Tag Archives: Anthony Baber

Highlights of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

Ant Baber led the fourth Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride, taking a new route across the Waterberg Plateau from Ant’s Nest to Jembisa on the Palala River to the north, covering 187kms on horseback over six days and crossing seven different game reserves.

Team members from the UK and Bermuda had been busy raising sponsorship, 50% of funds going to Save The Waterberg Rhino and 50% to community projects that uplift the people and place of the Waterberg in the Limpopo Province of South Africa

White rhino on Ant's Nest

While we had excellent game viewing, we also enjoyed very good food.

Meals were served in a variety of different settings, enabling the team to get to know each other and have time to chat to guides and directors of the game reserve. It was a true safari, in that we went on a journey through the African bush.

Coming across wild animals made our spirits soar.

We were able to get unusually close both on foot and on horseback.

What the animals thought can only be guessed.

But the riders wrote to say how amazing it was. ‘I think you have a winning formula as the riding is wonderful but all the extra experiences such as the school, youth club, church and visiting Clive Walker, enriched it and made it a truly unique experience and insight into the Waterberg.’

On the second day we had a real life adventure, helping the local vet.

‘It was a truly memorable adventure’

The horses were used to approaching wildlife as they graze with other animals in the bush.

It was high summer in South Africa so the afternoons could get hot and tiring

and the road was sometimes steep

but each day was full of variety

and we developed a huge sense of camaraderie.

‘…it was just pure fun and I felt so carefree’

We each had time to develop a relationship with our horse.

While the herd enjoyed the grazing we loved finding out about the projects supported by The Waterberg Trust.

It was a privilege to meet the local people.

These included exceptional women changing the lives of children.

‘Apart from the riding, we so enjoyed seeing all that The Waterberg Trust supports. There are some incredible people involved.’

We met the conservationist Clive Walker and learned of  what he had achieved for the UNESCO Biosphere and good to hear his new plans for the Waterberg Living Museum.

It was a privilege to be able to watch wild animals from horseback.

The landscape was ever-changing.

After five days in the saddle we reached the Palala River without mishap and thanks to the teams at Ant’s Nest and Jembisa, we were able celebrated the finish in style.

‘It really was a very special trip and a challenge at that.’

Special thanks go to Ant Baber and his family for looking after us and enabling us to ride across the land of their forefathers and beyond.

It was ‘a really amazing experience’.

The horses needed a good rest and the riders were tired but everyone agreed that it had been an incredible week of exploration.

Day 6 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

TWT Ride 2018 - DAY 6 walking down to the Palala River (2).jpgAfter walking the horses down a steep track on Jembisa game reserve, we finally made it to the Palala River. It’s normally too deep to cross on a horse but the drought of 2017 resulted in unusually low water.

The rocks looked slippery but Ant Baber decided we could walk across.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 6 - Riders crossing the Palala River going north.jpg

As we made our way the Rooisloot valley we came across interesting plants such as this Transvaal gardenia.

Greater kudu enjoy eating the green seed pods and had effectively pruned the bushes.

The aim was to ride up to the wetlands at the very north of the reserve.

We had entered at the gate just south of Emily’s Camp. Today we reached Kwarriehoek near the road to Makopane, which you can see at the top right-hand corner of this map.

It was good to have reached the open grasslands after having spent six days in the saddle.

 

Mission accomplished. We could ride no further north.

A highlight of the day was lunch at a house on the game reserve which has a pool with an incredible view, looking north down the Palala River Valley towards Lapalala Wilderness where we had been the evening before.

We mounted the horses and crossed back over the Palala, which flows north into the Limpopo on the South African border with Zimbabwe.

TWT Ride DAY 6 2018 crossing the Palala River - photo Sophie Neville

Without pausing to remove our helmets, we dismounted and climbed up the steep cart track in our hot clothes. The horses were fine but it was hard on the riders.

Once we reached the plateau, it wasn’t long before we were met by the back-up team.

They had brought us champagne to celebrate the end of the challenge ride.

Everyone was tired, but happy, if a little dazed.

No one had fallen off. There had been no injuries or mis-haps. The horses were still in good condition. We had explored a new route, which had proved varied and exciting. Ant Baber decided the ride had been a success.

We’d made it!

We had come so far and seen so much. The experience had challenged and extended each one of us..

We climbed back into the saddle and had a cheer from the team from Newbury, before making our way back to the lodge.

The riders enjoyed one last exciting gallop before bidding farewell to the horses, who had all done so well. We’d covered 187 kilometres in total – 197kms if you counted the ride before the official trek began six days before.

Very many thanks to all our sponsors and donors who encouraged us on our way. The funds raised will go a long way to help Save The Waterberg Rhino increase security in the area and will support community projects run by trusted charitable organisations that uplift the emerging generation by providing education or healthcare.

If you would like to make a donation to The Waterberg Trust please click here

~TWT Trustees: Belinda Chaffer and Sophie Williams-Thomas~

Day 5 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

We rose early and saddled up the horses for a day full of promise.

