Big Five Horse Riding Safari & Game Drives in Kruger

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Total Trip:

10 Days
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Countries Visited:

South Africa
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Places Visited:

Kruger, Makhutswe River, Makalali Private Game Reserve, Balule Game Reserve
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Gallop into the inspiring theater of the Kruger and ride horses into the landscape of Africa's great mammals. For seven days, journey deep into the bush to explore areas inaccessible to vehicles. Ride alongside zebras, watch elephants wander past and encounter the exhilarating sides of Kruger. Handcrafted for experienced riders, this 10-day itinerary blends raw adventure with luxury accommodation, plus two days of game drives that provide experiences with the big cats. 

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Customizable Itinerary

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Day 1

Makhutswe – Relaxed Welcomes Along the River

Fly to Hoedspruit via Johannesburg to touch down in the northeast of South Africa. One glance, and you sense the expressiveness of the landscape. Nature seems to roll uninterrupted, the bushveld unfurling until it blurs into the horizon. Observe the lack of development as just a couple of roads wind beneath the jackalberry trees as you are picked up at the airport for a short transfer to camp, where your luxury suite hangs elegantly above the Makhutswe River. Hippos are already visible, along with the tentative drinking of impala and springbok. In the late afternoon, head out on horseback, an easy ride that's designed as an introduction to the horses and the landscape. It's nothing strenuous, just a chance to get familiar before your big adventure begins.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Dinner

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Day 2

Makhutswe – Easy Riding and Getting Ready for the Safari Adventure

Wake up to an exciting morning as you canter across the plains and encounters the animals of Kruger.  A blur of black and white stripes passes by, and you follow the zebra on the move. Springbok skip across the grassland as you and the horse saunter slowly past. Then onwards, cross the rivers as hippos look on, then jump across the logs that elephants have pushed over. After the morning ride, return to camp for lunch and rest, perhaps while game viewing from the swimming pool before your afternoon ride begins.

Tomorrow, you will journey deep into the bush, so today is another chance to ensure you're comfortable on the horse and happy with the ride. There's a large paddock to choose from and always an emphasis on matching riders with the right horses, from bubbly young runners to beautiful stallions who are easy to control. This itinerary is tailored towards experienced riders as you'll need to be able to manage a horse confidently as you ride into the Big Five landscapes of Kruger. This evening at the camp is relaxed as the moonlight reveals what's drinking from the river below.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 3

Makalali Private Game Reserve – Crossing Plains Filled with Zebra, Wildebeest, and More

A favorite cliché is that the journey is as important as the destination, and that is certainly the theme of the day as you gallop off into Makalali, a private game reserve on the western fringes of Kruger National Park. Cross the vast open plains where the panoramas stretch for eternity, every angle filled with ungulate herds. Zebra and wildebeest dapple the landscape as you gallop up to and travel alongside. On a horse, you are just another plains animal, another small piece of the vast Kruger ecosystem. Cross the rivers as kudu drink, then canter along until you reach a tower of giraffes. Stop, admire their elegance, and return their inquisitive stare. Onwards, cross the open plains as elephants begin to grace the horizon as their trunks swing in the distance. It's a long ride and a raw adventure across a landscape that cannot be accessed by vehicles.

Expect five to six hours in the saddle today as, throughout the itinerary, the guides will operate at your preferred riding speed. The horses were born and raised on these wild open plains, so while they are not racehorses, they do have the stamina to maintain a gallop, or fast canter, for as long as you can. After lunch and rest, spend the late afternoon lounging on your verandah, as you gaze down on a dam. A resident hippo pod dominates the water, while elephants and hyenas regularly come here to drink. As night falls, notice even the odd lion roar to keep you company, an example of just how wild today's journey has been.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 4

