pool. That afternoon the group has the choice of an afternoon ride or a game drive to the south western side of the reserve. This is an area not reached on horseback during the African Explorer safari. It is rich in game with a resident pride of lion. The highlight of the the drive is a sundowner in the ancient landscape of rock formations or the Mmamagwa hills, which vast vistas into the setting sun.
Ride out following the movements of wildlife in the area. The tempo of the rides is always varied and depending on the terrain, there are opportunities to enjoy the spirit and fitness of the horses. The afternoon brings a chance to again choose between another ride or a bush walk in the northern area of Mashatu Game Reserve and enjoy the rich birdlife, spot crocodile in the pools and learn about the magnificent trees lining the banks.
The last ride in the Limpopo Valley is a great opportunity to take one last picture of elephants and enjoy a long and winding canter through the scattered Mustard bush with your guides. Arriving back at the stables and reception mid-morning, there is plenty of time for a quick shower, before saying farewell to safari companions.
Please be aware that due to changes in weather and other unforeseen events all itineraries may be changed at the last minute.
Botswana riding test
When you arrive in Botswana you will be asked to complete an independent riding test to ensure you are experienced enough for the riding to come. You will need to be comfortable and balanced in rising trot, light-seat canter and gallop, as well as being able to do small jumps. You must also be able to control a horse independent of the group at all paces. Your guides in South Africa will have a good idea of your riding ability from the first few days of the ride and will be able to advise you if they think you will not be able to ride in Botswana. If this is the case, you will be given the choice of going to Botswana on an adapted programme, or if space allows to stay at Horizon Ranch for the remainder of the trip and continue riding here. The adapted programme would include bush walks and when available morning rides from the stables in the area surrounding while the rest of the group rides in the open reserve. If you have any queries regarding your riding abilities and suitability for this ride please contact us, we will be happy to discuss this with you.
Guests will need to meet at the information desk in the arrivals hall of OR Tambo airport at 10:00am for a 10:30 departure to the ranch. Anyone arriving after this time will need to book a private transfer. On the final day road transfers will take guests from the stables in Botswana, leaving at approximately 11:00, to OR Tambo airport in South Africa arriving at approximately 18:00. Please do not book flights departing before 20:00. Private transfers outside of these times can be arranged on request
Light Aircraft Transfer
As of 28 February 2018, the final day transfer can be taken by light aircraft charter at approx. 14:00. Arrival times at JNB cannot be guaranteed. The transfer may arrive to JNB any time between 15:30 and 18:00 so return flights on the final day should be booked for after 20:00. If clients have booked earlier flights a private road transfer can be arranged at additional cost. Please note that the charter flight lands at Lanseria Airport and a road transfer from Lanseria to JNB is included in the cost. Please note that all luggage on the charter flights must comply with hand luggage regulations i.e. no sharp objects, liquids over 100ml. Luggage must be under 15kg (plus 6kg of hand luggage) and in soft bags.
Why not spoil yourself with a few days on a tropical beach after your safari? We recommend one of our Mozambiquan Beach Extensions as an ideal way to round off a safari.
Big 5 Entabeni Game Drive
There is an optional game drive availabile on Day 3 of the itinerary. This can be booked with your hosts in South Africa and is payable on site. The cost is R600 per person for the Entabeni trip and R 200 per person for the transfer. Please note game drives are subject to availability and good weather conditions.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses have been individually selected for their temperament and ride-ability. They have been carefully chosen from the various South African breeds (mainly boerperd) which are well known for being of a tougher nature - able to cope under extreme conditions. These breeds include the Boerperd, the Basuto and the S.A. Warmblood. They range in size from 14.3h.h to 16.2 h.h, and are an assortment of colours.
The safari prides itself on horses that have been selected with the same stringent criteria as those selected for two day events. The saddles utilised on this ride are McLellan (similar to a stock saddle - comfortable for horse and rider) and they use McLellan’s or English saddles for jumping. The horses are ridden in snaffles and English bits.
