A fantastic horseback safari in Botswana. with fast and exciting riding in the "Land of the Giants". Here large herds of elephant roam and the "great, green, grey, greasy Limpopo" (in the words of Rudyard Kipling) meanders, where the mighty baobab stands tall and lions and hyena serenade you under the starry African night sky. The Tuli Block is found along the banks of the great Limpopo River bordering South Africa and is relatively untouched by man. This is an area of great diversity, magnificent vistas, ancient civilizations and dramatic rock formations. Here you will find large herds of elephant, a variety of wildlife species including lion, cheetah, leopard, African wild dog, a multitude of plains game such as zebra, wildebeest and giraffe, as well as over 350 species of birds. Exciting riding for confident intermediate riders onwards with comfortable overnights in 3 different semi-permanents camps with hot showers.
Watch the live webcam at Pete's Pond watering hole in Mashatu Reserve. Peak activity is early morning and around sunset, the webcam is in GMT +2, so for the UK around 5am-9am or 4pm-6pm.
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 HW of Canterbury on 08/03/2022
Meet your guide at the border. Short transfer to the reception area overlooking the Limpopo river, 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 Mashatu Camp, relax in the cool of the thatched rondavel lounge and dining areas, before enjoying a three-course dinner and getting to know your fellow adventurers for the next seven days.
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 herd of elephants. Having meandered across the hills with vast views back towards South Africa, the ride arrives at Tree Camp in time for lunch. Overlooking the Majale river, it is possible to watch the wildlife from above, coming down to drink at the river. That afternoon choose a ride or enjoy your first bush walk exploring the area along the West of the Matabole River returning to Tree Camp for sundowners.
The safari passes through the centre of Mashatu to the ancient rock formations synonymous with the Limpopo Valley. Giant Baobab trees continue to scatter the landscape as they have for centuries and ancient elephant trails make for wonderful tracks for long canters through open bush veld. Whilst riding alongside the banks of the Motloutse River, discover the old Leadwood ‘Kgotla’ (or enclosure used for the traditional law court of a Botswana village). This open-air enclosure forms the perfect, secure camp for the night. In the afternoon, we search for the area’s resident lions on a game drive and draw the day’s adventures to a close with sundowners at the ancient “Amphitheatre” rocks. Back at the Kgotla, dinner is enjoyed around a large log fire. The night is spent with a ceiling of stars and Africa’s nighttime melody to sing you to sleep; a veraciously rare experience which is just about as far away from city life and the modern world as anyone can imagine.
The sandstone formations, including the famed Solomon’s Wall, one of the numerous dolorite dykes in the area, are explored on horseback. Some of the oldest civilisations in southern Africa settled in this valley. Archaeological evidence in the area includes middle and late stone age tools, rock art and the legendary Mapungubwe Dynasty. Mapungubwe means “Place of the Jackal” in the Venda language and this dynasty existed around 1220 AD. The Mapungubwe topography itself is ancient and timeless, and combined with marvellous wildlife sightings, it makes for an incredible riding experience. This afternoon enjoy a short drive to the Mmamagwa Hills. For the most visually stunning and ethereal sundowner, we visit the Mmamagwa Hills. A short climb up the sandstone ridge, brings us to the site of the Mmamagwa Ruins, which is of a similar period to Mapungubwe (13 century). To date these ruins have not been excavated and have been left alone. It is conceivable that similar treasures to those found at Mapungubwe (for example the golden rhino) could be buried here. After a short climb, enjoy sundowners beneath a beautiful baobab tree with a breath-taking view of the area.
Wind up Elephant Valley along ancient trails stamped into the soil by centuries of migrating elephants, before heading north towards upper reaches of the Majale River. This area is peppered with enormous baobab trees and is one of the more remote areas of the reserve. After an exhilarating ride through this timeless countryside, enjoy a relaxing lunch at Tree Camp. An afternoon ride or bush walk or game drive exploring the northern banks of the Majele, Matabole and Jwala rivers.
Today’s riding promises great game viewing from horseback as we explore the Pitsane River Valley. Drinking holes, dug by elephants along the course of the Pitsane, attract thirsty herds of game. An area, where history has it, there was a skirmish during the Boer war which destroyed Bryce’s Store, an old British supply post. There was a stagecoach line, called Zeederberg’s, that ran from the towns of the Transvaal in South Africa to the newly forged settlements of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Those coaches crossed the broad Limpopo and followed the Pitsane River into Zimbabwe. The ride returns to the Two Mashatu Camp in time for lunch and a cooling swim in the pool. A guided bush walk to one of the nearby koppies for sundowners is the afternoon excursion.
Our ride today meanders its way through the beautiful plains between the Majale and Pitsane rivers, with abundant game and spectacular views into the Limpopo River Valley. En route, we explore the remains of an old Boer War fort on a rocky outcrop, followed by a ride down into the cooler wetland area where plentiful game enjoy the lush grasses. In the summer months, rain and water dependent, it can be possible to enjoy cantering through the shallows of the Limpopo River. There is time to relax in camp, before either an afternoon ride or bush walk for your last African sundowner.
