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Posted on April 18, 2023
In March 2023 Becky from In The Saddle was lucky enough to join the ‘Big Five Safari’ at Wait A Little camp in South Africa. In this blog she tells us of her experience.
This safari was unlike any other I have done before and became a week’s adventure up close and personal with big game.
Having arrived into Johannesburg on an overnight flight from London we were then driven to Wait A Little a journey of around 6 hours including a few breaks. It was lovely to drive across country and see the landscape changing as we travelled. Our flight had been delayed and so unfortunately we arrived late and missed our first afternoon ride but we were able to join the rest of the group for a sundowner in the bush before dinner.
There aren’t many places where you can see all the big five, especially from horseback. Since you are trying to spot wild animals in thick bush, sightings are never guaranteed but we were lucky enough to see all of the big five (rhino, elephant, leopard, lion & buffalo) on our seven night itinerary – four of these from horseback!
On our first morning ride, our superb guide Jo was able to track a white rhino. As we approached we allowed the horses to graze and so the rhino was very calm and ended up wandering over to say hello. I’ve got to say, my heart was in my chest!
I absolutely adore elephants and our group was very lucky to have some great sightings from the vehicle and also on horseback. One afternoon we set off and after tracking through the tough terrain, we came across this large group heading to the river. They were magnificent.
Leopards are very elusive and it’s not easy to see these amazing cats up close. Our guide Patson at Xidulu was an amazing tracker and whilst on a game drive, he managed to find a beautiful young female relaxing in a tree.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about being up close to a lion (or several) from horseback but when the time came, it was breath taking. While on a long morning ride, Jo was able to track the pride down to the river where we were given a great view of two lionesses. The horses stood in place and grazed whilst the lions watched us back!
We thought that the buffalo would be the easiest to see but it wasn’t until our last morning that we spotted one! When we’d looked previously, the lions had chased the herd away and so we were lucky that a big bull was still in the area. He was humongous but luckily was quite relaxed as the horses grazed nearby.
Riding the horses at Wait A Little was a pleasure. They are very well schooled since each one is ridden in the arena when not on safari. This ensures that they remain fit and responsive each time they head out with guests.
It was very interesting to hear Gerti and Philip (the owners of Wait A Little) talk about how they train their safari horses. Since the vegetation is so thick in the area – especially after the rains – it’s hard to spot potentially dangerous game and easy to stumble upon it unexpectedly. Therefore unlike other safaris, at Wait A Little if the group come face to face with an elephant or other large animal, the horses need to be able to stand their ground. This is because there often isn’t space to get out of the way quickly.
One of the important rules while riding was that during a game encounter we should bunch together so we looked like one large object. It was also important to let the horses graze as this would relax the game and also allow us to get even closer – if safe to do so.
Wait A Little camp has four spacious tents. Each tent has a bathroom, outdoor shower, deck and large double bed (that can also become two twin beds). There is also one tent that is double the size and suitable for family groups or multiple friends sharing. The main lodge has a bar, comfortable sitting area, outdoor & indoor dining as well as a beautiful sundowner area. It’s truly glamping at it’s finest.
The pool area is the perfect place to relax after a morning ride and if your muscles are sore, Precious gives amazing massages.
On the seven night safari you stay four nights at Wait A Little camp, one night at Beacon Rock and two nights at Xidulu on the neighbouring Makalali reserve. At Beacon rock you sleep around the campfire, under the stars, which is a wonderful experience. Xidulu, on the other hand, is a private luxury home with beautiful chalets. The house has an infinity pool overlooking a hippo dam which is the perfect place to spend time after lunch.
The food served at Wait A Little was just amazing. Breakfast was a light meal around 06:00 before heading out on the horses. It consists of toast, fruits, tea, coffee and juice to set you up for the morning ride. After the ride there is usually time for a quick shower before ‘brunch’. This meal is around 11:00 and might be quiche/bakes, salads, fresh bread, cheeses and fruit. The brunches were really lovely and always so colourful and fresh.
Dinner in the evening is a three course affair. Starters ranged from beetroot & feta to soup and main courses were varied but always yummy. It is safe to say that you will not be hungry whilst at Wait A Little.
Having ridden in South Africa and also in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, I thought that Wait A Little was a unique experience. Due to the terrain and vegetation, the game encounters were incredibly close. On other safaris, I’ve seen lion and elephant in the distance – then, we’ve ridden away and came back in a vehicle. However at Wait A Little, our game encounters were up close and personal which was breath taking.
The guides’ knowledge of the game and being able to read the animals was invaluable. Jo would know when the game was relaxed, if it was getting anxious or if we needed to remove ourselves. He was able to make us feel confident in front of the game and allow us some truly awesome sightings.
If you’re an experienced, fit rider looking for your next safari, then visit Wait A Little for a winning combination of horses, game and luxury. Riding weeks run throughout the year on set dates and with most of 2023 already full, the diary is open for 2024.
If you’d like to find out more please contact Becky on +44 1299 272 244 or email email@example.com.