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Posted on October 30, 2019
Read ITS guest Cathy Perkins’ account of her eighth visit to Wait A Little to find out why this destination calls her back time and time again.
“The taxi bumps along the gravel road, the last part of my journey to Wait A Little in South Africa, run and owned by Gerti and Philip Kusseler.
Anticipation is high and as the driver negotiates the gate, my welcoming party comprising Karongwe’s three male cheetahs, are lying out on the track. What a stunning start to my trip!
This is my eighth stay at Wait A Little and having met new guide Ray, we are soon mounted and riding towards the dry riverbed. Here our progress is soon halted by the elephant herd. They are digging into the sand to get to the water. Once their thirst is quenched, led by a big male, they gradually leave clambering up the river bank, disappearing into the lush bush. A lone female remains to guard their rear.
After some canters, we return to camp to find the elephants grazing beneath the decking. We watch from beside the fire, G&Ts in hand. Then to the table for the first of many delicious meals. Tonight Philip is the chef and we have springbok.
The next two days have long morning rides and shorter evening ones. Ray tracks the elephant. He wants to make amends for chasing them off during the night – they had pulled the water pipe out of the tank – whoops! Philip is not amused as thousands of litres have gone to waste.
We find the herd in deep bush, standing at a respectful distance and before long they wander up to us, before sauntering past. All is forgiven.
Kudu, jackal, zebra and impala scatter as we canter. We find tracks of lion and their cubs, leopard and rhino, but they remain elusive. My ride is Peroni, a Friesian cross. Suddenly he spooks at a rock monitor. Later he sniffs at a rock then licks it, savouring the scents of recent visitors!
Siesta time next, and from my decking I watch kudu, a lone buffalo, nyala, warthog, waterbuck and bushbuck.
I spot blue waxbills, blackbacked puffbacks, white-browed robin-chats, coucals, vultures to name but a few of the amazing bird life here.
For the evening ride I’m on Tau. Once Philip’s lead horse now at the grand age of 21, this Boerperd is crafty and canny. He loves his canters and has a determination to be near the front. He’s a real testament to Gerti’s care and training, just don’t try to trot him! Next it is off to the dam where we view hippos and have lots of birds to recognise. As we pass by, a jackal darts off. We stop to watch wildebeest, waterbuck and silently the elephant herd materialises out of the bush in front of us.
For the next ride I’m on Hardy, a bright bay Shire cross. I’m thrilled by a brilliant flash of colour as a Purple-Crested Turaco flies around us. Then we find a pregnant giraffe calmly chewing the cud.
A buffalo herd take priority on the track in front of us. We follow and then head into the bush where they come to view us. One young bull comes threateningly and uncomfortably close, so Ray tells him to “GO”- and he does!
On we go and find a river. It always happens to one – a hot horse decides to cool down – and yes the rider has a bath! Back to camp and after lunch, a siesta and chocolate cake, we’re off to the sleep-out at Beacon Rock. Now I’m on my favourite, a Boerperd called Ice.
Ice is full of himself, but acts as the perfect gent as we bump into the elephant herd and have to negotiate our way around them. Later as we’re cantering we turn a sharp corner. Ray abruptly halts us as a rhino mum and her baby occupy the track.
A male appears from the bush and curiosity gets the better of the baby who confidently walks towards us. As the sun drops, we watch the female push the male away, and with the youngster in tow, they head to water. With the track now clear, we continue to Beacon Rock. We leave the horses with the team and scramble to the top to watch the last of the light disappear and night descend on the reserve.
Sundowners taken, we shin our way down to the fire and our BBQ. Under the blood red moon and the host of constellations we sleep, horses munching their hay on a picket line beside us.
I slept well and am surprised to learn that a wildebeest had met a sticky end nearby at the hands of a leopard and that lions had then come to investigate. Surprises continue as we find we too had nocturnal visitors. The rhinos had visited, their tracks well inside our perimeter lights!