The South African Boerperd originated from horses that survived the Anglo Boer war 1899. Other bloodlines, like Arabs and later even Thoroughbreds were introduced to the breed for extra size and speed. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Namib desert horse was included as the 7th bloodline to the Boerperd. Today the breed is strong, forward going and agile with a good resistance to the African diseases. It is well mannered and suited to the climate.
For this safari riders should have a secure and independent seat and be in control of a horse at all paces. In addition riders should be fit enough to ride for 6 hours in a day and be able to trot and canter for 15 minute stretches. Riders should be comfortable galloping and jumping small jumps where necessary. On this safari you will come face to face with Big Game such as elephant and buffalo are present and riders should be able to beat a hasty retreat if necessary!
When you arrive in Botswana you will be asked to complete an independent riding test to ensure you are experienced enough for the riding to come. Your guides in South Africa will have a good idea of your riding ability from the first few days of the ride and will be able to advise you if they think you will not be able to ride in Botswana. If this is the case, you will be given the choice of going to Botswana on an adapted programme, or if space allows to stay at Horizon Lodge for the remainder of the trip and continue riding here.
If you have any queries regarding your riding abilities and suitability for this ride please contact us, we will be happy to discuss this with you.
Hard hats are compulsory. There are a limited few to borrow if needed.
The weight limit for this ride is 220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
In South Africa all accommodation is at the Camp Davidson tented camp, high in the bushveld above the Matlapeng valley. It offers the opportunity to explore from a base camp nestled in the heart of the wooded mountains of the Waterberg. The camp commands a wonderful panoramic view of the central highlands of the Waterberg massif, while overlooking the picturesque Sunset Lake at the eastern boundary of Horizon Ranch.
In the late 19th century, Ted Davidson, one of the first members of the Baber family to settle in the Waterberg, was a young man trading by ox wagon to remote cattle outposts of a young ranching area. A good days travelling may have been only five miles or so by rugged track, and so an itinerant life in the Waterberg meant a life by the campfire. That early camp atmosphere is captured in Camp Davidson, with beautiful decked canvas tents nestled amongst the sandstone ridges overlooking grassy game filled valleys. Each tent is appointed as it would have been in Ted’s day with classic items that would have been essential to the traveller accustomed to regular nights in the bush.
The Botswana part of the safari is done as a static camp using the Two Mashatus camp with the added comforts this provides. The Two Mashatus camps are nestled in the shade of a centurion Mashatu tree, two traditionally built Lala palm rondavels serve as dining area and lounge. Accommodation is in big, simple but comforatble, A frame walk-in tents pitched on teak platforms, with en-suite enviro loo and hot water shower, hot water is limited in the mornings but more plentiful in the evening after a days riding. Each private tent provides 2 beds, a nightstand and a shelf for luggage, and is positioned in the shade of a tree with a small deck area on which to relax during the afternoons. The wilderness / satellite camp sites are set up in specific locations throughout the Mashatu Reserve. Accommodation is in A frame tents on comfortable beds with sheets and duvets. Facilities include a bucket shower and "bush-WC". Meals are cooked over a camp fire. Please note, there is no WIFI during the camp part of the trip and electricity is not available all day but phones and batteries can be charged while out riding.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. You must be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after your return date and has at least 3 blank pages. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
NEW RULES ON TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN - DEC 2019:
Children who are foreign nationals from countries where visas are required will no longer have to carry supporting documents. This is because they would have been required to provide these during the visa application process.
Children who are foreign nationals from countries where visas are not required may be asked to produce supporting documents upon entry. Even though producing supporting documents is no longer compulsory, travellers are strongly advised to carry the supporting documents.
In the case of countries that endorse the particulars of parents in children’s passports, or other official identification documents, these documents shall be sufficient to establish the identity of the parents of the travelling minor.
