- Peru Horse Riding Vacations & Machu Picchu
- Romania Horse Riding Vacations
- Israel Horse Riding Vacations
- South Africa Horse Safari- Ants Lodges
- Portugal Horseback Riding Vacations
- France Countryside Riding Vacations
- Jordan Horse Riding Holidays
- France Chateau Chazelles Riding Holidays
- Italy Mediterranean Coast Riding Vacation
Botswana Makgadikgadi Pans Safari Botswana, Africa
This riding vacation was filmed for the Emmy-winning TV series, Equitrekking, so you can watch the guide, David Foot, ride with Equitrekking on PBS!
Botswana is one of the best places in the world to ride horses and get up close to wildlife. If you are a fit, competent rider, there are a variety of awesome horse safaris in Botswana, and our team from Equitrekking has tried all of the ones you'll see featured on EquitrekkingTravel.com and our preferred travel agents can help match you with the best fit for you, your family or group of riders and non-riders.
The vast, open Makgadigadi Pans, with it's amazing zebra migrations and awesome star gazing opportunities, make it a great area for an African horse safari. For the African safari of a lifetime, pair the Makgadikgadi with the lush Okavango Delta.
Explore the meandering shoreline of the remote and mysterious Makgadigadi Saltpans, one of the largest salt pans in the world, with David Foot, who has been leading horse safaris in Africa for over 17 years. The site of an ancient lake which has since dried up, the Makgadigadi Pans are the size of the European country of Switzerland. These moon-like landscapes are great for cantering and faster riding. There are many other attractions as well, including some of the best star gazing in Africa, meerkats and the San Bushmen, one of the oldest tribes in the world.
There are two distinctly different seasons in the Makgadikgadi. The dry season, lasting from around April to October and the wet season, lasting from around November to April. When the rains arrive at the beginning of the wet season, the landscape is transformed. Water gathers on the saltpan. Algae bloom, crustaceans breed, and clouds of flamingo descend to feed on them.
Then herds of zebra and wildebeest materialise, drawn by the lush grass, and for several months, the desert is teeming with game and predators. Guests visiting Camp Kalahari during the wet season can witness the last surviving migration of zebra and wildebeest in Southern Africa. Most people associate the migration with East Africa and don’t know about this, the second largest migration of African ungulates, with an estimated 30,000 animals, the majority being zebra, participating each year.
It is during the dry season that guests can experience the vast Makgadikgadi Pans on horseback or quad bikes. The guides at Camp Kalahari team up with a small group of Zu/’hoasi Bushmen to guide travelers on a morning’s walk, offering a window into the past. The Bushmen teach how they have survived in this harshest of environments, using their vast and ancient knowledge of plants, animal behavior and survival skills.
Experience extraordinary landscapes; desert-adapted Kalahari wildlife from meerkats to brown hyenas; the history of Livingstone, Selous and other explorers; and travel with Zu/’Hoasi Bushmen. In the dry season ride fast out into the heart of the Pans and still arrive nowhere. In the wet season, ride with the last surviving migration of zebra and wildebeest in Southern Africa.
Weather in the Makgadikgadi
Makgadikgadi Dry Season: Winter Apr – Oct
Makgadikgadi Wet Season: Summer Nov – Apr
Jan – Mar: Summer:
High rainfall and high temperatures. Highs range from 35°C to 45°C. Lows around 18°C.
April – May: Autumn:
Dry and warm, cool evenings and mornings.
Jun – Aug: Winter:
No rainfall. Cold nights and early mornings. Days are sunny and generally warm.
Temperatures range from 15°C to 30°C. Nights can drop below freezing in some areas.
Sept – Oct: Spring:
Dry and warm. October can be extremely hot.
Nov – Jan: Summer. High rainfall and high temperatures. Highs range from 35°C to 45°C. Lows around 18°C.
About the Horses
Your guide, David Foot, has been leading horse safaris in Africa for over 17 years. He'll match you with a horse based on your skill level and personality and explain the history and culture of the region as you ride with him.
Twenty horses - mainly Boerperd, Friesan crosses and Appaloosas. English or trail saddles, but the horses trained in English. The horses are trained for safari work so they are fit, schooled, sure footed and not afraid of the wildlife.
