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Horseback safari, South Africa
Africa | Wildlife | Horseback

The Ant Collection
Where: South Africa
Trip purpose:
- Horseback vacation
- Safari, wildlife encounters
- More natural safari than in a car
- Safe riding without elephants and lions
- Luxurious lodges and top notch service
- Family friendly
- Suitable for occasional riders
- Need to be at least basic rider to do safari on horseback
- No elephants and lions
"Safari in South Africa"

Why do horseback safari in South Africa?

Riding horses gives you a unique feeling of blending with the nature. Safari on horseback amplifies that experience further. It makes sense to do it on horseback for a regular rider who goes on a safari trip. However, the option is not limited to experienced riders. There are two types of horseback safaris: in the wild and in special properties. The latter can be controlled in terms of species, to exclude more dangerous animals and allow less confident riders enjoy the activity. You do not have to be able to gallop from danger in an area without lions or elephants. It is a bit different for riding in the wide open nature though. You do need to be a good rider and be prepared to run for your life if a lion or an elephant charges the group. After researching the matter we decided to do a horseback safari at the Ant Collection in South Africa. The restricted areas is a private property with stationary lodges. This setting provides comfort, safe riding and guaranteed presence of animals. The reserve is very family oriented and they specifically design activities to include children. The property is also close to the famous Kruger National Park where you can extend your safari trip to see the more dangerous animals.

As always, we have no affiliation with the reserve. We simply share our experience and opinions.

Where in the world?

"Ants Nest on OpenStreetMap"
Safari property on OpenStreetMap


The reserve is in the northern part of South Africa, next to the Waterberg Plateau in the Limpopo Province, 3 hours north of Johannesburg and 5 hours west of the Kruger National Park.

Getting there

The closest airport with international connections is Johannesburg (O. R. Tambo) International Airport (JNB). There are direct flights from most large airline hubs. It takes about 11 hours from northern Europe, 14 hours from Sydney, Australia, and 15 hours from New York.

There are three options for a transfer from the airport: book a car transfer, rent a car, or have a short flight to a small aerodrome close to the reserve. The directions and options for the transfer are posted here. We chose to order a car ride.


"European type plug"
European type plug

240 V, 50 Hz, but there are two types of plugs. One is similar to the European type with two round prongs, and the other is unusual massive plug similar to the British type but with thick round prongs instead of the flat ones. We used the European type sockets.


The primary language in South Africa is English. Just FYI, the most prevalent first language is Zulu, followed by Afrikaans, a derivative of Dutch.


South African Rand, 100 rand ~ 6.5 USD.

Vaccination and infections

According to CDC no vaccination is required in addition to the routine vaccination established in most countries (subject to your country of origin and your personal vaccination). Hepatitis and typhoid vaccines are recommended. There IS a risk of malaria in some parts of the country. Please consult with a travel clinic for possible prophylactic medications. Protect yourself from insect bites to avoid insect transmitted infections (chikungunya etc.). Yellow fever vaccination is required if you travel from an endemic area. South Africa has a high HIV infection prevalence. Airborn infections such as avian flu and tuberculosis are also present. Rabid dogs are commonly found, but treatment may not be available. Please see updated information for health at CDC site or health authority in your country.


There is a list of countries for which tourist visa is not required. Please check for your specific situation here.

When to go?

Weather averages, Johannesburg

November to February can be rainier. May through September are dry winter months and it gets a bit cooler at night. Best months are May and September. It is easier to see wildlife in September because of dried foliage. We went in May and riding was pleasant, warm but not hot. We would wear a light jacket or warm shirt in the morning and take it off by lunch time. Evenings were cool but daytime temperatures were getting to a point of swimming in the pool.

"Horseback safari"
At a water hole
"Buffalo in South Africa"

Where to stay?

"Rhino in South Africa"

The Ants Collection has two lodges on the reserve: Ants Nest and Ants Hill. Ants Nest is the older lodge where they feed rhinos. Ants Hill is located on a hill with panoramic view of the valley. We stayed at the Ants Hill and truly appreciated the view. One evening the staff gave us a ride to the Ants Nest to watch rhino feeding. So, you will not miss it at either location.

"Ants Hill"

What to do?

"Free horses in Ants Hill"
Free roaming horses
"Papa zebra blocks us from his herd"
Papa zebra blocks us from his herd
"Rhino feeding at Ants Hill"
Rhino feeding

The main activity is riding horses to see the game animals. The staff can also arrange safari in a vehicle for non-riders. Evening activities include rhino feeding and night drives to spot nocturnal game. There are also several other activities, including children-oriented.