Ant Baber, who had planned the route, was keen to cross Lindani game reserve and reach Jembisa to the north that morning. We had a long way to go.

The riders set off from Motseng Lodge where we’d spent a comfortable night.

We crossed the Melkrivier, a tributary of the Palala River, avoiding the footbridge.

TWT Ride 2018 crossing a stream on Lindani - photo Sophie Neville.jpg

It was a good chance to water the horses.

From here, we made our way up a steep, jungly kloof chocked with dense vegetation.

It is in these valleys that you find the most ancient trees that thrive in relatively sheltered conditions where they have access to water.

Being on an intercontinental convergence zone, the Waterberg is home to over 350 different species of tree from baobabs to wild fig – a greater variety than the whole of western Europe.

We suddenly found ourselves at the top of the hill where the vegetation opened out.

Wild proteas, the national flower of South Africa, were growing here.

TWT Ride 2017 wild proteas.jpg

We climbed higher still, taking a track that gave us occasional views across the Waterberg.

This unique unspoilt wilderness area  has been declared a UNESCO world biosphere.

On reaching the top of the Buffelshoek escarpment we dis-mounted

and lead the horses, on our quest to reach the very north of the game reserve.

TWT Ride 2018 dismounting to tackle a steep hill - photo Sophie Neville.jpg

We walked some way down the steep trail.

It was good to stretch but quite hard work as temperatures had risen.

TWT Ride 2018 walking down a steep section.jpg

After a while, we were able to look back at the impressive escarpment, looking for vulture roosts in the rocky outcrops.

A sandy path led to the north gate of the reserve and out onto the road.

We were able to canter up this track to reach the southern gate of Jembisa,

a 3000 hectare private game where the manager was waiting to let us in.

We were soon able to water the horses and rode through the bush, looking out for wildlife such as zebra, wildebeest, warthog, oryx and impala who had young at foot.

After about five kilometres, we took the chance for another exhilarating canter down an old air strip.

After untacking the horses, rubbing them down and making sure they had plenty of hay and water,

we made it to the lodge in time for a late lunch, which was served under the trees.

It was difficult to leave Jembisa,

especially since they have a wonderfully refreshing pool

but we climbed into two game drive vehicles and were taken to the neighbouring reserve.

We had come to find out about the Lapalala Wilderness School, established in 1985

Funds raised by The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride are being used to enable sixty local teenagers and their teachers to attend a week-long residential course on nature conservation here. You can see photos of the last group sponsored on Facebook here.

For local children, this course costs 375 Rand each per night, fully catered, which is exceptionally good value for a life-changing experience. TWT also fun transport from the township of Leseding.

After meeting the director and learning how the school raises environmental awareness,

riders came face to face with one of the teaching aids – an impressive Burmese python.

Rescued from a life spent in restrictive captivity this beautiful snake is used to show local children how important it is to treasure the wildlife of South Africa and that all animals have a role in the eco-system. To find out more about Lapalala Wilderness please click here.

TWT Ride 2018 Viv Thomas handling a Burmese python.jpg

You can find out about Jembisa, who kindly sponsored the ride by letting riders cross across the reserve and stay for the next two nights in great comfort by clicking here

or watch their marketing video here:

 

Day 1 of The Waterberg Challenge Ride 2018

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Jessica taking on Save The Waterberg Rhino
An introductory talk from Jessica Babich of Save The Waterberg Rhino

The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018 began with a talk on Save The Waterberg Rhino who will receive 50% of funds raised on the ride to increase security in the area.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - 5 rhino sleeping.jpg

While the rhino themselves were resting under a tree, the riders gathered to embark on an afternoon ride across Ant’s Nest game reserve to gain an understanding of the area.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - riders having tea before setting out

The route was planned by Ant Baber, who would use his experience to lead the challenge ride over the next six days. Everyone had been in training, working on their fitness.

The horse managers at Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill had carefully chosen and prepared horses for each rider. They needed to be young and hardy enough to cope with the challenge.

Some riders had found vented hot-weather helmets and wore gloves to keep off the sun. Long-distance McClellen saddles were used with specialist neoprene numnas.

It was magical to be riding through the African bushveldt. Being high summer in South Africa, everything was green and the dams were filling after last year’s drought.

The riders soon came across a number of giraffe browsing on blooming acacia.

TWT Ride 2018 - DAY 1 Sarah with giraffe.jpg

A mature adult male giraffe was happy to let us get fairly close.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Viv with giraffe.jpg

As the horses normally graze out on the reserve, the wild animals are used to their presence.

TWT Ride DAY 1 - Mary with three giraffe.jpg

We let the horses browse to reassure the wildlife that all was well.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - giraffe and riders

The riders moved on to see zebra, wildebeest, warthog and a variety of antelope.

Ant Baber was also able to show us his breeding herd of Cape buffalo that tend to prefer thick bush.

This would normally be a rare sighting but the animals were peaceful and behaved naturally.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Ant showing Pip buffalo.jpg

We then picked up speed and managed to cover quite a bit of ground.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Sarah and Mary riding in evening light.jpg

It was not a hard ride but we learnt a great deal and got used to dodging thorn trees.

