Tag Archives: Long distance riding

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 3 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018


Riders set off early from the stables and were led across Ant’s Nest by Anthony Baber.

We learnt more about the Waterberg as we crossed into neighbouring game reserves.

The African grasslands look benign but tend to be full of holes made by termites or burrowing animals, so it is safer to ride in single file, only cantering along tracks.

We watered the horses at dams and waterholes wherever possible and rode on.

The aim was to cover as much ground as possible before the heat of the day.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Michael and the team riding north

A herd of zebra and other game were spotted that morning and a fair distance was covered.

We were expected at the soon-to-be-opened Waterberg Living Museum. Here we met one of South Africa’s leading conservationists, the artist and writer Clive Walker, who explained the need for education in conservation, ecology and bio-diversity.


Clive founded the Endangered Wildlife Trust and set up the Lapalala Wilderness School which we were due to visit later in that week.

The Waterberg Trust had provided the museum with funds to purchase picnic tables and benches, which the riders found useful both during and after lunch.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Catherine asleep on a bench at the Living Museum donated by TWT.jpg

Back in the saddle, the riders let their horses drink before crossing another game reserve.

The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

We traversed open grasslands where we saw zebra, blesbok and red heartebeest, spotting a baby waterbuck and rare golden wildebeest that are bred in the area.

It was a joy to cross wide open plains as giraffe looked on from a distance.

At one stage we found ourselves cantering along beside running wildebeest, some of which crossed in front of the horses.

The going was good and as the horses picked up speed it could be difficult keeping a safe distance from the one in front.

The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2018

‘Was it dusty?’ I’m asked.

‘When fifteen horses are cantering, it is.’

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Lizzie arriving at Windsong .jpg

We finally reached  Waterberg Cottages where Ant grew up. The horses were able to relax and roll in a sandy kraal where they spent the night.

The gardens were verdant after the summer rain and birdsong filled the air.

Some relaxed with a cold beer and made new friends or had a swim.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Michael with the Calcott's dog.jpg

As dusk fell, one the riders held a Pilates lesson.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - Pilates class.jpg

We were entertained by Ant’s sister, Juliet Calcott, who teaches at a local school. Her family had rescued this little bushbaby and were re-rehabilitating it.

That evening we were treated to a home-cooked meal on the veranda of Windsong Cottage, the farmhouse built in 1928 by Alfred Baber, who farmed the land we’d been riding across using horses and oxen. Historic photographs of the Baber family, which hang in the dining room, can be seen here.

TWT Ride 2018 DAY 3 - dinner at Windsong

Juliet’s husband, Dr Philip Calcott, who is listed as one of the Great Guides of South Africa, then took the riders on a Night Sky Safari – giving a lecture on the constellations of the Southern hemisphere.  You can find more information on Waterberg Cottages here and see learn how Night Sky Safaris began here:

The Waterberg Living Museum is now open and can be contacted on:  info@livingmuseum.co.za

Reaching the Palala River on Day 5 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017


While the TWT riders were looking around Lapalala Wilderness School on the morning of Day 5, the horses were able to enjoy a rest and a good feed.

Ant Baber guiding 2016

Ant Baber, who was leading the expedition, had them tacked up before coming too collect us from the environmental project.


The riders put on their chaps, helmets and suncream getting ready for the day ahead.

Camilla and Mairi preparing to set off one morning TWT Ride 2017

Ant’s horse was eager to get going.

A team photo was taken of the sixteen horses by Save The Waterberg Rhino and we were off.

TWT Ride team photo 2017

It was a hot sunny day, the bush teeming with life after the rains.

A peaceful section of TWT Ride 2017

We saw quite a bit of game on the plains, including warthog, zebra and wildebeest.

We also took time to learn a little about the trees and flowers.

TWT Riders Sophie Neville and Hilly Collinson 2017

Ant then took us down the valley to the Palala River, which flows northwards towards the Limpopo.

TWT Ride Day 5 Reaching the Palala River

The back-up vehicle got stuck in a stream running down the the river. It looked serious as the ground was being washed away from under the Landcruiser but Ant winched it up the bank and all was well.

TWT Ride 2017 Day 5 Claudia at lunch

Most of us were pretty tired and a little dehydrated by this stage but horses and riders were able to relax in the shade at lunchtime.

That afternoon we were able to enjoy a long canter down the old road where the going was good.

Cantering down the road towards Jembisa

We went through an old Transvaal cattle farm,

TWT Riders Janie Lulu and others walking through Jembisa

crossed the Melkriver and made it to Jembisa Lodge.

TWT Ride 2017 at Jembisa

The horses had comfortable accommodation in the manager’s garden.

TWT Horses enjoying a feed

We passed a pod of hippo in the Palala River and drove up to the lodge for the night.

TWT Ride Day 5 Hippo in the Palala River

Dinner was held under the thatched veranda where everyone was able to relax for the evening and look forward to another day.

TWT Ride Day 5 Jembisa dinner table

Day 4 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017


We were woken by weaver birds nesting above the lodge where we spent the night at Kwalata Game Reserve deep in the Waterberg hills.img_4270

We tacked up our horses, tying rain coats behind our long-distance McClellan saddles, and left head-collars underneath our bridles so we could tie the horses up in the bush.


We set off in good spirits and rode through Kwalata into Lapalala Wilderness, a private game reserve of approximately 100,000 hectares.


Since the Waterberg is on an intercontinental convergence zone there is a greater variety of trees and shrubs on Lapalala than in the whole of Western Europe.


There is also a great diversity of birds, reptiles and mammal species with a range of different antelope from solitary steinbuck to herds of kudu.


The annual amount of rainfall can be pretty much the same as in London but in the Waterberg it usually only rains in the summer months with occasional downpours.