Local History and Culture
Close by is the famous Chapman’s Baobab (Also known as the Seven Sisters) which is acknowledged to be the third largest tree in Africa, and was the campsite of early explorers like Livingstone and Selous when they pioneered the area.This gives you an opportunity to gain a fascinating insight into the history of the early explorers.
Walk with the Bushmen and learn their ways of desert survival. The earliest modern inhabitants of southern Africa were the Bushman (San) and the Hottentots. They have lived an almost unchanged lifestyle in the country since the Middle Stone Age.
For those who want to ride fast, ask us about quad bike adventures, where you can ride fast across the Pans.
Wildlife Viewing and those Cute Meerkats!
A safari to Camp Kalahari is also a complete desert experience focusing on species unique to the area such as aardvark, gemsbuck and springbuck. Guests may spot the rare and elusive brown hyaena and are able to walk through the Kalahari with a gang of habituated but wild meerkats!
As the sun rises, these pixie-faced creatures emerge from their burrows and join you, sunning themselves with paws behind their backs, completely indifferent to your presence. A baby might sit on someone's toe or a sentinel hop onto your head! As they all scurry off to forage, you follow. The meerkats dig up scorpions and pounce on beetles while your Guide maintains a running commentary on their social habits and survival strategies.
Other Area Attractions
Extensions to the horse safari can be made by vehicle to Nxai Pan National Park, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta. These extensions can be to lodges or on a mobile safari by vehicle guided by David. David also runs four safaris per year combining the Makgadikgadi Ride with three nights on the Selinda Canoe Trail.
Camp Kalahari is a return to the traditional safari style of the old explorers, and is the best way to experience the Makgadikgadi. It is the ideal camp for those who want fun, comfort, style and adventure. Camp Kalahari accepts children of all ages and makes for a fantastic family safari destination.
Camp Kalahari offers large ‘A’ framed tents with en-suite bathrooms. The fly camp is more simple, with large dome tents and bucket showers.
Camp Kalahari’s chef is talented, noted for his tasty soups and particularly for his "Pilli-Pilli Ho-Ho," a lethal concoction of chillies marinated in sherry and gin. Smeared over one's breakfast eggs, it's just the thing to sharpen sleepdulled wits in preparation for whatever adventures await! Vegetarian options available.
The Ideal Traveler
Advanced riders and their non-riding partners with a sense of adventure. Botswana is an awesome place to go on safari and the Makgadikgadi and Camp Kalahari offer amazing opportunities to ride with game during the migration period, as well as wonderful natural history, star gazing and the unique chance to interact with meerkats.
Makgadikgadi Pans Safari Itinerary
Ride with the last surviving migration of zebra and wildebeest in Southern Africa. Explore the meandering palm tree shoreline of the mysterious Makgadigadi Saltpans. Experience extraordinary landscapes and desert-adapted Kalahari wildlife from meerkats to brown hyenas.
Consider combining a Makgadikgadi safari with the Okavango Delta for the trip of a lifetime!
Dates & Rates
April 20-25, April 25-30, May 22-27, June 8-13, June 13-18, July 24-29, Aug 18-23, Aug 23-28, Sept 16-21, Nov 25-30, Nov 30-Dec 5, Dec 19-24
Special Saddle and Padde Vacation May 27-June 4, July 16-24, Sept 21-29 (Ask us about this trip!)
The Makgadikgadi Pans Riding Vacation April 25-30 will run from San Camp, a unique camp situated deep in the Kalahari Desert. This represents a significant upgrade at no extra cost!
2013: $2,950 USD* for 5 nights
No single supplement if you are willing to share. Otherwise $166 USD* per night to request a single tent.
Accommodation; full board; drinks; riding; other safari activities.
Shared air transfers from Maun to camp are $671 USD* per person return. The above rate also does not include International flights to Johannesburg, flights from Johannesburg to Maun and air transfers from Maun to camp. Contact us for more information.
* Prices shown are subject to daily exchange rate fluctuations. Prices are indicative only; the price of your chosen holiday will be reconfirmed by your travel consultant, prior to your making a booking.
General RIding Safari Description:
Explore on horseback meandering shoreline of the remote and mysterious Makgadigadi Saltpans. Experience extraordinary landscapes; desert-adapted Kalahari wildlife from meerkats to brown hyenas; the history of Livingstone, Selous and other explorers; and travel with Zu/’Hoasi Bushmen. In the dry season ride fast out into the heart of the Pans and still arrive nowhere. In the wet season, ride with the last surviving migration of zebra and wildebeest in Southern Africa. Stay in Camp Kalahari, a traditional tented safari camp or sleep on bedrolls under the stars.
