horse riding close to rhinos in South Africa
cantering through the African plains
seeing cheetahs from horseback
meeting elephants while riding in South Africa
getting close to giraffe on horseback in South Africa
riding close to hippos in South Africa
seeing hyena from horseback in South Africa
close encounter with lions from horseback
horse riding with the big five in South Africa
horse riding with game in South Africa
horse riding with rhinos in South Africa
horse riding in game reserves South Africa
sunrise on horse riding holiday in South Africa
seeing wildebeast on horse riding safari
young cheetah seen on horse riding safari in South Africa
seeing zebra from horse back on safari South Africa
Garonga camp for horse riding safari by Unicorn Trails
viewing veranda at camp on horse riding safari by Unicorn Trails
bath overlooking South African plains on horse riding safari
dining at Garonga on horse riding safari by Unicorn Trails
This mobile safari explores a 350sqkm area in the Makalali Conservancy full of wildlife, including the ‘big five’. Riding out into the bush each day gives you incredible close encounters with game such as lions, giraffe, zebra, hyena, rhino and hippo. Covering a distance of around 200km and staying at three different camps in luxury tents and chalets, this is a safari for experienced riders who want to get close to nature without losing any creature comforts. You will spend a few days at each camp to discover the area on long rides in the morning with time to enjoy some of the other options on offer in the afternoon. Have a massage, go for a walk or simply relax by the pool – no matter what you choose you will still be immersed in this amazing area of African wilderness.

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Day 1
You will be picked up at Hoedspruit airport, or Phalaborwa if requested, by our transfer service. A pick up from Johannesburg OR TAMBO direct can also be arranged, note that travelling time from ORT is 5 hours. On arrival at the camp sandwiches and afternoon tea and coffee awaits you. The team are there to welcome you and introduce you to the safety procedures before going on your first ride. This orientation ride takes you through the area surrounding the camp as you unwind from your journey and forget yourself in the peace of the African bush. This is your chance to become accustomed to our horses and riding style. We might even see our first African wildlife. Drinks, looking out towards the Drakensberg Mountains, are a perfect prelude to the generous 3 course dinner, accompanied by hand-picked South African wines. The first night, with all its fantastic sounds and noises, is probably the most exciting one. Accommodation for these first three nights is in old style safari tents with en-suite bathrooms, mounted on platforms above the Makhutswe River at the main camp.

Day 2
After a light continental breakfast we are ready to mount our horses and go on safari. Our day is determined by the weather, but usually we ride for 3-4 hours in the morning and around 2 hours in the afternoon. After we return from our morning ride a big lunch, made by Ana our chef, awaits us. After lunch the hardest time of the day has arrived, siesta. You can spend your well deserved rest in your room or at the swimming pool, or may be you would like to improve your knowledge about Africa by reading one of the books provided in our library. Afternoon tea and coffee strengthen us for our next adventure. Our afternoon ride ends at a beautiful sundowner spot where, drink in hand, we enjoy an often colorful sunset!

Day 3
Another exciting day awaits you. The morning and afternoon are similar to day 2, where you will go on outrides tracking animals, cantering alongside some plains game, crossing rivers, jumping some logs, whatever is in our way. Over lunchtime you are welcome to have a relaxing massage by our therapist. There is a well prepared massage room where everything is there for your comfort. This is also the time to pack our bags as we will be away for 5 nights.