General Entry Requirement Information:
A valid passport is required for travel to South Africa for U.K. or most other European nationals. Technically, your passport should be valid for at least 30 days beyond your intended date of exit from South Africa, in line with South African immigration regulations. However, some immigration officials still request that a passport should have at least 6 months validity on the date of entry to South Africa. To avoid problems at the airport on arrival, you’re advised to ensure your passport meets this requirement. Your passport should have at least 2 blank pages if you require a visa to enter the country. If you do not need a visa, one blank page will be sufficient. If you are visiting South Africa for tourism or business purposes for a period of up to 90 days, you don’t need a visa. If you overstay, you are likely to be declared undesirable and denied entry into South Africa in future. The enforcement of these penalties is strict, and appeals can take many months to process. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on 020 7008 0230/0233.
In South Africa the UK High Commission is at No.19 Parliament Street, Cape Town, 8001, Tel +27 21461 7220.
The High Commission for the Republic of South Africa in the U.K is at South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DP. Telephone: (020) 7451 7299. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dry season is during the winter: May – October. It is dry and sunny but can be cold at night even with some frost though temperatures may reach 20C during the day. The Summer is hot, sunny with lush and green surroundings. There is the likelihood of thunderstorm showers so waterproofs are advisable.
Awareness of Malaria risk and bite avoidance is recommended and if travelling to an area of Malaria risk in season we recommend speaking to your doctor about antimalarial medication. Current Malaria areas are; North-eastern Kwazulu-Natal, low altitude areas of Mpumalanga and low altitude areas of Limpopo. Malaria season is in the summer or rainy season. All travellers should avoid insect and tick bites day and night by using insect repellent and should wear adequate sun protection during the day.
According to the 2018 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world, with 7.1 million people living with HIV. HIV prevalence is high among the general population at 18.9%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS; avoid contact with bodily fluids and keep any cuts or wounds properly clean and covered.
We advise speaking to your doctor at least 8 weeks before your trip, to check the latest country-specific health advice and to see if you need any additional vaccinations or precautions while travelling. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. There is no reciprocal health care agreement between the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Health and medical facilities are generally of a good standard and readily available near larger centres. If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 10177 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/ medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
There have been a few isolated confirmed cases of malaria in the Waterberg area. We recommend taking mosquito repellent and taking preventative measures. Please consult your doctor if you have any concerns.
The electricity supply requires a 3-holed, round pinned adapter. If you have a European two pinned adapter you can buy an adapter at Johannesburg Airport.
In each tent in both locations there is a small solar charger that can charge most mobile phones with a USB port. There is limited WiFi service in both locations and mobile phone coverage is usually good in South Africa but patchy in Botswana. If you want to buy a local sim on arrival the one to buy would be MTN.
Please bring a maximum of 15kgs luggage in soft bags, not hard cases (this weight limit applies only to the Botswana section of the ride, if you have extra luggage it can be left in South Africa and arranged to meet you at the airport on departure).
Khaki, green and bush colours are best; please avoid wearing white as this scares wild life or black as it tends to attract insects.
Riding helmet (compulsory; there are a limited few to borrow if needed)
2 pairs of riding trousers
2 pairs of lightweight riding boots or trainers
Half chaps (recommended)
Warm jacket (May-August)
Long sleeves shirts
Sunglasses with string
Camera, preferably one on a shoulder strap with a pouch which can be secured to your belt
Spare batteries/memory cards
Buff (to protect face from dust)
Sunscreen (factor 30 or higher recommended)
A free laundry service is available at both locations.
Liquid restrictions on light aircraft chartered flights: perfume - 50ml; Eau de Toilette – 250 ml; non-flammable and non-alcoholic liquids – 500ml per container. A combined total of no more than 2L in checked bags. Pocket knives/Leatherman’s and other sharp objects: these need to be packed into passengers checked bags and will not be allowed in carry-on bags. Please note there is a strict 15kg weight limit on hold bags and 6kg on hand luggage. Luggage must also be packed into soft bags.
This is an 8 day/7 night programme with riding on 8 days. There are set dates available from February to November.