Riders ended up gathering at Ant Baber’s house to as the sun went down to learn more about Save The Waterberg Rhino and the anti-poaching initiatives currently in place.

Here they could observe a number of white rhino who arrived with a few warthog in tow.

It was an opportunity to met some of the armed security guards who watch over the rhino around the clock and are in contact with the South African police.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 1 - Sophie with armed guards at Ant's house.jpg

Arriving in South Africa for The 4th Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

Something very special happened the night riders gathered at Ant’s Nest in South Africa on the eve of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride this January.

We were having a drink out on Ant’s Nest game reserve when some local residents approached us:

Rhino at Ant's Nest

Five white rhino emerged from the bush at the same time as six members of the team arrived on horseback, led by Ant Baber.

It was as if the rhinos were coming to thank us for raising funds to assure their security.

Ant Baber approached the animals to assure them all was well.

And as the sun went down we were able to observe the rhinos in their natural habitat.

They are docile animals, sadly under threat as markets in the Far East place a high value their horn – even though it is no more than keratin, akin to human fingernails.

Please read more about Save The Waterberg Rhino, here

To find out about other projects supported by The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride, please click here

~Riders taking part in The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018~

Riding through Ant’s Nest Game Reserve on Day One of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017

We started spotting wildlife the moment we drove in through the gates of Ant’s Nest, a private game reserve in the Waterberg. This young roan antelope was in our path.

twt-ride-day-1-roan-antelope

Twelve riders had flown out from the UK and Australia, at their own cost, to learn about the Waterberg by riding across the plateau with Ant Baber and his experienced guides,

ant-baber-2016

TWT Trustee Sophie Neville, who was once a horse safari guide in the area, met the group at Johannesburg airport and explained about projects supported by the Waterberg Trust, as she accompanied riders on the expedition.

sophie-neville-at-ants-nest-2017

Although we covered some distance on the first afternoon, the important thing was for riders to try out their horses and get used to the long-distance saddles while there was still a chance to make changes. Juliet Maddan, who had gathered the group together, was also wearing a hot-weather helmet for the first time.

twt-ride-day-2-juliet-trying-out-her-horse

It was a delight to come across wild animals who are used to grazing in the reserve with the horses and allow riders to get very close.

twt-ride-day-2-hilly-and-lulu-with-wildebeest

The wildebeest were unperturbed by our presence and the horses were relaxed.

twt-ride-2017-day-1-wildebeest

We saw a variety of plains game and had time to take a few photographs.

twt-ride-day-2-hilly-photographing-zebra

Some riders came across white rhino with Ant Baber that very afternoon, and were able to learn a bit about their territorial behaviour.

twt-riders-2017-encountering-white-rhino

Disaster struck at the end of the day when a gasket blew on a landcruiser as it was going up a steep slope. With no engine power the vehicle slid backwards but the riders were fit and jumped out as the guide steered it into a bush. It proved the start of an adventurous week.

blowing-a-gasget-on-tessas-pass

That night there was plenty to talk about as we gathered around the fire and made plans for the long ride ahead of us.

twt-ride-day-1-fireside

For an overview of the Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017 please click here

If you would like to make a donation to support the work of the trust please click here

image002

Riding North to Kwalata Game Reserve

We had a bit of a problem on the third morning of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride. Some of the horses spurned their comfortable camp and tried to run home in the night. Luckily they were not able to get far but it meant we set off later than intended at 9.45am. Once in the saddle we were able to canter for miles along sandy roads over the top of the Waterberg Plateau and made up the time.

Cantering to Kwalata

We needed to cover a fair distance but it was cool and the going good.

Cantering

The third day is typically the most tiring for members of the team and we managed to break two stirrup leathers which slowed us down. We would have battled if the sun had been out.

Road to Kwalata

We are actually riding down a government road here – a very beautiful one.

TWT team 2016

Thankfully we made it to the gates of Kwalata private game reserve just as it began to rain at 1.30pm and were able to reach the lodge for a late lunch. Everyone was tired but grateful for a cool drink and a plate of lasagne, while the horses enjoyed fresh grass and a good feed.

Lunch at Kwalata

The rain cleared and we had time for a swim that afternoon before mounting up again.

Belinda at Kwalata

We rode through the reserve for about 11kms, passing warthog and a few impala.

Belinda Fordy on Kwalata

Our horses spent the night in a boma originally built for elephant. This gelding didn’t seem to think much of the way they’d left the bathroom.

Horse inspecting elephant bathroom

The riders were able to relax back at the lodge where there was a much nicer bathtub

Kwalata bath tub

and very good food, cooked outside on the fire. The sponsored ride was led by Ant Baber in aid of Save The Waterberg Rhino and associated community projects in the Waterberg. If you’d like to make a donation we have a Justgiving.com  page here.

Kwalata

If you would like to keep in touch, The Waterberg Trust have a Facebook page here.

image002