Day by Day Description
Day 1 Arrive and Introduction to your Horse Safari
On arrival by air or road, you will be greeted by your host and guide David Foot and settled into Camp Kalahari, nestled amongst the acacias and Mokolwane palms of Brown Hyaena Island, on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, adjacent to the Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans National Park, Botswana.
The Makgadikgadi is one of the largest salt flats in the world -- the size of the European County of Switzerland. Riding here, you have lots of room for faster canters, as much of the ground is similiar to the surface of the moon. Being in the middle of this wilderness, also makes for amazing night star gazing.
Camp Kalahari is an upscale safari camp comprised of a traditionally built thatch library, living/dining area and a swimming pool for those hot Kalahari days. There are spacious Meru tents with en-suite outdoor bathrooms, flush toilets, hot and cold running water, along with comfy beds, crunchy cotton sheets and stripy African blankets. In the winter, cozy down with "bush babbies", hot water bottles which are good for keeping toes warm or soothing muscles after a day on the trails.
Head off after tea in the beautiful afternoon light, for an introductory ride – primarily to match horse and rider and to provide the opportunity for travelers to experience the beauty of this magical area.
Return to the camp for sundowners followed by dinner, before the lions of the Kalahari commence their nightly prowling.
Day 2- Tracking the Migratory Zebra, Wildebeest and other Safari Species
Up with the dawn, a light breakfast is followed by a long morning ride through the “land of a thousand islands”. Stranded on the ancient lakebed, these sand dunes covered in palm trees are one of the most beautiful and fascinating areas of the Botswana wilderness.
At the height of the migration season, the islands and adjoining grasslands are filled with zebra, wildebeest, hartebeest and ostrich and of course the attendant predators! The white encrusted pans between the islands provides excellent terrain for the horses, but if there has been a lot of rain then many of these areas will be full of water attracting several species of migratory water birds.
Return to the camp for lunch and rest through the heat of the day in the welcome shade of the camel thorn trees or cool off in the camp swimming pool. After tea, head off by vehicle to see some unique desert species such as springbok, gemsbok, red hartebeest and the elusive brown hyena. These consummate desert specialists survive in arid areas where both food and water are scarce. The brown hyena is a timid nocturnal, solitary forager, rarely seen by humans, but in spite of this are very social animals, living in clans of up to 10-12 hyenas.
Enjoy a night game drive back to camp, and with the help of a spot light, look for nocturnal desert inhabitants such as aardvark, bat eared foxes, aardwolves, porcupine, honey badgers and perhaps even a black maned Kalahari Lion. Arrive at Camp Kalahari in time for dinner.
Day 3: Xau Xai
Today is a long ride eastwards to Xau Xai Fly Camp, so an early start is imperative. Be sure to pack a few essentials for the next two days of adventure. The journey takes you away from the edge of the Pans and through the mopane and acacia woodlands interspersed with short grasslands allowing for lovely long, relaxed canters. While the area is rich in birds of prey, bustards, korhaans and numerous other unusual dry woodland bird species; there is also a chance that we will sight kudu and the odd elephant bull.
By lunchtime we reach the famous Greens Baobab proudly positioned alongside the well-travelled Missionary Road, traversed by David Livingstone on his journeys northwards. The magnificent trunk of this an- cient tree is scarred with the initials of early travellers dating back some 150 years thus providing a living testimony to the rich history of this area. Break for lunch at the adjacent Gutsa Pan under a stand of palm trees where we may find Stone Age artefacts and the hunting blinds used over millennium by the Bushmen.
Siesta through the midday heat and after tea, continue the journey on to Xau Xai Fly Camp.
Camp will be made up of comfortable dome tents, a central mess tent, loos and bucket showers. Enjoy a long cool drink as you watch the sunset followed by dinner out under the magnificent Kalahari sky.
Day 4 - Meerkat Interaction
Wake up to a steaming hot cup of coffee and a light breakfast, before heading off on your horses in search of some of the Kalahari’s most fascinating inhabitants, the meerkats.
With our horses tethered we will proceed on foot in to the midst of the group. Due to an ongoing habituation program, it’s possible for us to get up close and personal with these captivating creatures. Remember, they are not tame just used to our non-threatening presence.