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 hot shower and a tasty brunch, before saying farewell to safari companions.
Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Tuli Safari Trail
The meeting point is at the info desk in the ORT international arrivals hall. If you are staying at a hotel or in JHB, you need to make your own way to ORTAambo Airport on the morning of the safari.
The Charter flights for the Tuli Safari are now going directly from and to ORTambo unless there is a problem with weather delays then they will get a comp transfer to/from Lansaria
The private charter flight from ORTambo Johannesburg to Mashatu will be booked on your behalf by us.
Flight times (If no delays) are as follows
The Flight will depart ORT at 11h45
Arriving at Mashatu at 13h20
The Flight will depart Mashatu at 14h30
Arriving at ORT at 16h05
NB.. Arrival flights on the day of the safari must land at ORTambo no later than 10h15
NB.. Departure flights at the end of the safari must depart no earlier than 20h00 from ORTambo.
** Accommodation overnight of your choice would range from £40 pp for a guest house to £150 pp for a nice hotel. To be arranged by yourself.
** a Private Road transfer for you, on the Monday morning, from Ortambo to Horizon Mashatu (minimum travel time of 9hrs) and the cost for this would be £610 for the car.
(When the Pont drift border re-opens the charge for this Private road transfer will be £481 for the car. -minimum 5.5 hour journey).
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 which are well known for being of a tougher nature - able to cope under extreme conditions. These breeds include the Boerperd, the Basuto, Shire Cross Thoroughbreds, Appalosas, and the S.A. Warmblood. They range in size from 15h.h to 17 h.h, and are in an assortment of colours.
The schooling concentrates on classical English style, although they neck rein when in the bush. They are schooled to very high level and respond easily and lightly to the aids. Australian stock saddles, South African Mcllelans are used. In addition a selection of English saddles are available for those who prefer.
The riding is fast and exciting and at all paces, including a good fast gallop along sandy riverbeds, some jumps over fallen logs and steep descents. The terrain varies from sandy riverbeds, thick bush and rocky outcrops to vast open plains. Ideal for great riding!
For the Big Game safari riders should have a secure and independent seat and be in control of a horse at a walk, trot and canter. 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. On this safari you will come face to face with Big Game such as elephant and buffalo which are present and riders should be able to beat a hasty retreat if necessary!
Children under the age of 16 years old are not permitted, unless they are experienced and competent riders, and the party they are with have reserved the safari exclusively. The children must be accompanied by a parent/adult with whom the responsibility for the child lies.
There is a weight limit of 15 stone / 95kg on this ride, exceptions may be made for experienced riders over 100kg, please enquire.
The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Two Mashatus Camp. Nestled in the shade of two large Mashatu trees, the heart of the camp has two traditionally built Lala Palm rondavels for dining and lounge areas. Guest accommodation is in large A-frame walkin tents set on teak platforms each with en-suite bathrooms. Each tent is private and positioned in the shade of a tree in the bush, not far from the main area. Each tent has a small deck area in front where guests can relax privately during the afternoons. Two Mashatu also has a small swimming pool under a Mashatu tree for guests to enjoy.
Tree Camp. This is a very unique camp; any childhood dream of sleeping up in the arms of a tree, will be completely fulfilled here. Nestled in the bough of a giant Mashatu tree and two ancient Leadwood trees, this Seligna deck, 4 metres off the ground, will be your retreat for the night. Two guests each share an airy and cool sleeping pod. Along a short walkway, shared showers and toilets are under the Leadwood trees. The spacious dining and lounge area flow from the sleeping pods and overlook the Majale River. This truly extraordinary camp is one that will be remembered and spoken about for years to come.
The ‘Kgotla’ is an old traditional court enclosure from a nearby community, which was relocated to the banks of the Motloutse River on the western periphery of Mashatu. This open-air enclosure, made of Leadwood logs, provides a secure location for a camp. The camp has hot running water, beautiful openair showers and flushing toilets: the perfect combination for comfort and an authentic bush experience. Guests sleep on single beds around a large log fire in the centre of the enclosure. The highlight of this camp to guests is sleeping in the open under the stars and listening to the resonance of an Africa evening.
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. 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.
1st OCTOBER 2016 - RULES ON TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN:
Parents will have to provide an unabridged birth certificate for all travelling minors (children under 18yrs).
Minors travelling through Botswana's borders will be required to produce certified copies of unabridged birth certificates in addition to their valid passports. In the event that one parent is not travelling with the child, the other parent's affidavit consenting to such travel should be presented.
Unabridged birth certificate applications can take up to eight weeks to complete. Airlines will be forced to refuse travel to families not in possession of these documents.
At the time of going to print visas are not required for UK passport holders and citizens of the Irish Republic, but please check before you depart.
In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on 020 7008 0230/ 0233 or www.fco.gov.uk
In Botswana the UK High commission is at Queens Rd, The Mall, Gabarone Private Bag 0023 (tel 352841).
The Botswana High Commission in the U.K can be found at 6 Stratford Place, London W1C 1AY. Telephone: (020) 7499 0031.