Day 4
Waking to the rich colors of the sunrise we get ready for a long ride. Entering the
Makalali Private Game Reserve, dominated by huge open planes you might find yourself cantering next to giraffes, zebras or wildebeest. Spectacular views stretching across the great plains show you the way to our camp for the next two nights. This camp is built at the edge of a dam with a resident pod of hippos. Enjoy the game from the deck of your chalet or the viewing platform or even better whilst enjoying the infinity pool. Elephants often come for a swim during the day, whilst at night lions and hyenas are often seen or heard near the camp. The afternoon siesta is followed by a game drive. Your guide Patson is a very well known tracker and guide who knows all the native stories about the bush and the wildlife. In an open top Landrover he will follow the directions of the signs left by the big cats during the day. After a long slow gin watching the sunset, the drive continues into the night where, with luck, some of the nocturnal wildlife will show its face. Bushbabies, owls, maybe even a leopard, will complete your day’s excitement. Dinner is served in the dining area or outside around the fire place under the stars at the waters edge

Day 5
Today we go exploring, cutting through the veldt at a canter, twisting and turning around the trees – locally known as bushwhacking - and your surefooted horse carries you nimbly through the undergrowth, changing direction as you guide his course, having just as much fun as you. Here and there a tree felled by an elephant provides an irresistible jump. Or perhaps the eland or kudu, seeing us pass, cut in front of us to show us the best path. At the top of the hill you pause for thought, as mile after mile of unspoiled Africa stretches away before you.
The afternoon is open to either join another one of Patson’s irresistable game drives or to go on another ride.

Day 6
Today we direct ourselves toward a more northerly part of the reserve and the luxuries of Garonga safari camp. Tucked into the edge of a steep cliff, overlooking a tributary stream, Garonga is different again to what we have experienced so far. Fusing the familiar sight of the termite mound with the light, airy, feel of an old, colonial expedition, the camp is particularly personal in its approach and spoils you for tranquil relaxation. Our long ride this morning will see us cantering through the grassy plains and tracking over the hills and valleys that rise between the camps. Long hours in the saddle, over numerous days, mean that you will definitely have earned the right to spoil yourself with an aromatherapy treatment this afternoon. Or perhaps a long siesta and a cold drink is more to your taste! There is even a “bush bath” set in the veldt, in which you can wash away the smell of leather, up to your ears in bubbles, whilst listening to the sounds around you. Whatever helps you more, you are free to choose how you spend this afternoon before rejoining the party for another excellent meal. Dinners are served as a group, where all guests of the lodge eat together in the torch lit boma.

Day 7
After all that pampering yesterday afternoon, we are fit again for another full day ride. Today we head out towards Garonga’s tree house. Our route takes us over one of the highest points in the reserve: the view from this point is truly bird’s-eye and can only emphasize the sheer grandeur of the immense space around us. Descending from on high, we are once more embraced by the bush as we venture deeper and deeper into the world we have just surveyed. Coming across a dam we find an excellent spot for hippo-watching, and meet up with Bernie and the rest of the team in the tree-house. A true, old style picnic has been laid out for us on the deck, so we can continue watching life on the water from our eagle-eyed vantage point. Our horses wait patiently below, snacking on their own, natural picnic from the veldt until we choose to head off in pursuit once more of Africa’s finest.

Day 8
Whatever has thrilled us most so far can be tracked again this morning as we ride out with the sun on our backs to warm us and picnics in our saddle bags. Perhaps the elephants are snoozing in the river reeds, or a rhino is having a mud bath in one of the little waterholes. On our return to camp we have ample time to gather our thoughts before embarking on the afternoon’s activity. Again, this is your choice – perhaps a bird walk appeals, another game drive to search for something not yet encountered or another relaxed afternoon by the pool.

Day 9
Today promises to be another full day in the saddle as we make our way across the reserve for our return to the main camp. This is the longest ride of the week (approx. 7 hours). Prepared with lunch packages in our saddlebags, the backdrop of the Drakensberg Mountains makes this ride incredibly beautiful. At home, the team eagerly awaits our exciting tales, which are the perfect accompaniment to one last sunset across the open plain. There is one last sumptuous dinner to be enjoyed, when Gerti chooses something special – perhaps game fillets, such as Kudu or Eland – to crown the final evening.

Day 10
An early wake up will get us on the horses quickly, so we can enjoy a short, sporty ride before the transfer service brings you to the Airport.