On chilly mornings, you might well find a meerkat snuggling up to you for warmth. Or, in the absence of a termite mound or tree, using your head as a sentry lookout post.
By spending quality time with these incredibly social, superbly adapted animals, you will be able to see how they interact with each other and their environment. You also get the chance to see the desert through the eyes of a meerkat, which, despite the fact that it’s only a foot off the ground, is a pretty spectacular vantage point, and definitely one of the most special and memorable game experiences you will encounter in Botswana
As the day warms up, leave the meerkats to continue foraging. Mount up and follow the well-worn trails that lead to the resident herds of zebra and large congregations of ostriches attracted to the area by permanent freshwater in hidden waterholes.
Return to Xau Xai for lunch, a refreshing shower and a siesta in the shade of the mess tent. In the late afternoon take a walk to a nearby permanent waterhole to look for many of the Kalahari’s special bird species and, as the sun sets, watch the hundreds of sand grouse fly in for a drink.
Return to camp for another beautiful evening under a Kalahari sky with a delicious dinner around the campfire.
Day 5 - Chapman's Baobab
As the dawn greets this extraordinary landscape and the last of the stars disappear, wake for a light breakfast before mounting up and heading homewards at a fast pace sometimes riding along the edge of the Pans and at other times heading into the woodlands and open grasslands where the zebra and wildebeest graze.
From a great distance the famous Chapman’s Baobab appears on the horizon. Also known as the Seven Sisters, it is acknowledged to be one of the largest trees in Africa, measuring around 82 feet (25 meters) around its girth, and was the campsite of early explorers like Livingstone and Selous when they pioneered the area.
It is near here that we break for lunch before our final ride back across the grasslands and into camp. As the sun dips below the horizon and the last light fades, we will be sure to dwell on these amazing past few days. Incredible scenery, memorable wildlife encounters and above all superb riding!
Arrive at Camp Kalahari in time for a refreshing shower and a final Camp Kalahari lamp lit dinner.
Day 6 - Bushmen Walk
The horses are loaded early and trucked to their home base in Maun. A non-riding day commences with an early morning walk with Zu/’hoasi Bushmen trackers. Uncharted Africa has pioneered and passionately supported cultural tourism in Botswana since the company’s inception.
They have been working closely with the Zu/’hoasi people of the Western Kalahari for many years and are privileged to have a small group of these extraordinary men to guide Guests on a morning’s walking safari.
Offering a window into the past, they teach us how they have survived in this harshest of environments, using their vast and ancient knowledge of plants, animal behavior and survival skills.
Time for one more lunch, before you bid farewell to Camp Kalahari in preparation for your onward journey.
* This itinerary is a sample itinerary. Itineraries are subject to changes due to the weather, the trip guide's discretion and other factors.
Related Travel Articles
This is a brand new horse riding safari, based from comfortable Camp Kalahari. Our Equitrekking team has personally tried this trip and filmed it for a new episode of Equitrekking. This trip had some of the most amazing star gazing we've ever seen and we were able to gallop with a herd of zebra!
Stay tuned, as you'll be able to watch this on PBS and read more about the adventures in Darley's Blog and Darley's column in Practical Horseman magazine.
Thanks for yet another fantastic trip. It was great to be back with you doing the guiding on your horses - it made us realise how much we have missed it. Your new safari in the Pans is a real winner - the combination of the wildlife, guiding, horses and sheer beauty of the landscape we rode through was mesmeric. It is a wonderful unique place and I really enjoyed seeing the contrast to the dry season after our trip to Jack's Camp in 2004.
-- Steve, United Kingdom
It is wonderful for us to hear our guests confirm what we believe! As you already know I am absolutely loving riding out in the Pans and did not think it could get any better but on the last safari (mid February) it could not have been more perfect. Rain had been scarce for the previous two weeks so many of the flooded pans had dried up allowing for superb riding. But some of the Pans still held water and around these it was like riding through Eden (I imagine!).
The centre of the pans were pink with flamingoes and these were surrounded by the endless herds of zebra and wildebeest with some walking in single file one way through the Pan and others walking through single file in the other direction. And for the birding enthusiasts huge flocks of ruffs and sandpipers and more black winged stilts than I have ever seen in one place. Magical!
The only downside was that none of us had a camera good enough to capture that image! But there are some wildlife images that stay with you for ever and that will be one of them. As will be the moment a mummy meerkat carried one of her young from one burrow to another climbing over all our legs in the process!