The best time to visit Botswana is from April to October generally when the days are sunny and warm (25 celsius). Evening temperatures however drop sharply. Game viewing is good all year round. Temperatures begin to climb mid to late September. The rainy season begins in November, peaks in January and ends in March/April. Summer months are September to April. The rains can start in October, with the occasional thunder shower. December to February are the wettest months.
Winter is May to the end of August, it does not rain at all in winter although evening and early mornings are cold. Temperature varies from 8 degrees C to 24 degrees C at midday.
Malaria exists in the northern parts of Botswana including the Okavango Delta. Southern Botswana has a low risk Malaria and mosquitoes are prevalent. Anyone intending to camp or walk in the bush should be cautious of tick bites.
Health care in Botswana is good but medical facilities and communications are limited outside urban areas. For serious medical treatment, medical evacuation to the UK or South Africa may be necessary. Private hospitals will not treat patients unless you can pay and health care may be expensive. Outpatients must pay cash before receiving treatment. Emergency patients will only be accepted if you have full insurance cover.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org. Or contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis.
Anti-malaria precautions are recommended for this ride although the risk in the area is classified as 'low'. If you do choose to take them they should be commenced prior to arrival in Botswana, for further details please see your local doctor or pharmacist. There may be other health risks, please contact your doctor regarding up to date vaccination advice prior to leaving. Full information for health requirements for visitors is also available from the Medical Advisory Service for Travelers Abroad who can be reached on 0113 238 7575 or at www.masta.org
The electricity supply is the same as in Euope - 220 volt and most appliances can be plugged in with appropriate adaptors which are widely available for purchase at airports.
There is electricity at the base camp of Two Mashatus, as well as WiFi and a USB camera recharging point is available. On the intervening nights there is no electricity, so bring any spare batteries you may need.
We recommend the use of neutral-coloured clothing (khaki, brown, beige and green) that blends in with the bush (no brightly coloured, or white clothing)
•Suitable riding gear.
•Jodhpurs or long trousers.
•Camera, film, binoculars.
•Long sleeved shirts or T-shirts.
•Walking shoes, hiking boots or ride/run boots.
•Half chaps recommended.
•Warm clothing (for winter, May to August).
•Waterproof raincoat(for Summer, from November to March).
•Sun hat that stays on.
Any personal toiletries that you require must be taken with you. Laundry can be done in camp. All bedrolls are complete with sheets, duvet and towels. A medical kit and snake bite kit are provided at camp.
Recognised riding hats are compulsory for any person under the age of 21
This programme is available all year around.
2022: Low Season: Sunday to Sunday in Jan, Feb, Dec
Mid Season: Sunday to Sunday in Mar, Apr, May, Jun
High Season: Sunday to Sunday in Jul, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov
FROM DECEMBER 2022 DEPARTURE DAY WILL BE SATURDAY
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2022 Low Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,355|
|2022 Low Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||589|
|2022 Mid Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,749|
|2022 Mid Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||965|
|2022 High Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||3,299|
|2022 High Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,155|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2022 Low Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,745|
|2022 Low Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||689|
|2022 Mid Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||3,205|
|2022 Mid Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,119|
|2022 High Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||3,845|
|2022 High Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,345|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2022 Low Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||2,895|
|2022 Low Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||725|
|2022 Mid Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||3,375|
|2022 Mid Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,185|
|2022 High Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||4,055|
|2022 High Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||1,419|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2022 Low Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||29,429|
|2022 Low Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||7,359|
|2022 Mid Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||34,319|
|2022 Mid Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||12,015|
|2022 High Season||8d/7n||8||double pp||41,219|
|2022 High Season||8d/7n||8||single supplement||14,419|
‘Land Mammals of Southern Africa’ – Smithers; ‘Okavango – Sea of Land of Water’ – Anthony Bannister; ‘Birds of Southern Africa’ – Ken Newman; ‘Kalahari – Life’s Variety in Dune and Delta’ – Michael Main. A range of interesting and inspiring equestrian travel books can be purchased from www.horsetravelbooks.com (part of the Long Rider’s Guild
Guided walks and/or game drives are also done every afternoon from the camps. This ride is not suitable for non-riders.
Game is plentiful including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, lechwe, reedbuck, bushbuck, steenbok, impala, roan antelope, duiker, waterbuck, tsesebe, 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 – hippo, 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.
Curios like T-shirts and caps small wooden animals etc are available to buy. Euros, pounds, USD or Rands are accepted. No credit cards - sorry!
Drinking Water - All water in the camps is filtered to the highest standards and is guaranteed perfectly safe for drinking
Botswana is a landlocked country situated in southern Africa. The climate ranges from semi-arid to sub-tropical. The Kalahari Desert dominates southern and western Botswana; the extreme south-west experiences near desert conditions, while eastern Botswana, though prone to drought, has adequate rainfall to support arable farming.
Beyond the narrow eastern corridor where the majority of the population is concentrated, Botswana is a largely roadless wilderness of savannas, deserts, wetlands and salt pans. Wildlife and livestock can make driving hazardous so driving at night should be avioded.
Botswana is two hours ahead of GMT 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 international dialling code for Botswana is +267.