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In April this year I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to visit Namibia. Mention this country to anyone who has seen it for themselves and you are sure to be regaled with stories of a land of great beauty and diversity. Namibia’s astounding landscapes are far from subtle. From the towering rust-coloured dunes of Sossusvlei and the rugged mountain ranges of the central plateau, to the Kalahari with its ancient deep-red sands and the tropical forests and woodland savannahs of Kavango and Caprivi, Namibia’s topography and scenery offer astounding diversity in just one country.
However short or long your stay, wherever you go, this country has to be seen to be believed. Let me try to make a start…..
At In The Saddle, we are often asked about what makes a perfect riding safari. There are many ingredients that can make a good safari great, but we think the top priorities include top quality horses, variety of game, excellent guiding and fabulous riding. At Okapuka you will find these in abundance.
Soon after your arrival, you’ll be taken down to the ranch’s impressive stables. Almost immediately it becomes apparent just how much passion Ingeborg and Sacha have for the horses. Each stable is light and airy, with a spacious section at the back of the stable separated by an archway where the horses can go for some peace and quiet, a snooze or to eat. These are some lucky horses!
Out in the paddocks it is a similar story, as sleek Arabians contentedly munch on their hay, enjoy a roll or mooch about with their paddock-mates. For those who are interested, Ingeborg and Sacha can tell you each horse’s age, breeding, likes and dislikes.
Under saddle, the horses are light in the mouth and well-schooled. Out on a ride you will appreciate their balance and responsiveness as you trot along sandy tracks, negotiate rocky terrain as you climb up into the mountains, or speed along through the bush as a fast canter. What I loved about the horses at Okapuka was that their spirit and individuality, instead of being quashed, has been relished. They might just shy at a blade of grass or a log that they have seen hundreds of times. These are not your average trail horses (and would look haughtily at you if you suggested otherwise!). They are well-bred, forward going, packed full of character and perfect for competent riders who enjoy a spirited horse.
The riding is varied. One day you might set off on a morning ride in search of game such as hartebeest, blesbok, giraffe, wildebeest, white rhino and sable. Pause to watch elegant giraffe nibble daintily at some lofty foliage or perhaps your canter will be interrupted as a family of warthog cross the path in front of you.
In the afternoon you might ride down to the lake for the chance to see the resident crocodile, before continuing your ride across the reserve. Later on, pause for a sundowner; enjoy a refreshing drink as you watch the sun slide down towards the horizon creating a wonderful African sunset of pinks, oranges and purples.
During a week-long stay there should be the chance for a picnic ride. After breakfast, set off across the savannah tracking game. Perhaps have a canter along a dry river bed, or challenge yourself with a canter of up to 10km! Stop for a delicious picnic lunch during the hottest hours of the day. A table is laid out for you in a picturesque spot, with ice-cold drinks ready and waiting for you. After a relaxing siesta, the horses are saddled once more and you’ll ride back to the lodge in time for a dip in the pool to cool off.
Accommodation is in Thatched Park rooms, which are a short walk from the main lodge. These rooms have an en-suite shower room and are furnished in tasteful African style. Each has a ceiling fan, fridge and telephone. Or you can choose to stay closer to the horses, in the spacious and modern Stable Rooms. Meals are taken in the restaurant at the main lodge, or if you prefer, at the bar. Quite often, game such as wildebeest, springbok and gemsbok gather on the lawns outside the lodge in the evening.
My time at Okapuka was action-packed; filled with good company, super riding, great game sightings and stunning scenery. Let Okapuka, Namibia and Ingeborg’s wonderful horses let you experience a riding safari you will never forget.
Abbie Wood, 23rd April, 2012