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South Africa and Botswana - African Explorer

Get the best of two countries. Ideal for experienced riders who want to get as much as possible from their African riding holiday.

This exciting ride combines four nights in a newly built camp in the Waterberg and three nights in the Limpopo Valley in Botswana. First explored Waterberg's fantastic Highlands and then move to Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli, on new horses.

There is plenty of wildlife. In South Africa in this private game reserve, there is a good chance of seeing wild animals such as giraffe, zebra, impala, red hartebeest, eland and reedbuck as well as many of the smaller mammals such as jackals, baboons, monkeys and warthogs. In Botswana Mashatu that covers 30,000 hectares is home to great herds of elephant, as well as numerous cats, including leopards, lions, cheetah, African wild cat and cerval and a multitude of plains game like zebra, wildebeest and giraffe, as well as over 350 species of birds.

The camp at Waterberg is located high above the Matlapeng Valley in the heart of the forested mountains. Here you have a wonderful panoramic view of the central highlands in the Waterberg Massif. The classic two-man safari tents are built on wooden decks with private bathrooms behind the tent. One night at the stunning Bellevue lodges.

Depending on the season, the Botswana part of the safari can either be a mobile camping safari or a camp nestled in the shadows of Centurion Mashatu trees. The tents are built on teak platforms, with private toilets and hot showers. In the mobile camps there are comfortable beds with sheets and duvets. Facilities include a bucket shower and "bush toilet". Meals are cooked over a campfire.

The food is excellent, the lunch often consists of hearty picnics and dinners are excellent with lots of vegetables and are served with good wine.

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Horse Riding

All horses are ridden English style. You ride with light contact with the horse's mouth and when galloping you stand in the stirrups to save the horses' backs. The saddles are custom designed for the trail rides (not Western saddles). In Botswana you use English saddles. You ride 3-7 hours per day.

Travel Information

Ability description: Trail Ride level 3 >> Guests must be experienced riders. They must ride regularly (at least once or twice a week) and be comfortable at posting trot, light seat canter and gallop as well as being able to do small jumps should they have to. They must be able to control a horse independently of the group at all paces. On arrival in Botswana you will be asked to do a independent riding test.

Included in the price: 7 nights, 8 days riding, full board incl. house wine, beer, soda.

Not included: Flight to/from Johannesburg (OR Tambo), fine wine, liquor and tips, transfer, conservation levy ($20 per night in support of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (NORTUGRE) conservation initiatives, optional Mashatu game drive and curios are payable locally in cash.

Transfers : Transfers are not included in the price. Book a flight that land by 09.30am latest. Go to the info desk in the arrivals hall as soon as possible. The driver will be there to meet you and will advise of the expected departure time from ORT.  On the return trip book a departing flight after 8.00 pm from Johannesburg.

Transfer price: (with flight on departure day): Includes arrival day road transfer from ORT airport to Camp Davidson, Day 5 transfers from Camp Davidson to Botswana and departure day light aircraft flight from Botswana to Johannesburg .
Price 2024: 610 EUR/person.
Luggage: weight limit of 18kgs. Bags for the flight have to be soft bags, without protruding wheels, under the 18kg weight limit and hand luggage is one small 6kg soft bag.

Number of riders: A minimum of 2 and a maximum of 8. If only one to four participants you may be upgraded in South Africa to the lodge based Waterberg - Ranch Stay if available.

Age limit: Very experienced children from 12 years, accompanied by an adult.

Weight limit: 85kg

Wi-fi: Yes there is a limited service in both locations.

Laundry service: Once in the week in South Africa but not in Botswana, you will need to have enough clothing to last 3 days.

Electricity: In each tent in both locations there is a small solar charger that can charge most cell phones with a USB port.

Misc: A Tourism levy of $30 pp payable on entry into Botswana will come into place on June 1, 2017. Please bring dollars to avoid inflated exchange rates and bring the correct amount as there is sometimes a lack of change at borders. Other costs such as souvenir shopping and gratuities in both SA and Botswana can be done in rand.


The Program

This is an example of the weekly program. It may change due to local circumstances. No week is like another with wild animals moving about in the large reserve.

