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Monday 4 May 2015

Exploring the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans on Horseback

The words that come to mind to describe my recent five night horseback safari out of Camp Kalahari on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans are exhilarating, mind blowing & adventurous

I am a keen horse rider and for any horse riding enthusiast this experience should be number one on your bucket list!

Heading out into the salt pans on horseback is for experienced riders only as it is tough going at times. This is a ride for those seeking adventure, along with the aching muscles and blisters from many hours in the saddle that go with it.

Roxanne Horseback

Roxanne checks out the giant baobabs of the Makgadikgadi

The feeling of riding amongst huge numbers of zebra during the green season and the freedom of cantering over the vastness of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans is truly amazing. With miles of emptiness in front of you and nothing to hold you back but the speed your horse can go, you’ll be left exhilarated… and believe me, the horses give it all they can as they love it just as much as the riders.

How does this differ from the rides in the Okavango Delta? Well to start with, you can leave earlier and come back later as the pans are so open and you can see for miles, reducing the fear of predators. The riding is much more relaxed and you can let your horse have some free reign when walking at a slower pace. When you’re enjoying the freedom of a long canter you do not have to panic about your horse spooking at anything behind the bushes – so both horse and rider can enjoy every minute of being out there in the magical space of the Makgadikgadi.

The salt pans provide an unforgettable landscape experience with incredible sunsets and sunrises. The Makgadikgadi is a place to get acquainted with a bewildering lack of perspective and endless horizons, rather than trying to chase big game.

horse shadow

Once you get past the first impression of there being nothing in sight, you’ll soon discover plenty to keep your mind reeling, from historical sites to hidden life. Africa’s famous explorer Dr David Livingstone crossed the pans in the 19th century, using two massive baobabs, believed to be 3,000 to 4,000 years old as a navigation tool. Standing next to these giant succulents and tracing their marks with your finger will leave you marveling at what these trees have seen pass over the years. Discover the small things that live underground from meerkats to ground squirrels, insects and aardvarks.

panssunset

Sunsets in the Makgadikgadi

If you visit at the right time of the year you may be lucky enough to experience the extraordinary journey of the zebras migrating in huge numbers to find food and water. Throughout the whole year you’ll have the chance to walk through the desert with the San people who have been living a hunter gatherer lifestyle for thousands of years. Over the course of a few hours, they’ll teach you their unique skill for finding food and water in an area where most would die of thirst.

zebra waterhole

The zebras. A key drawcard for visiting the Makgadikgadi in green season

Every day holds something new and exciting. Coming up with highlights is difficult when I loved every moment, but if I had to choose, this is how I’d start my list:

• Every sunrise and sunset on the pans is magical – each more beautiful than the one that came before it
• Chaplin’s & Greens Baobabs – it’s awe inspiring that you can stand below one of the largest trees in the world and physically touch the marks made by historical people like David Livingstone
• Stopping over at amazing waterholes in the Makgadikgadi for a fantastic siesta under the trees and magical moments with the zebras during tea time
• Seeing the vast open expanse of the Ntwetwe Pans was just out of this world – there is nothing out there, yet there is so much to take in and process, it’s mind blowing and beautiful!
• Cantering alongside the zebras over the pans and through the grass lands is every rider’s dream come true. There’s nothing holding you back – it was invigorating and worth every aching muscle
• The meerkats were so cute and have a calming effect on you – don’t ask me why but all their little chirping between each other makes you realise how harsh desert life is and how amazing they are to survive out there
• The bushmen – I really found walking with them eye-opening and wish I could have spent more time with them
• Riding out on the Salt Pans after dark and seeing the stars in all their glory

All in all, this is a definite must-do experience for keen horse riders seeking out an unforgettable experience to be repeated more than once.

Roxanne Sinclair

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Roxanne Sinclair

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