Transfers 2018
From Hoedspruit £40pp each way for 1-2pax, £30pp for 3pax, £20pp for 4 or more pax.
Transfers are also available from Phalaborwa £30-90 per person (depending on numbers) each way.
Private transfers from Johannesburg £400 per vehicle each way (1-7pax, 5 hours).

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.


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.

Horses & Riding

On the this ride the predominant breed is the ‘South African Boerperd’. A beautiful and elegant type of horse, sensitive, responsive, well tempered, forward going and very brave. Other breeds used are Arab, Appaloosa and the American Quarter Horse ranging from 14.3 to 17hh.

They are all well schooled, responsive, even tempered and in excellent condition. There is a suitable horse (43 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 to ensure 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 trails. All horses are spirited and forward going, some obviously more than others.

Saddles: On trail we ride on Leon Liversage Endurance saddles which are specifically designed for long distance rides or on Bates Caprilli Dressage Saddles. The saddle distributes the weight equally on the horses back and is in addition very comfortable for the rider. You sit automatically straight, so better for you and your horses back. Each horses back is different, so not every saddle fits every horse. The saddles come in different sizes and lengths. We do offer seat savers and sheepskins for comfort.

Almost all horses go in a loose ring snaffle. Two or three are ridden in a rubber Pelham for their own comfort. The reins are kept long in walk to allow the horses to stride out, but shortened in canter. Please get out of the saddle and use the light seat in canter and if jumping. A good leg contact is important and riders should have an independent seat not balancing themselves on the reins.

Rider requirements

This horse safari is only for experienced riders. Sporty and long canters require a good level of riding. “Bushwhacking” (winding canters through the bush) is one of the specialties and with a good balance it is great fun. Riders should be able trot and canter for stretches of 10 minutes at a time, to be comfortable at all paces and to be able to gallop out of trouble. It is of great advantage if you are a fit and proficient rider and used to long hours in the saddle. Please understand, that no novices or inexperienced riders can be taken with on trail and will be dismounted if the riding ability is not sufficient or a danger to the rest of the group. The minimum age for this ride is 12 years.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 15 st/209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Please note: there is one single room available at no extra cost on every ride, this is booked on a first come basis.

Base camp: Accommodation is in double-bedded canvas safari tents on platforms individually built and furnished in African safari style with private outside bathroom. From the decks you enjoy a magnificent view over the Makhutswe River. You can enjoy a drink at the bar or relax at the swimming pool. The main area is equipped with a library giving you the chance to read about the wildlife, flora and fauna of South Africa.

Makalali camp: Accommodation is in private chalets, each equipped with en-suite bathrooms, outdoor showers and private salas for your relaxation. 

Garonga Safari Camp: A 12-bed camp in the Greater Makalali Game Reserve. This unassuming sanctuary promises an intimate wildlife encounter in an unhurried environment where you can unwind, sleep deeply and be yourself. The accommodation at Garonga Safari Camp reflects the surroundings of the textured, earthy colors of the bush: a tempting place to lie and meditate for hours. The rooms are light, airy and spacious with large, draped beds. In addition to the indoor shower, there is an outdoor shower, providing the perfect link between the luxury of the suite and the allure of Mother Nature.

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

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.

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. Visas are issued on arrival to South Africa, please check there are two clear blank pages in your passport and it is valid for at least six months. 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:

Climate Summary

There is almost year-round sunshine, it can get rather hot in the summer month (October-March) averaging 32°C. Don’t be surprised to find your late afternoon growing heavy with pregnant clouds and being refereshed a short drenching thunderstorm. Winter (April-September) is a sunny season of chilly early mornings, warm to hot midday’s (25° C) and cool to cold nights (can get down to 5° C at night in June and July).

Climate Chart

Malaria förekommer ej i dessa områden.
Stelkramp & polioskydd bör vara uppdaterat.
Vaccin som bör kollas upp/uppdateras: Haverix/Hepatit
I övrigt inget annat

Health (ride specific)

It is recommended you start anti-malarial precuations before arriving in the South African lowved, see your doctor for details.