Makalali Private Game Reserve – Exploring the Wildlife of the Kruger

Explore as you canter through the veldt as you twist and weave around the trees as your surefooted horse reveals the clues. An elephant herd drinks from the river, so you stop and admire as you watch them from the opposite bank. Eland and kudu dot the trail, and you can follow as you trust their instinct and saunter along the best path. Ascend the hill and mile after mile of untouched Africa spills out before your eyes, the landscape draped in a carpet of mystique. Wildebeest and buffalo are found by the edges of the dam and deep in the forest you find evidence of Africa's predators. After the morning ride, return to camp for lunch and a few relaxed hours to let the heat of the day drift away. The afternoon is open, and you can choose between another horse riding safari or a game drive in an open-sided vehicle.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 5

Makalali Private Game Reserve – Galloping Across Kruger's Inspiring Scale

Onwards, you will gallop deeper into the unspoiled bush land of the Kruger. You are getting further from the traditional trail, as you traverse the valleys that are out of the reach without a horse. An early start is essential, as the chance to see wildlife at its most active calls. Wildebeest are rutting, as they gallop with a bizarre frenzy to impress the females. Impala and springbok jump around to seek out new grazing pastures. Follow the black and white stripes along a remote trail, until a herd of bachelor buffalo stands in the way. Stop, retreat, and stay clear of their testosterone. The guides have an exceptional knowledge of this environment having grown up amongst the wildlife, so they are always analyzing behavior and understand when to turn around and when to approach a herd.

While the guides know today's destination, the route is always flexible to allow you to follow tracks and maximize game viewing. Arrive at a remote camp by early afternoon, where lunch is waiting and the surroundings continue the scent of exclusivity. An aromatherapy treatment at the camp's spa helps to soothe and reenergize for the next two days of Kruger horse riding safari. Like every evening, expect a gourmet dinner beneath the stars, and a beautiful view over the water.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 6

Makalali Private Game Reserve – Riding Further Into an Untouched Realm

Keep riding to follow the rhino horns that grace the bushland. White rhinos are relatively shy and showcase a grace that belies their certain power. Stay silent, respect their space, and you can ride just ten or 15 meters away from them. Likewise, the elephants and the buffalo as today you follow the giants as you ride north and rise onto the highest hill in Makalali. A luxurious picnic is waiting, set out in a wooden treehouse high above the reserve. It's an indelible view as the horses rest on the slopes and the Kruger landscape stretches out beyond imagination. From here, you can trace your route and gaze back at the almost 100 miles that you've ridden from the Makhutswe River. In the afternoon, the adventure continues, and the pace is decided by you. Either canter back to the camp or keep exploring the remote realm to savor all of the encounters with Africa's big game.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 7

Makalali Private Game Reserve – Flexible Day of Riding Around Garonga

It’s been nearly a week of riding, and your legs might be sore, but the temptation of the wild is always too great. Pack your saddlebag with a picnic and savor your last day on horseback. Stop beside a small waterhole as a white rhino frolicks in the natural mud bath. Watch the elephants that snooze among the river reeds and gaze up to see the eagles elegantly circling. Zebra herds are on the move, and you follow, another set of hooves that kick up dust. The Drakensberg Mountains glisten in the distance, but often it's the foreground that grabs your attention as a hippo moves out of the water, rambunctiously charging around.  The eland and giraffe share the same sense of serenity as more rhinos roll around the waterholes. Picnic on a vantage point and watch the show before you climb back on horseback for your final gallop across the plains and take the wild ungulate herds with you.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 8

Balule Game Reserve – Allowing the Wildlife to Come to You

After your early starts and hours spent in the saddle, this morning is all about sleeping in to rest your legs. Your time on horseback is over, but the safari continues as an open-sided vehicle transfers you to nearby Balule, another reserve along the abundant western side of Kruger. Now it's time for the big mammals to come to you as you lay back at the lodge and watch the life that graces the Olifants River. Baby elephants playfully splash as hyenas sip furtively. Hippos quarrel with buffalo to suggest that their wading space has been invaded as tropical birds flutter above.  The procession continues throughout the afternoon as  Kruger's famous game is visible without you having to move. Just sit back and enjoy the show.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 9