2020:Low Season: Friday to Friday in Jan, Feb, Dec
Mid Season: Friday to Friday in Mar, Apr, Jun
High Season: Friday to Friday in May, Jul, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||1,659|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||829|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||1,809|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||905|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,019|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,009|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||1,879|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||939|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,049|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,025|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,289|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,145|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,135|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,069|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,329|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,165|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,599|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,299|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||20,625|
|2020 - Low Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||10,309|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||22,485|
|2020 - Mid Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||11,245|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||25,095|
|2020 - High Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||12,549|
‘Land Mammals of Southern Africa’ – Smithers; ‘Birds of Southern Africa’ – Ken Newman; ‘Memories of a Game Ranger’ – Harry Wolhunter; ‘Cry, The Beloved Country’ – Alan Paton, ‘Jock of the Bushveld’ – Fitzpatrick, ‘A Chain of Voices’ – Andre Brink, ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ – Nelson Mandela. A range of interesting and inspiring equestrian travel books can be purchased from www.horsetravelbooks.com (part of the Long Rider’s Guild).
Game drives (including a night drive) and guided walks are all possible on this ride.
In the Waterberg the Safaris are based on private reserves in the heart of this UNESCO biosphere reserve, one of the last true wilderness areas of South Africa. Species to be seen include rhino, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, ostrich and zebra, brown hyena, hippo. In addition riders will encounter a wide variety of antelope, including the impressive eland and sable and the exquisite steenbuck.
In Botswana game is plentiful including elephant, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, lechwe, reedbuck, bushbuck, steenbok, impala, duiker, waterbuck, bat-eared fox, sidestriped and black backed jackal, African wildcat, baboon, vervet monkey, honey badger, spotted hyena, mongoose, meerkat, warthog, tortoise and ostrich. Special nocturnal creatures – porcupine, aardwolf, aardvark, civet, genet, serval and spring hare. Water species – crocodile, cape clawless and spotted necked otter. Predators – leopard, lion, cheetah and wild dog. Full safety instructions will be given and followed whilst viewing game.
Light Aircraft Flights:
Liquid restrictions on light aircraft chartered flights: perfume- 50ml; Eau de Toilette – 250 ml; non-flammable and non-alcoholic liquids – 500ml per container. A combined total of no more than 2L in checked bags. Pocket knives/Leatherman’s and other sharp objects: these need to be packed into passengers checked bags and will not be allowed in carry-on bags. Please note there is a strict 15kg weight limit on hold bags and 6kg on hand luggage. Luggage must also be packed into soft bags.
South Africa's land area is 1,228,376 km.2 (larger than The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy & Germany combined). It borders Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland & Zimbabwe to the north, and entirely surrounds Lesotho (a total land border of 4,750 km.) It has a coastline of 2,954 km, with few natural harbours.
The average day in South Africa starts early so the main work of the day is complete before the sun starts to really burn. Shops are open from around 07.30am and it is also acceptable to call people at that time.
South Africa is an exhilarating, spectacular and complex country. With its post-apartheid identity still in the process of definition, there is undoubtedly an abundance of energy and sense of progress about the place. The infrastructure is constantly improving, the climate is kind and there are few better places to see Africa's wildlife.
The international dialing code for South Africa is +27 and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram. The time zone is GMT plus two hours.
Always collect your luggage on arrival at any local airport and take it through customs. Most of the South African smaller airports don’t have customs clearance. Even if the airline tells you that your luggage can be checked through, it is not true.
At local airports there are a lot of porters who can be of great help if you are in a hurry to find your check in counter or your gate. However they sometimes ask for a lot of money. R 50,00 is more then enough to give them when they have been of great help, if they have only pushed the trolley, R 20,00 should be enough.
If you travel by car and police stop you for speeding or something else you might have done wrong, don’t give them any cash money, always ask for a ticket. If they persist, ask to speak to their supervisor. Also the toll gates don’t take international credit cards.