How to do a horseback safari in the Waterberg

Posted on 22 July 2013

“I’ll only get on the oldest, laziest one you’ve got.” This was the non-negotiable condition set in stone by my sister as we prepared ourselves for a horse-back safari ride. I beamed at the thought of getting back in the saddle, whereas she was concentrating on psyching herself up to surrender her safety and morning to a horse named Nelson.

We were lapping up the warm winter sunshine and African bush sights, smells and sounds on a weekend away at The Ant Collection Bush Homes  set on a private game reserve in the Waterberg. What sets it apart from other safari lodges comes on four legs with a mane and tail. The horse-back safari rides were said to be a “must-do”, and so it was that we found ourselves donned in riding helmets and mounted on game-watching vehicles of the equestrian variety. (Not in Limpopo? Read: horseback safari in Kwa-Zulu Natal.)

From atop my safari horse, I was part of that African bush. We comfortably clip-clopped our way into the game reserve in single file and were immediately immersed in our wild surroundings. There was something soothing yet invigorating about feeling the morning breeze on my face, smelling the hint of a blackjack bush nearby and whipping my head around to every rustle and twig-breaking noise to see what could have caused it. I was alert to the bushveld’s every communication.


Game-viewing from horseback

My sister and Nelson got better acquainted just in front of me while I had a prime view of his rear end and the Waterberg mountain range in the distance. She cooed her expectations of a quiet, slow and calm ride to him while sitting like a pro in the cowboy-style saddle and concentrated on relaxing into the ride. At Ant’s,  guests can custom design their activities and experiences to suit their own preferences and personalities. If a fast-paced, heart-racing, adrenalin-focused ride (including canters along the plains and even some water-crossings) is your order of the day, just say the word and it will be so. In our case, this ride had to be custom-made, slow and steady or else my sister would scorn the guides for breaking her trust and never be able to look at Nelson or any other horse with affection again. We got what she ordered: a game-watching horse-ride at an easy pace and all the perks of great wildlife sightings along the way too. It was just perfect.

As my tall, chestnut horse, Kariba, plodded past a mother zebra, they nodded to each other and muttered their greetings. I wonder what they were saying about us in their low-toned language. The zebra and her foal were completely at ease around us and we got closer to them than I have ever managed on any game-drive. I could make out their long, thick eyelashes and count the stripes on their barrel-shaped bodies. The horses are the calming factor in these encounters as the wildlife accept them as equals and don’t see them or their riders as a threat.


Rhinos drinking at a waterhole on the reserve

The Waterberg Biosphere is home to over 40 species of game including the rare sable antelope, 300 species of migrant birds and over 2000 different plant, tree and grass species. We passed by some of these as they went about their usual morning’s business. We had a staring contest with a stunning, big waterbuck male and watched a warthog family who seemed to mimic our single-file formation as they jogged off, but with tails in the air. A small herd of blue wildebeest showed off by prancing around in front of us but our horses were difficult judges to impress and moved off without giving the beasts much attention. The trees were alive with bird chatter and squirrels busied themselves with their to-do lists too.

The safari ride was a definite highlight of our weekend at Ant’s. The rest of our time there was a combination of a great game drives, striking sunset views (including one seen from our outdoor bath) and a dinner out in the bush under the starred duvet of the Milky Way. But the most memorable views were still from atop that safari horse named Kariba.


A bath with a view at Ant's Hill

Featured image credit: The Ant’s Collection

 The Ant’s Collection


Tel. 014-755-3584, email [email protected]

For more accomodation option in Waterberg, check out Getaway Accomodation.



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