-- David Foot, longtime safari guide
Botswana: The Bradt Safari Guide, 3rd: Okavango Delta, Chobe, Northern Kalahari (Paperback) by Chris McIntyre
A personal, detailed guide to Botswana, its history, culture, attractions and natural history. With color photographs, maps and excellent travel information. This British series of guidebooks is noteworthy for its focus on culture, nature and responsible travel. It covers the Okavango Delta, Chobe, Northern Kalahari and other popular destinations in detail.
Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia (Paperback)
An informative practical guide to Botswana and its attractions, including nearby Victoria Falls.
Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide (Paperback) by Peter Allison (Author)
Whatever You Do, Don’t Run is a hilarious collection of true tales from top safari guide Peter Allison. In a place where the wrong behavior could get you eaten, Allison has survived face-to-face encounters with big cats, angry elephants, and the world’s most unpredictable animals—herds of untamed tourists and foolhardy guides whose outrageous antics sometimes make them even more dangerous than a pride of hungry lions!
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
A delightful introduction to Botswana's formidable female detective, evoking the cultures, customs and texture of Africa.
The Safari Companion by Richard Estes
An invaluable encyclopedic guide to Africa's mammals by a noted scientist. Written with the typical safari-goer in mind, this perennial bestseller includes black-and-white drawings, an overview of each group and in-depth information.
Equitrekking Coffee Table Companion Book & DVD
Equitrekking Travel Adventures on Horseback by Darley Newman with Photographs by Chip Ward available at Amazon.com
This companion to the PBS TV series, Equitrekking, proves that the world's most beautiful views are often best seen from atop a horse. This gorgeous book features dozens of scenic rides in the U.S. and around the globe. Denver Post review: For horse folk and dreamers, as well as fans of the show, it's a beautiful trip through stunning equestrian-friendly possibilities.
Equitrekking DVD's featuring Emmy winning PBS episodes, available in the Shop section of Equitrekking.com
Get off the beaten path to see some of the world's most beautiful horses and classic riding destinations with host and equestrian travel expert Darley Newman with Emmy Award-winning Equitrekking, the horseback riding travel series on PBS.
Season One: Vermont, the Carolinas, Georgia Coast, Wyoming, Colorado and Spain.
Season Two: Iceland, Coastal Ireland, Hawaii's Big Island, Irish Countryside, Maui, Virginia Hunt Country and California Wine Country.
Season Three: Arizona, Belize, Costa Rica, Kentucky, Quebec, Texas and Utah.
Season Three: Arizona, Belize, Costa Rica, Kentucky, Quebec, Texas and Utah.
Season Four: Southern Spain, Alaska, Central Turkey, Quebec City and Beyond, Scotland and Wales.
Good Books for Horse Lovers and Equestrians
Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior (Paperback) by Temple Grandin
Philosophers and scientists have long wondered what goes on in the minds of animals, and this fascinating study gives a wealth of illuminating insights into that mystery. ---Publishers Weekly
The Horse: A Miscellany of Equine Knowledge (Hardcover) by Julie Whitaker with Ian Whitelaw
The Horse is an informative gallop through everything to do with the horse: evolution, history, biology, breeds, behavior, training, competition, health, and care—all gathered into an accessible gallery of solid information, essential facts, and fascinating trivia.
Hunter Seat Equitation (Hardcover) by George H. Morris
A classic by a world-renowned teacher and master equestrian--the definitive work on the art of teaching and riding the hunter seat, now updated to include refinements in Morris's insightful program of riding instruction.
The New Encyclopedia of the Horse (Hardcover) by Elwyn Hartley Edwards
Chronicling the history of the horse, this guide encompasses the early domestication of the horse, classical riding styles, as well as a survey of the great stud farms and current international sporting events.
Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana
maxiumum group size is usually 8
Dates & Rates
Makgadikgadi Pans Safari Itinerary
English and Trail Saddles. English trained horses.
210 lbs (95 kgs)
Minimum Age of Rider
12 years and over for riding. Competent riders only.
Charter Flight to a private airstrip from Maun
Best Months to Visit
Year-Round, depending on your preference.
Makgadikgadi Dry Season: Winter Apr – Oct
Makgadikgadi Wet Season with zebra and wildebeest migration: Summer Nov– Apr