Hello Readers and Friends. Some of you may know that I recently had the opportunity to travel to Africa for a glorious riding experience. I thought I would take this opportunity to share stories of my journey (since we all enjoy a passion for horses and riding) and some photos taken along the way. The trip was organized through my friends Mel and Bayard Fox of Equitours Horseback Vacations Worldwide (www.ridingtours.com). I’ve been privileged to travel with them to many parts of the world and every ride has been a true adventure. But this trip was just brilliant in so many ways and for so many reasons. Let me tell you more.
In the heart of this beautiful country located in the central area of southern Africa, surrounded by Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, lies the vast sand basin of the Kalahari Desert, covering 80% of the country. We began our six-day adventure having flown from JoBurg to Maun. That night we stayed at the fun Royal Tree Lodge to catch our breath then off the next day to Makgadikgadi and on to the fabulous Kalahari Camp where we were based for the next two nights. Oh WOW, the staff was great, the food and drink exceptional and we had lions in camp for two nights (not so good but exciting). Their roars woke us at night and kept the staff awake to protect the horses-- which had drawn them there to begin with. Horses don’t normally live at camp but are brought in for safaris.
 

Our first days of riding took us out to the “land of a thousand islands” where we began to get a true lay of the land and scope of the surrounding desert and of course, get to know our equine partners.

Our guide, David Foote of Ride Botswana Safari (ridebotswana.com), had already made us feel at home and comfortable in this foreign land first, with his choice of horses for each of we seven riders and mostly with his kid-like manner, great sense of humor and skill as an equestrian safari guide. We had adventure after adventure with David. The riding was fast and at times even a little wild (good wild) but we all were well up to the task. Here is what David says about our ride:

“The Makgadikgadi has everything a rider wants – great horses, safe ground and as it is officially recognized as ‘the largest area on earth of nothing’ you can ride forever! Throw in the wildlife of Africa and you have one of Africa’s iconic rides”

Botswana is home to a small, big-eyed creature called a Meerkat. David rode us out to a Meerkat habitat to see what these little guys were all about. They are typically “habituated” by a local (meaning a guy rides his bike out to their dwelling each day to hang with them and get them accustomed to human contact). It’s a good tourist attraction for the country but we were the only “tourists” around and had the entire colony of Meerkats to ourselves. We spent the next hour as they climbed upon our heads, checked out the strange looking 4-legged creatures we came in on and dug for food—all while we watched in joyful amazement.
Our days in the saddle were simply spectacular—covering sand dunes awash in palm trees, catching glimpses of zebra, wildebeest, ostrich and more. On day three, we headed eastward on a long days ride to our first fly camp for an unforgettable adventure, past giant Baobob trees bearing signatures from David Livingstone and other early explorers from the mid 1800’s.
On the way, David (not Livingstone) had us do a photo shoot on the wide-open pans that he called “the moon landing!” Just take a look at some of these photos and you’ll get the idea. In fact, David staged a number of shoots that allowed us to capture surreal photos, especially George jumping off his horse into mid air. What a hoot…and what great memories.
Our final day on the Pan, we rode out under the moon (it was the Super Moon—the brightest moon for the last 100 or so years) to our camp-out on cots under the stars. And woke up to an amazing sunrise. In the end, here is what David had to say about our group:


"It was an absolute pleasure to host Mel Fox of Equitours and her first group of adventurous lady riders (and of course the usual token male rider!). Some safaris feel like work whilst others feel like a holiday – with this group it was a magical holiday.” Thank you David. Thank you Mel. Thank you to all my fellow riders who helped to make this a “dream come true!!!”


So now we head off to Winkhoek, Namibia for our second and longer round of riding through Damaraland to the Skeleton Coast. The Damaraland trail is a nearly inaccessible area with wild desert mountains and scrubby plateaus. Oh but it is magnificent. At no point were we anything less than awestruck by our surroundings and our campsites, where we slept on cots under the stars every night (and when I say stars, I MEAN STARS). Just breathtaking!

The southern constellation offers brilliant views of The Southern Cross, Scorpio and much more. Our guide, Andrew Gillies (see Equitours for details on Namibia rides), was excellent at pointing out the various constellations. We learned lots from him. So each night, we fell asleep to “star light, star bright.” The overall ride of eight days covered approximately 200 miles. We’d do anywhere from 25-30 km per day. Most of them were exhilarating and yes, exhausting but each evening we ended up at a fully set up camp with “sundowners” waiting.
In Twyfelfontein, a World Heritage Site were we camped for the first two nights, we saw extraordinary rock engravings, most dating back at least 6000 years to the early Stone Age. It is believed they are the work of the ancient San hunters. Here are a few photos.

In the following days, our ride took us across endless plains and dry riverbeds. The land was very dry everywhere we went thus viewings of wildlife were scarce. However, we did see Elephant, Giraffe, Gemsbok, Springbok and Baboon, but sadly, no black Rhino, even at the Save The Rhino Camp where we stayed night four. We camped at View Point where we had a spectacular view of Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain. Each camp night we were treated to the amazing kitchen skills and delicious meals prepared by Telanie and Melinda, all cooked over the fire--the traditional braai—typical for Namibia. The food was spectacular even for a vegetarian.

 

As our trip neared the end and we approached the Atlantic on it’s West Coast (very odd for a Jersey Shore girl who grew up on the East Coast of the Atlantic) the temperatures dropped considerably but the ride to the sea was nothing less than spectacular. Champagne on the Atlantic was the perfect ending to a magnificent ride.


There is so much more I could tell you about these two rides but you can always check out more details through the Equitours website. If you have an adventurous bone in your body and want the ride of a lifetime, don’t wait. Just do it. You won’t regret it. For information on either or both of these rides, contact www.equitours.com. For one who has been blessed to ride in many parts of this glorious world, I must say that these were my favorites, far and beyond. David and Andrew and their teams look forward to seeing more of our friendly American faces in the future.

Hope you enjoyed this small glimpse into my spectacular journey into Africa.

Cheers from Ginna Frantz, Grand Prix Equestrian.

Grand Prix Equestrian - Where Horse and Rider Come Together As One!

45W015 Welter Road, Maple Park, IL 60151 - www.grandprixequestrian.com
For Information Contact: Ginna Frantz, Owner - gfrantz@grandprixequestrian.com - 312-593-446