Outstandingly dramatic, Botswana encompasses striking salt pans, diamond-rich deserts and fertile flood plains which teem with game. The north and south offer superb wildlife-watching opportunities, making this one of southern Africa's top equestrian horseback riding safari destinations. Hidden Trails offer three excellent Botswana horse back riding holidays – from luxury game lodges to the stunning Okavango Delta.
Horse Riding in Botswana
Great game herds still roam Botswana in tremendous numbers. The country has not been touched by the political and poaching problems which have plagued so much of the continent. Most of the incomparable animals of Africa can be seen here; prepare to spot hippopotamus, elephant, giraffe, zebra, antelope, impala, cape buffalo, hyena, and over six hundred different types of birds. Botswana is a country the size of Kenya with only five percent of the population and a prosperous economy.
Botswana is home to the Okavango River, the third largest in Africa. The Okavango rises in Angola and empties into the Kalahari Desert, contributing to the amazing and prolific Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary. Our Okavango Delta Safari emerses you in this spectacular wildlife area, with some unbelievable opportunities to horse ride amongst Africa’s wildest creatures. In the south you find the wild and undiscovered Mashatu Wilderness with its large herds of elephants - the perfect place to canter with zebras or wildebeest. We offer two horse riding safaris here – the Tuli Riding Safari and the Mashatu Deluxe Safari.
The Okavango Delta: Africa's Last Frontier
The Okavango Delta is one of the world’s largest inland water systems. It's headwaters start in Angola’s western highlands, with numerous tributaries joining to form the Cubango river, which then flows through Namibia (called the Kavango) and finally enters Botswana, where it is then called the Okavango.
Millions of years ago the Okavango river use to flow into a large inland lake called Lake Makgadikgadi (now Makgadikgadi Pans).
Tectonic activity and faulting interrupted the flow of the river causing it to backup and form what is now the Okavango delta. This has created a unique system of water ways that now supports a vast array of animal and plant life that would have otherwise been a dry Kalahari savanna.
The delta’s floods are fed from the Angolan rains, which start in October and finish sometime in April. The floods only cross the border between Botswana and Namibia in December and will only reach the bottom end of the delta (Maun) sometime in July,
Taking almost nine months from the source to the bottom. This slow meandering pace of the flood is due to the lack of drop in elevation, which drops a little more than 60 meters over a distance of 450 kilometers. The delta’s water dead ends in the Kalahari – via the Botetle river, with over 95 per cent of the water eventually evaporating.
The delta environment has large numbers of animal populations that are otherwise rare, such as crocodile, red lechwe, sitatunga, elephant, wild dogs, buffalo, wattled crane as well as the other more common mammals and bird life.
The best time for game viewing in the delta is during the May-October period, as the animal life is concentrated along the flooded areas and the vegetation has dried out. The best time for birding and vegetation is during the rainy season (Nov.- April) as the migrant bird populations are returning and the plants are flowering and green.
In only a few days it is possible to spot 100 to 200 different types of birds. After the rainy season, when the delta is flooded, you will horseback ride across river channels from island to island. In the drier areas around the flood plain there are some good opportunities for trots and canters. Your hosts are exceptionally accommodating and knowledgeable. You will stay at very comfortable British-style safari camps and begin each day with a sunrise ride to the animals' favorite resting places. Botswana is one of the few remaining destinations in Africa that still provides a good sense of the adventure of safari. Its expansive game parks and preserves combined with wildlife as diverse and abundant as that found anywhere else, are still largely undeveloped and untamed.
Mashatu Game Reserve
The remote far eastern corner of Botswana, at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers, is historically known as the Tuli Block. It forms a diverse wilderness of savannah, riverine forests, marshland, open plains and sandstone outcrops. Located in the north-eastern Tuli Block, Mashatu Game Reserve - historically known as the Tuli enclave - is the largest privately owned game reserve in southern Africa covering an expanse of 75,000 acres. Mopane veld and open acacia savannah stretch southwards to the thick riverine vegetation of the mighty Limpopo River.
The name is derived from the magnificent Mashatu trees, which occur throughout this immense tract of privately owned land. Two of Africa's giants are found here: massive time-worn baobab trees stud the plains where huge herds of elephant roam. Indeed, Mashatu provides a refuge for the largest single population of elephant on privately owned land in Africa. Known as the relic herds of Shashe, these elephants are the last living testament to the great herds that once populated the meandering Limpopo Valley. Today, the population on Mashatu Game Reserve alone is estimated to number in excess of 500.
Mashatu is also home to prides of lion and cheetah. Along the river courses, huge Mashatu trees provide shade for eland, impala, wildebeest, giraffe and zebra. As night falls, the bat-eared fox, African wildcat and magnificent leopard search for prey. Some 366 species of birds may be seen.
This area of history and legend is a place of exceptional beauty where one can enjoy guided explorations of the rugged, unspoilt African landscape on horse back.
In addition to the game experience, Mashatu offers a view of Africa unchanged since the days of early visitors such as Kipling, Selous and artist/explorer Sir Thomas Baines. Interwoven with this natural tapestry are reminders of man's presence in ancient times. In the north-eastern part of Mashatu, black eagles nest at the Motloutse Ruins, the remains of an ancient civilisation thought to be connected to the dynasty of Monomatapa.
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