Day 1 Friday: You are personally met at OR Tambo Airport in South Africa by representatives of Saddlebag Shuttles, and transported directly to Camp Davidson in the Waterberg, where you will enjoy a light lunch overlooking the vastness of the Waterberg plateau. You will then receive a safety briefing and meet the horses. The first ride is a gentle introduction to the reserve and an excellent opportunity for first encounters with species such as zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and kudu.  The riding ranges from purposeful walking to easy cantering along sandy tracks, and culminates with sundowner drinks on the open plains.  

Day 2 Saturday: The ride this morning is generally quite fast. The route follows the centre of an open valley which is home to species such as sable, reedbuck, red hartebeest, waterbuck and impala. The sandy tracks make for excellent going, and the route crosses open grassland and weaves through dense woodland. After two hours in the saddle the ride pauses at a picturesque dam where riders are given the chance to have a break, a snack and experience the exhilaration of swimming on horseback. The dam is protected from crocodiles, which over recent years have quietly been increasing in number. It is also the perfect size for swimming without taxing the horses. After swimming, the ride is gentle and relaxed back to Camp Davidson. Dark red pedigree cattle bred on the property are often encountered on this route. When conditions are suitable, the last stretch of the ride involves splashy canters along the edge of the lake adjacent to the main lodge. This is a great experience, but don’t expect to remain dry in the process! The afternoon ride follows past a series of dams where encounters with hippo are likely and returns across the open plains.  At this time of day there is often much activity on the plains, with the herds mingling in the soft sunlight and different groups coming and going as they prepare for the night. It is a truly magical experience to be able to ride so close to these wild animals, which have become completely relaxed in the presence of the horses.

Day 3 Sunday: Today’s route covers the north eastern areas of the reserve, descending from the camp to cross a stream and open plain and then tracks through untouched bush to the upper reaches of Sunset Lake. This lake is a favourite haunt of the hippo on the reserve and home to crocodile, otter, fish eagle and other waterfowl, such as the beautiful African jacana. Guests ride along the water’s edge and must be constantly on the lookout for the hippo. These animals, while having a reputation for being some of the most dangerous in Africa, are not a threat during the day but will often honk and blow as they observe the riders go by. The route offers an opportunity for exciting splashy canters, which the likes of Esme and Laura Collett loved doing. Having left the lake, riders cross open plains with some quick riding back towards Camp Davidson.

Day 4 Monday:  An early start is needed for the long ride from Camp Davidson to either Savannah Lodge in the far south west of the reserve, or Seringa Lodge in the south east. The first part of the route covers country that riders will now be somewhat familiar with, but soon enters new terrain. In places the bush is thick but after a while the scenery opens up to grasslands with sweeping views to the south and west. Riding through this landscape gives riders a sense of the vastness of the African plains. The area boasts a very high concentration of game with herds of over 300 blesbuck, or 80 eland, often sighted. Other species which are home to the plains include red hartebeest, tsessebe and ostrich. There are plentiful zebra, wildebeest, impala and giraffe, and smaller groups of sable, roan and waterbuck. The final stretch to Savannah Lodge is along a wooded stream where kudu and bushbuck are likely to be seen. After a relaxing time around the pool and within the sophisticated lodges, it is time to ride to the southern most areas of the reserve in search of Cape buffalo. These are members of Africa’s famous “big five” and deserve their formidable reputation. Riders therefore need to be alert and responsive to the guides’ instructions. This area is known for its spectacular sunsets as the sun sets over the distant headlands of the Waterberg escarpment – a fitting end to an eventful and memorable day in the African wilderness.

Day 5 Tuesday: After an early start, another long ride through game rich country returns riders to the heart of the operation at the Lodge. The route taken is different from that taken on the outward leg, turning this part of the safari into an exciting journey passing through diverse landscapes and ecosystems.  Game species typically prefer different habitats, with nyala and bushbuck for instance occupying dense forest-like sections of the reserve while blesbuck and hartebeest stick to the open plains, and waterbuck and reedbuck, unsurprisingly, are normally seen close to streams and other waterways. The route provides excellent opportunities to see giraffe, which is always a highlight. At the Lodge, guests embark on the road transfer to Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana with Saddlebag Shuttles.

