Horseback Riding Vacations - Horseback safaris

Okavango Horseback Safaris General Information

Okavango Horse Safaris is owned and run by PJ and Barney Bestelink. Born and brought up in Namibia. PJ studied geology and spent his early years researching mineral deposits in Botswana. Over the last 30 years he has acquired extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Delta region. PJ’s bush craft is highly respected and his fishing exploits well known. He is also an experienced bush pilot.

Barney learned to ride in Kenya and formally trained with the British Horse Society in England. She has competed internationally, exhibiting in the United Kingdom and in the race of champions in the United States. After accumulating a wealth of equine veterinary knowledge, she now provides the majority of the veterinary care required as well as all the farrier work.

A combination of Barney’s love of horses and wildlife inspired Okavango Horse Safaris. Her twenty plus years of riding through the bush in Botswana, has earned her an extensive knowledge of the area through which she guides each safari.

PJ, with his wife Barney pioneered the concept of safari on horseback. Okavango Horse Safari was established in 1986, and are both professional guides.

Accommodation

Kujwana Camp

Kujwana camp is situated on the Xudum River south west of Chief’s Falcon in the Okavango Delta. The camp accommodates a maximum of 10 guests in spacious safari tents (each with en suite facilities). The Camp allows guests to explore the three main river systems in this area, the Xudum, Matsebi and the Kiri Rivers. This is an area rich in wildlife, and the areas between the three rivers contrast greatly and support different species of game and birds.

Mokolwane Camp

Mokolwane camp is north-west of Kujwana on the Matsebi River. This camp is situated in the open flood plains which receive the annual flood water 3 weeks earlier than Kujwana camp. The area has open flood plains, interspersed with small palm islands. Mokolwane also accommodates a maximum of 10 guests. Accommodation is in tree houses, which are some 3 metres off the ground ­ allowing for excellent views. Accommodation is all en suite (pulley showers and flush toilets)

Fly Camp

Kiri/ Xwaapu Fly Camp is situated north east of Kujwana Camp in the permanent water line of the Delta. This camp is temporary and the site moves according to water levels. With its deep lagoons and papyrus beds this is a good area for hippo and lechwe, as well as buffalo and other big game. Accommodation is in walk in meru tents, with camp beds, and bedrolls. The term Fly camp means temporary camp easily moved (from the days when you moved your fly sheet rather than you whole tent). There is a pulley shower, and long drop toilet for each tent.

Meals

Safari cooks prepare 3 meals a day plus saddlebag picnic breakfasts and vehicle support picnic lunches. Emphasis is on fresh vegetables and salads. Fresh bread is baked every day. Vegetarians are catered for. Light lunches, cold meats, salads and 3 course dinners served by candle light at the dining table near the campfire.

Iced drinks are available. Beer, bottled water, an assortment of cool drinks and limited choice of spirits (for your own account). Cordials, tea and coffee are freely available and house wine is served with dinner.

Riding ability

Minimum riding ability required is mastery of the basic aids, ability to post to the trot for stretches of 10 minutes at a time, to be comfortable at all paces and to be able to gallop out of trouble. It is a great advantage if you are a fit and a proficient rider.

There is a maximum group size of 8 riders, per Safari. All Safaris are led by a professional guide. You spend between 4 and 6 hours in the saddle a day. This is broken by refreshment stops - picnic breakfast or lunch and a 10-minute walk for every two hours spent in the saddle. This eases up the rider using different muscles, and also allows for a break for the horses.

The Okavango Delta has been described as a water meadow. Palm islands, grassy flood plains, mopane forests and clear streams. Highest water is normally between May and September. Many of the flood plains are full at this time and the horses wade through from Falcon to Falcon. The going is normally quite good and firm along the edges of the islands allowing the ride to move on at a trot and canter.

Horses

Full and part Thoroughbred, pure Arab, Anglo Arab, American Saddle Bred. Horses are between 14 and 17 hands. They are well-schooled, responsive and even tempered. As there are more than 50 horses, there is a mount suitable for all riders, and every effort is made to match horse and rider.

Weight limits

Maximum weight is 200 lbs for a novice rider and 210 lbs for an advanced rider (14 ½ stone or 90 kg).

Tack

English Style and each saddle has a seat saver for comfort. Tack is of high quality and kept in good condition. Saddles are well known makes such as Ideals, Barnsby, and Symonds.  Most horses are in snaffle bridles.

What to bring

As transfers are by light aircraft, there are strict luggage restrictions. Each passenger is only allowed 15 kilogram’s, which has to be packed in a soft hold-all type bag. Excess luggage can be left in Maun. All clothes should be neutral, khaki or bush coloured for riding and walking.

2 pairs of Jodhpurs
Half chaps

Light Cotton Trousers (to wear in the evenings)

Shorts    (useful for the mid day breaks)

Long sleeve shirt (advisable as protection from the sun)

T Shirts

Swim suit

Kikoi or Sarong

Socks (recommend 2 changes per day, and laundry service is available)

Rubber Flip Flops/ light shoes

Riding Shoes (long boots not recommended)

Sweat shirt

Warm Jacket (particularly from April to September)

Hard Hat recommended, and a wide brim / straw for shade

Riding Gloves

Plastic Poncho (for the rainy season – November to March)

Torch and spare batteries

Sunglasses

Sunblock and lip balm

Insect repellent

Antihistamine cream and pills

Bum bag

Camera, film, binoculars

Laundry is done daily in camp but not when moving to fly camp.  All laundry is washed by hand by camp staff.  Ladies underwear and other personal items are not done at the laundry, and washing powder is provided in the bathrooms.

Other activities

Although the priority is riding, guests can enjoy alternative activities during the afternoons that are not day rides. A 6 hour morning can be tiring so afternoons are spent at leisure with evening bird walks or mokoro rides (water levels permitting). Afternoon game drives and night game spotting are also offered.

Non riders

Non riders are catered for, and have their own guide, and activities offered are game drives, walks, and mekoro excursions. These guests move camp along with the riders.

Children

Children are accepted, but must be strong and competent riders. They should have a certificate from a pony club or qualified teacher to attest to this.