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.

Film and Camera Equipment

There is electricity available at the base camp and some of the other camps to enable you to recharge your camera equipment. It is advisable to bring extra batteries with you.

Packing List

Jodhpurs or any kind of riding trousers, half or full chaps, light cotton trousers to wear under chaps or in the evenings, shorts for the midday break, long sleeved shirts give protection from the sun while riding, T-shirts, Swimming costume, rubber Flip Flops, Riding shoes/comfortable riding boots with thin tread and low heels, casual evening outfit, sweat shirt or jersey, warm jacket in Winter (May to August), hat, suncream, sunglasses, riding gloves, torch, insect repellent, Antihistamine Cream, camera, films, binoculars.
Laundry can be done at base Camp. Beds are complete with sheets, duvets, duvet covers, towels are provided.

You will also need to take along a small bag for your overnight gear when you spend a few nights at the Makalali and Garonga Camps on the reserve.

We recommend you wear your riding gear on the flights or carry it in your hand luggage in case your hold luggage is lost in transit.


This is a 10 day/9 night programme available on request throughout the year, starting on Thursday and finishing on the following Saturday.

Departure Dates

2019: Available on request throughout the year (Thursday starts)

No single supplement payable if willing to share with someone of same sex. Should you wish to book a single room, please see supplement price below.
Recommended Reading

‘Land Mammals of Southern Africa’ – Smithers; ‘Memories of a Game Ranger’ – Harry Wolhunter; ‘Birds of Southern Africa’ – Ken Newman; ‘Cry, The Beloved Country’ – Alan Paton, ‘Jock of the Bushveld’ – Fitzpatrick, ‘A Chain of Voices’ – Andre Brink, ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ – Nelson Mandela. For the equestrian traveller who would like to see what is possible on horseback visit also a fantastic place to acquire your equestrian travel books is

Other Activities

Game drives including a night drive can be done during your stay.
The reserve is situated near the Kruger National Park and this area offers many other activities and excursions. Trips in the Park, Blyde River Canyon, the beautiful mountains of Magkobaskloof, visit of the orphan animal project at Tshukudu Game Lodge, the Snake Park, Kapama Cheetah Project or Moholoholo Bird Sanctuary can be organised. Very exciting is to join a research game drive on the Reserve. All these activities are on extra costs.


Game is plentiful on the Reserves including elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo, wild dog, cheetah, spotted and brown hyena, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, bushbuck, steenbok, duiker, impala, waterbuck, blackbacked and sidestriped jackal, honey badger, baboon, vervet monkey, mongoose, warthog, bushpig, tortoise; special nocturnal creatures are porcupine, aardvark, civet, genet, caracal, serval, spring hare; water species are hippo, crocodile, otter and terrapins. Lot's of bird species are seen, especially at the big dams and along the rivers.

With the background of the Drakensberg mountains, we ride an area of 30,000ha prime African bushveld. The reserve has various ecosystems ranging from open plains, woodlands, hills and kopies, to riverine and gullies. The three rivers that cross the reserve are the lifeline of the region and supports an impressive population of big trees, plants and wildlife such as hippo, crocodile, bushbuck, kudu, nyala, waterbuck and many different species of birds.

Other Information

Safety on the trail:
All rides are lead by Philip, a FGASA (Field Guide Association of South Africa) qualified guide and followed by a back-up rider. All camps and vehicles have radio contact, research teams are monitoring the big game and the guide carries a hand held radio. A safety briefing is held at the beginning of the safari, how to handle big game situations. A first aid kit is carried on each ride.
Clients will be asked to sign an indemnity before going on safari. Medical travel insurance is required and a policy number has to be presented on arrival.

Other Country Information

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.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Hoedspruit Airport, South Africa
From Hoedspruit £20-£40 per person (depending on numbers) each way or Phalaborwa.
Flight Guide:
London - Hoedspruit return from £635.
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