We enjoyed blue skies all day, walking beside the horses as we followed a rocky track down the escarpement as we made our way north.


We rode up a small river, making a number of crossings until we came across a dam where it was safe to swim.


By this time our leader, Ant Baber needed a break. He had missed breakfast.


We rode on up the valley, coming to a bigger dam known for its population of crocodile and hippo.


The horses were able to take a long drink before resting for a few hours at mid-day.


We were grateful to find table set out by the water with drinks and bowls of salad.


The riders, who were exhausted, appreciated the chairs and needed a sleep after lunch.


We opted to take the scenic route that afternoon, riding past herds of giraffe, impala,


kudu and wildebeest, while vervet monkeys were spotted in the trees.


GPS readings revealed that we covered a total of 41 kilometers on this day when we grasped just how wild the Waterberg is.


That evening the horses ate well, appreciative of the lush summer grazing.


Ant Baber drove the group of tired but happy riders down the valley


for a well-earned drink


and a swim at Kolobe lodge


before gathering around the fire


where they met up with the back-up team and members of Save The Waterberg Rhino.


The director of Lapalala Wilderness School joined us, giving a short talk on what we could expect to see the next morning.


To keep in touch with new of The Waterberg Trust, please Like our page on Facebook.


Day 3 of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017

The riders’ drew on their experience and fitness on the third day of The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride, when we covered a more than 37 kilometers riding from Ant’s Nest to Kwalata Game Reserve on the Blocklands River.


We made up a big group of thirteen horseman with three guides and set off early in an attempt to find wildlife.


It was white rhino that we saw first, including one cow with a three month-old calf.


We were able to get very close as the horses are used to grazing with rhino.


We then rode west through the bushveldt and although we cantered at times,


we went slowly in an attempt to find game, pausing to watch wildebeest and zebra.



After a while we came across Livingstone eland, a rare breed originating from Zimbabwe.


We crossed through recently filled dams


and came across a number of new-born animals, including impala lambs.



Once on the top of the escarpment, at some 1,400 metres above sea level, we found a breeding herd of buffalo – the bull looking at us from behind a clump of dense bush.


He was with a number of females.


We were also shown a breeding herd of rare roan antelope being re-introduced to the Waterberg.



We then left Ant’s game reserve and enjoyed riding fast down sandy roads across the plateau


and down towards the Blocklands River that flows north into the Limpopo



The horses were fed and watered in a secure boma originally made for buffalo while the riders were housed at the lodge in cottages that looked out over the water.


Everyone was able to kick off their boots and relax after what had been a long day in the saddle.


To our relief, there were bathrooms and a swimming pool to sooth aching muscles.


And even a stuffed crocodile – luckily the only one of his species we encountered on the ride.


To keep up with news and events of The Waterberg Trust please see our Facebook page


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.


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,


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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


Another successful TWT challenge ride


-Ant Baber leading The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017-

Twelve intrepid riders from around the UK, and one from Australia, successfully completed the third Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride covering 181 kilometers at some speed, crossing rivers and rocky terrain.


-Riders from Yorkshire crossing the Melk Rivier on horseback-

The six-day expedition proved a real adventure, traversing four different private game reserves and stretching everyone to the limits.


-Climbing up from the Palala River on Jembisa game reserve-

The horses were beautifully looked after by the guides and back-up team from Ant’s Nest who hosted the expedition.


-Riders from Yorkshire encountering white rhino at Ant’s Nest on the third TWT Challenge Ride-

Riders, who paid their own travel and safari costs, had to raise a minimum of £1,000 each for The Waterberg Tust to support community projects in the Waterberg.


Funds raised will be divided between Save The Waterberg Rhino, Lapalala Wilderness School and Lethabo Kids Club in the township of Leseding, with support also being given to other health, welfare and educational projects. The 2017 riders were able to visit projects already supported by The Waterberg Trust. They all took part in an inspirational workshop on the importance of wildlife conservation at Lapalala Wilderness School on the Palala River.


-Meeting the educators at Lapalala Wilderness School-

The Waterberg Trust riders’ fund-raising efforts in 2016 made it possible for 125 children and their teachers to attend a residential course here. We met the first group from Meetsetshehla Secondary School in Vaalwater:


-Some of the 125 students sponsored by The Waterberg Trust-

Students from Mokolo Primary School in Vaalwater will be able to come another week. As The Waterberg Trust also paid for pupils’ transport, local children from all backgrounds will be able to gain a grounding in environmental awareness, develop leadership skills and establish contact with a mentor who can help with wildlife issues.


-Pupils from Meetshesethla Secondary School learning about treats to wildlife-

Having said goodbye to the horses, riders saw an anti-poaching security post donated to Save The Waterberg Rhino by The Waterberg Trust Riders in 2016.


-Save The Waterberg Rider’s new security point ready to be manned on a 24 hour basis-

They also met children at Lethabo Kids Club in Leseding township who showed-off the school uniforms purchased with grants from The Waterberg Trust in 2016 to ensure every child goes to school.


-Lethabo Kids Club that has been running for 15 years in the township of Leseding-

The needs of older students who have shown more than ten years committment were discussed. Some are seeking sponsorship for tertiary education.


-Meeting the youth who help with Letabo Kids Club in Leseding-

It was a joy to meet the people of the Waterberg, learn of their cultural heritage and explore the bushveldt so rich in natural history.


-TWT Riders on Jembisa-

The ride was led by Ant Baber following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather E.A. Davidson, who explored the area on horseback in early 1900’s.


-Ant Baber who has been leading horse safaris for more than twenty years-

The Waterberg Trust, a registered UK charity, was represented by trustee Sophie Neville who, along with the twelve other riders, whould like to extend heartfelt thanks to our hosts, the land-owners and all those who sponsored the ride, especially Ant’s Nest and Jembisa.

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