"Horseback safari"
"lunch during safari"

The company has large stables with horses of different temperament and size. They select horses for your weight and riding ability. We always had matching horses. They even have small "bomb-proof" horses for children. The saddles are McLellan saddles, but you can ask for an English saddle. There are pockets for water bottles in the McLellan saddles, but not in the English ones. The horses are let to roam free in the reserve and they and the animals are accustomed to each other. The horses come back to the stables for food. We visited the stables during a lunch break. There were close to 30 stalls and a small outdoor arena. All horses were well cared for and the tack was in good condition.


As horses live together with the animals on the reserve we had no trouble finding and getting close to the wildlife. There are no large predators or elephants on the reserve, which makes the rides safe in this respect. Apparently horses in the wild are dominant to most grazing animals. They were not afraid of any game. We felt that they tried to keep some distance only from the rhinos, but we still came very close, 10 meters or so. The rhinos are the subject of pride at the reserve as the company runs a rhino conservation project - Save the Waterberg Rhino charity. There are only white rhinos as black rhinos can be dangerous for close encounters. The only animals we needed to keep a distance was buffalo, if you happen to encounter them in a narrow spot. They are safe in an open area where they can run in any direction. Over three days of riding we saw all species that live on the reserve.

There are morning and afternoon rides. The guests can choose to ride one time or twice a day and combine activities. We would ride along the dirt roads and venture into the bush exploring different areas of the reserve. The property is so large that we never visited the same spot twice over 6 riding riding sessions. Once in a while we would canter along the road or in a flat field. We never trotted though. What we realized that trotting is not natural for horses in the wild and not comfortable for them. Not comfortable for most riders either. The guides were very attentive and would make sure that the horses and the riders are OK. They were also knowledgeable how to find the game. There were options for group rides and private guides (extra fee). They run two guides per group, one leading and the one behind the group.

The staff organized lunches and sunset picnics. Sometimes it would be in the bush, sometimes we would come to one of the lodges. It is an unforgettable experience to stop in the middle of "nowhere", let your horses run free, then sit back with a glass of wine watching sun setting over.


Smaller cameras can fit in a pocket of your jacket. Compact cameras with good (optical!) zoom and anti-shake stabilization can do very good job, especially if you put them on a gimbal grip. If you have a larger camera it is better to have it in a sling bag like this. A sling bag is also a good idea for a compact camera on a gimbal. Just be aware that the bag can hit the saddle during canter when it is in the middle of your back. Swing it to the side and tighten the waist belt during canter. Also put two partition pads on the bottom and place camera lens down as the screen can be damaged on a direct impact against the saddle back. A smaller SLR with a mid size tele zoom lens is manageable. Image stabilization is a must, better both in the lens and in the body. The guides can take pictures of you with animals on the background. If you want to film and take pictures of yourself GoPro or similar action camera is a better choice. Do not count on it to film animals though, the lens is too wide angle. Best way is to have an action camera on an extension pole. You can even mount a Carma gimbal grip on the pole, however be aware that it is heavy and more difficult to keep desired direction of the lens as the stabilization mechanism has a mind of its own. After some experimentation, we found that the best way is to use in-camera stabilization with the extension pole alone. Mounting on the helmet works as well but a bit awkward to operate. The worst mount is the chest mount, the camera bounces around and the view can be obstructed.

After some experimentation, we felt that a compact camera with powerful optical zoom mounted on a gimbal grip is the best option to film and take pictures of animals while you are on a horseback. Combine it with a GoPro or similar action camera on an extendable pole if you want to film and take pictures of yourself.

Rhino feeding

This is done at the Ants Nest in the evenings. The rhinos tend to congregate there because of feeding. There is a small wall and a raised area that protects people. Rhinos cannot jump, so even a 2-feet wall is sufficient. You can literally be within 1 meter from these large and heavy animals.

Special dinners

There are options for private dinners and romantic occasions. We had a big date dinner in the bungalow. Another couple had a romantic setup at a sunset, for marriage proposal. There are also wedding and honeymoon packages.

Other activities

The reserve also offers other activities, such as nature walks, fishing, biking and others.

As always, we have no affiliation with any booking companies or resorts. We simply share our experience and opinions.