Once saddled we are off to the neighbouring reserve, Makalali. Here we stay for three nights at Xidulu Lodge an exquisite family home situated on a dam.
A crocodile, woolly-necked storks, marabou storks, spoonbills and sacred Ibis also call the dam their home, and it is a magnet for the thirsty wildlife.
We guests have an infinity pool to dip into should one be brave enough as being June the water is cold.
At Xidulu, we have long morning rides and evening game drives. Patson, our guide, is enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The highlight being when he finds the lions on a kill. His off-piste piloting skills make for eventful drives!
We watch two young male giraffe practising their sparring and a beautiful lilac-breasted roller settles on a bush to pose for the camera.
We find a rhino with her week-old baby.
By spotlight we also see a hyena and baby.
Philip takes over the guiding for the return to Karongwe. Highlights of the remaining days are again the elephants. We discover part of the herd in thick bush on a steep slope. The big male stands, just his tail flicking seemingly deep in thought, the matriarch watches from lower on the slope.
She is ready to protect her family should we pose a threat, yet she recognises our benevolence, the air is one of contentment. All is quiet except for branches being munched and odd rumbles as the herd communicates. The youngsters move around lifting their trunks to smell us and often come close.
I’m anxious as a warthog family comes between us and the elephants. Will they spook the herd? But no, they too remain calm and browse. A female kudu even passes silently behind us. When we move off, we leave the elephants to their day. Later we come across them again and watch amazed, as a 150 year old knobthorn tree shakes, creeks and cracks, then falls. The male nonchalantly walks past his handiwork. At least some lucky antelope will benefit from a floor level meal!
Philip then finds us the other male elephant to see. ‘Slippy’ is a magnificent animal, coming into his prime, with thick impressive tusks.
We halt at a respectful distance and he wanders up to us. How privileged are we to be so close, yet feel so comfortable.
Another evening and Philip finds us a lion. He should be one of four but is alone. He lies in the grass in front of us, not looking overly confident. Tau, my horse, eats contentedly, so I risk a photo.
When the time comes to leave, the backup rider leads us away and we follow at the walk, with Philip remaining in front of the lion. As he comes to join us, up jumps the lion; now he’s menacing…
Suddenly two of his mates pop up and the three of them converge on us; they’ve obviously decided we are their evening meal. Instructed to keep walking away, Philip turns his horse away from us and charges at the lions, cracking his bullwhip. The back-swing is inches from Tau and myself, but Tau never flinches. All the horses follow the backup calmly in walk, whilst the riders’ hearts race and adrenalin flows through our veins. Should one watch what is happening behind, or watch for the vicious thorns we have to negotiate? I was worried about where the fourth lion was. As for the lions – well they scatter into the bush no doubt to lick their battered egos. Philip’s skill in dealing with the lions and the calmness and ride-ability of the horses is testament to the professional standards of this safari.
The next day we find a group of buffalo, one male with fresh wounds, he also had a confrontation with the lions!
By now, these particular lions should have been relocated to a new reserve where they will establish their own pride.
After our final ride Gerti presents her musical Kur for us. Cabby’s prowess at passage, piaffe, tempi changes and pirouettes shows Gerti’s skill as both trainer and rider. All the horses I have ridden here over the years are light in the mouth, obedient and a delight to ride and all with their own character. They are much loved, extremely well cared for and have comfy tack which is in immaculate condition.
All too soon this ten day ride is over. New friends made, wonderful experiences that friends and family at home will never believe. Shall I return for the ninth time? – YES! This is such an incredible experience; it never fails to thrill, and every time is different. I’m taken outside of my comfort zone, educated in the ways of the wild and the need for conservation. Being able to interact with the wildlife is much more personal from horseback. The herbivores see you as fellow grazers and allow you to come close; the predators see you in a different way, but with Philip or Ray as your guide, you are certain to be well looked after.
How privileged I am to have found Wait A Little. Thank you Abbie for organising my trip”.
We have loved reading Cathy’s ride report and hope you have too. Cathy has already booked her ninth visit to Wait A Little next year!