Having crossed the mighty Limpopo River, guests are received at the Mashatu stables where you will enjoy a light lunch, receive a safety briefing and meet their horses. The route this afternoon is from the Stables to Two Mashatus, a tented camp nestled in the shade near the great river. It follows the floodplains, with good opportunities for those first exciting encounters with elephant, giraffe, zebra, ostrich and wildebeest. The route crosses close to a large wetland area which acts as a magnet for game and there is even a chance to come across bat eared fox, black backed jackal and spotted hyena. It then crosses the Majali River close to its confluence with the Limpopo, a favourite haunt of leopards and a resident pride of lion. Across an open plain the welcoming camp awaits.

Day 6 Wednesday: The riding explores the game rich area along the Majali and Pitsani Rivers. Overall the pace is relaxed, with the guides responding to the herds whilst keeping their eyes peeled for the big cats. In the afternoon there is the option of a bush walk or a shorter ride, maybe to the banks of the Limpopo River where elephants are often seen bathing or crossing.  

Day 7 Thursday: Following breakfast at dawn, riders set off first along the Majali and then the Mataboli rivers in a north western arc towards the beautifully appointed Tree Camp. The route typically yields rich encounters with elephant, waterbuck, giraffe, impala, wildebeest and zebra. Signs of the many predators that make these rich riverine environments their home are bountiful, and chance encounters possible. The ride typically takes between four and five hours, and for riders the sense of adventure is palpable. Tree Camp will be reached in time for a refreshing shower and lunch. After a welcome rest in the comfort of the camp, nestled in the cooling shade of the majestic Mashatu Tree, a hearty tea will be served. This is followed by a guided bush walk up the Majali River in search of crocodile and other game. Kudu, warthog, klipspringer and eland are all present in the area around the camp, as are elephant, lion and hyena. Waterfowl fly low past the camp and birdsong abounds. This is a truly beautiful place and it is impossible not to immerse oneself in nature and experience the exceptional qualities of Africa’s wilderness areas. An alternative to the bush walk is a game drive with Mashatu Game Reserve, (subject to availability). The probability of encountering lion and leopard on such a drive is very high, given the guides’ intimate knowledge of the big cats’ ranges and habits.  

Day 8, Waking in Tree Camp is a magical experience. One feels fully immersed in nature, surrounded by birdsong, and alive to the new day as the early morning light filters through the majestic tree’s leaves. After a quick breakfast, riders set off on the final ride of the safari. This ride offers sweeping views to the east and south, bathed in early morning light, as it traverses along the edge of a ridge near the centre of the reserve. The path then descends to a game rich area along the Majali River. The deep river pools are the favourite haunt of baboon and impala. Sooner or later the great herds of elephant come past for their daily drink, to play in the water and enjoy a dust bath. The final part of the ride is across open plains with some fast canters to the Stables. Other notable sightings include Kori Bustard, the largest flying birds in Africa, bat eared foxes and ostrich. Once at the Stables it time for a shower and meal on the banks of the great river, and then a short journey to the Limpopo Valley Airfield for the flight to Johannesburg in South Africa.

Please be aware that due to changes in weather and other unforeseen events the itinerary may be changed at the last minute.


Dates and prices

"Book on request" means that we cannot confirm your booking immediately, but we will get back to you as soon as possible with a booking confirmation, normally within 24 hours on weekdays.

DateDaysName of tripPrice from
31/05/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika Explorer
Fully booked
EUR 3,350Book on request
07/06/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
14/06/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
21/06/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
28/06/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
05/07/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
12/07/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika Explorer
Fully booked
EUR 3,350Book on request
19/07/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika Explorer
Fully booked
EUR 3,350Book on request
26/07/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
02/08/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika Explorer
Fully booked
EUR 3,350Book on request
09/08/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
16/08/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
23/08/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
30/08/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
06/09/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
13/09/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
20/09/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
27/09/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
04/10/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
11/10/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
18/10/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
25/10/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
01/11/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
08/11/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
15/11/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika Explorer
Fully booked
EUR 3,350Book on request
22/11/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
29/11/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 3,350Book on request
06/12/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 2,838Book on request
13/12/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 2,838Book on request
20/12/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 2,838Book on request
27/12/20248South Africa and Botswana - Afrika ExplorerEUR 2,838Book on request

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