Balule Game Reserve – Big Five Game Drives Through the Kruger Ecosystem

Throughout your time on horseback, you have been avoiding the big cats. It's simply not safe to approach a lion pride on horseback, or enter a leopard's realm when your ride is potential prey. This last safari day is all about these predators, with morning and afternoon game drives to seek out the kings of the environment. Something moves in a tree and get closer and spot the tail as it swishes languidly as the leopard sleeps with one eye open. Cheetahs are equally concealed as they lounge in the grass to avoid detection. Lions are far more boisterous as they slumber in the shade but are always alert to new noises. As the safari truck approaches, they wake, and the lionesses wander over to inspect their visitors. Manes flow in the breeze and beneath a jackalberry tree, there are two cubs play-fighting. Like yesterday, this safari experience is about sitting back and enjoying the show, as you tick off the final pieces of your animal jigsaw.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 10

Balule Game Reserve – Departure

After nine days on safari, you will fly from Phalaborwa Airport back to Johannesburg, for transfer onto your international departure. So many safari memories accompany your flight home as you galloped across the savannah alongside zebra and encountered Africa's giants from the back of a horse.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

expand/close
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Trip Highlights

  • Spend seven days riding through the Kruger ecosystem, crossing vast grassy plains and riding deep into one of the world's most uninterrupted landscapes
  • Encounter many of Africa's magnificent animals from horseback, including elephant herds, giraffe, buffalo, and rhino
  • Gallop alongside zebra herds, canter besides various antelope, and become a part of the Kruger landscape
  • Enjoy luxury picnics on route, at fantastic spots that overlook rivers filled with hippos and plains dappled with herds
  • Savor the adventure by riding into landscapes that are inaccessible to, and uninterrupted by, safari vehicles
  • Ride out to remote camps and lodges, where you are surrounded by the antics of Kruger's magnificent animals
  • Complete the Big Five experience with two days of game drives in Balule Game Reserve to spot the big cats in their realm 
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Detailed Description

The Kruger is rugged and wild, an untamed environment where animals have always ruled. Elephant herds march through rivers, vast zebra herds fill grassy plains and rhinos elegantly cross the savannah with dozens of different species still to find. You will hear them at night, see them grace the morning horizon, and gallop past them on horseback by day. For seven days, journey through a captivating landscape, to make a big game safari that's imbued with thrill and charm. Travel on the back of a horse and you are not an outsider looking in; rather you are a part of the landscape. You and your horse become another piece in the ecosystem's jigsaw, another four-legged mammal on the move bringing you as close as you can ever get on a safari.

Animals inspect you, much as the inspect everything on four legs. You move without engine noise, further removing fear from the mammals you pass and on horseback, you can travel far away from the traditional routes to head across plains that are inaccessible without a four-legged ride. Intimate and exclusive, your horse-riding safari enables you to encounter the animals on their level. Gallop alongside zebra herds, steer yourself away from the elephants, circumnavigate the buffalo then canter beside giraffe, springbok, impala, kudu, rhino and more. The animals regard you as another animal to enhance the thrill as you journey into landscapes unknown.

This 10-day itinerary has been carefully tailored for experienced riders. Spend your first week in the saddle, with five days of on an adventure across Makalali Private Game Reserve, which runs along the western fringes of Kruger National Park. Some days are about the journey as you gallop across plains to a new lodge and a new wildlife realm. Other days are centered on exploration as you ride the horses in search of the big game. Luxury accommodation provides a tranquil counterpoint to the day, with suites that overlook hippo-filled rivers and a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack of wildlife fills the evenings. Move next to the nearby Balule Game Reserve, where your safari is complete with two days of game drives centered on encounters with the big cats with a chance to spot the animals that must be avoided when you're on horseback.

For safety reasons, this itinerary is not suitable for beginning horse riders. You do not need to an expert, but you must be able to confidently and comfortably handle a horse. Adapted itineraries can be tailored dependent on riding ability, and it is also possible to spend fewer days in the saddle, and more days in a safari vehicle or to add other activities like bush walks and nighttime game drives to the safari.

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Starting Price

$3995 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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