Rianne recently headed out on a solo equestrian adventure. Here are her top moments from her time on Botswana’s Tuli Trail and at Horizon Lodge, in South Africa.
What were your top 5 moments in the saddle?
Choosing a top 5 moment in the saddle is really hard. Every day just had something special; sometimes, it happened when we weren’t even in the saddle. So I decided to make it into a top 7 because it was impossible to choose… I loved my time riding in the Tuli and am so grateful that I also got to experience a few nights at Horizon in South Africa (Read Part 1 here)
1. The sundowner ride on Saturday at Mashatu camp
We went for an afternoon ride and turned towards camp as the sun was setting. It was just magical cantering in that beautiful light. Our lead guide Tsauni cracked the bullwhip a few times to let everyone know that we on our way were home. There was so much energy – All the horses were so excited, and everyone had a huge grin on their face. It was an incredible moment!
2. The ever curious giraffes
Giraffes are so photogenic with their long necks stretched out. They are almost like models just standing there and waiting for you to get that perfect picture. You can get so close to them that you can see their beautiful, big eyes, incredibly long lashes and unique patterns. It felt amazing to see these animals in the wild, with no fences and just meters away. Gave me goosebumps every time!
3. Racing through the bush!
One of the days in South Africa we went for were out for an extra-long ride. At some point, our lovely guide Owen, who likes to go fast, suggested a race – Just letting the horses gallop as fast as they could (but we also needed to check the brakes sometimes!) You can just feel the pure adrenaline and the freedom! It’s not something we get to experience often at home, and I would do it over and over again. It was so much fun, and the horses seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.
4. Seeing the Africa I dreamed of
Riding through the open wilderness of Botswana is like something straight out of a movie. The bush was filled with herds of zebras, wildebeest, gazelles, elephants, giraffes and other animals, including some youngsters. All of them grazing peacefully together, somehow warning each other if danger is around the corner. I enjoyed seeing that so much that I barely said a word. It was wonderful, just like I dreamed, and the scenery was so pretty, even in the winter.
5. Seeing a lion from horseback!
On one of our morning rides, our guide Tsauni spotted a male lion. He was just lying down in the sun and looking at us from a distance. We stood still for a few minutes to look at him but didn’t get much closer. This is a good thing, because the guides not only care about you and the horses, but also about the animals living there. The lion was resting, and we didn’t want to disturb that by getting too close. We could still see him from a distance, and I never imagined that I would get to see a lion from horseback. That’s something you dream of! We saw other lions on our game drive, getting closer to them than on horseback, but it wasn’t quite as thrilling.
6. Cross country jumping in Africa
I had a blast jumping both in South Africa and Botswana (completely optional). Whenever our guide Tsauni, asked if we were in for a jump, I got butterflies. I seldom jump back at home, as I have a dressage horse. But I do like to jump if given the chance. Luna and I jumped over some logs in Botswana. It felt amazing since he is such a great jumper and ever so brave. It really boosted my confidence too! South Africa has lots of small cross-country jumps set up along the routes, or you can pop over a few show jumps in the arena. I remember one afternoon with Magnum. It was a complete blast – he was just on fire! Couldn’t get enough of it!
7. Meeting like-minded people on safari
Last but not least are the long chats we had along the way in Botswana. Our group was just a perfect match of people, and definitely a highlight of my trip. Our three guides: Tsauni, Festus and Poloko, the two volunteers: Anneen and Caileigh and the two American guests. Not only getting tons of information and facts about the animals, but also we loved the jokes and getting to know each other. At some point, I remember talking about what our dream wedding would be like and what our daily life looked like. It definitely was never dull, and I’ll stay in touch with most of them. I already miss them so much! I’m glad I got to hang out with this group of amazing people. It really made the most out of my safari!
Bonus: A magical elephant encounter
This is not a moment in the saddle but still unforgettable. We booked an extra excursion to Mashatu’s hide to photograph any wildlife coming to drink. While there were not as many animals as we expected, we were extremely lucky with one big elephant putting up a whole show for us. He was playing with the water, splashing with his truck and making rainbows in the sunshine. It was so magical to see, and we were all so amazed! I loved that moment and am glad I captured it on camera! Plus we got to see a leopard up close in a tree when we were on our way to the hide. We just stared at him for what felt like an hour and watched him do his thing. Still can’t believe it! Can I just go back in time?
Rianne De Bruin, Tuli Horse Safari (July 2021)
Rianne is a Dutch Journalist student living in Veenwouden, The Netherlands. In her free time, she enjoys doing dressage on her gorgeous mare Kiantie. She loves new adventures and spent almost a year in the US as an exchange student, followed by a whirlwind tour of the country. Her favourite holiday (before this one!) was a trip to Norway where she saw the Northern lights and got to feed reindeer. She’s completely hooked on riding in Africa now and looking forward to another equestrian adventure with like-minded travellers.