We’ve been fortunate enough to have some incredible safari experiences over the years, but riding through the bush on horseback was a first. The Ant’s Collection located in the Waterberg in South Africa has been treating guests to horseback safaris for two decades.
So for a long weekend, we were treated to some delicious food, luxurious accommodation, wildlife, and some beautiful horse rides. It wasn’t our first time riding a horse, but we’d never rode at a canter or for an extended period of time, I think we may be hooked now.
A Horseback Safari at the Ant’s Collection
On our first morning ride, we found ourselves within several meters of a massive bull giraffe. The giraffe is the largest animal on the reserve and it’s always been a favorite of ours. Approaching the tower of a giraffe on horseback is a unique experience and you feel a deep tie to all of the animals at once. It’s you, your horse, and the animal in the bush.
While on horseback, the animals are far more relaxed than when approached by vehicle or foot as the horse is viewed as a fellow animal. This means animal encounters are far closer than your typical safari. There is, of course, the added knowledge that the animals in the reserve are not predators so an inexperienced rider we were able to relax without the worry of a difficult situation.
Our days at Ant’s Hill were marvelous as we spent the mornings on long morning rides at a relaxing pace. We’re novice riders and the team at Ant’s Hill were able to pair us with wonderful horses who allowed us to progress as riders.
For me, that meant getting to ride a well-tempered retired thoroughbred horse at a canter which was a real thrill. They had a wide range of gorgeous horses that were all so well cared that it was easy to realize the horses were at the heart of the lodge. This was evident in the way that the stable was run and maintained.
We spent one evening off of the horses to go and visit a special project on the reserve. That is the rhinos on reserve protect by the antipoaching unit. It was the closest we’d ever been to a rhino and it the size of the animal is tough to convey as the largest land animal behind the elephant. They look like a tank when approaching, which explains their Big Five status.
We were truly blown away by the lodge’s hospitality and the quality of their stable. There is still plenty of excitement with a stable full of horses and 40 species of animals on the reserve including zebra, sable, roan, wildebeest, eland, rhino, porcupine, and giraffe. It’s also not an official resident, but we did come across leopard tracks as they’ve been known to migrate through the region with their ability to scale fences.
With all things safari it’s always the intimacy of lodges like Ant’s Hill that strikes us the most. We have time to disconnect from the modern and reconnect with each other in nature. Perhaps under the starlight with a bottle of wine and the sounds of the bush.
The Ant’s Collection
The collection refers to the Private Waterberg reserve and the two properties on the reserve Ant’s Hill and Ant’s Nest. For our stay, we were at the lovely Ant’s Hill. Ant’s Nest was the original made from an old renovated ranch house that grew into a lovely lodge. Over time with more guests, the owners Ant and Tessa Baber built Ant’s Hill with commanding views over the surrounding environment. The reserve is located in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo province a reasonable drive from Johanessburg.
What’s great about the Ant’s Collection is that it removes the stress of safari for many. The reserve’s proximity to Johanessburg means that it’s easy to access for travelers.
It was a short drive from the city and if you take a bush flight from the runway, or were to need one in an emergency, it would be a quick flight. Parents can also relax knowing that the reserve is malaria-free and that there are no predators. This is all very understandable when you compare to other safari destinations in Southern Africa like Zambia, Namibia or Botswana where you can be many hours in the best-case scenario from a hospital.
Ant’s Hill Lodgings
We had the very fortunate experience to stay in the World’s View villa on the property. By far one of the largest and most luxurious stays we’ve had on safari there wasn’t a need we went without.
The cottage has two large private decks, one with a tub, an outdoor shower, a fireplace, a pool, a coffee station, and two en-suite bedrooms. It’s a unique blend of large beams of the woodwork and stacked stone that gives the feeling of a hideaway in the bush.
The large stone fireplace is a unique selling point and in the winter months. we could easily see ourselves sitting down by the fire with a glass of pinotage from the minibar. Instead, we enjoyed the covered veranda with several day beds and some gin and tonics.
It was a stunning room and the main lodge continued theme. The main lodge sits high on the hill and next to a waterfall that depends on the season. It commands impressive views of the Waterberg and has a large bar along with multiple rooms for lounging. It’s the perfect spot for afternoon tea or a gin and tonic after a day of riding around the reserve.
Hospitality and Food
The food here is top home-cooked food. You won’t leave breakfast, lunch, or dinner feeling hungry! Breakfast usually is often continental with a choice of yogurt, fruit, toast, cheese, meat, and the choice of whatever hot cooked item you’d like. Lunch is always was always plentiful with grilled meat, salad, or some delicious combination, such as surprise bush lunch with views out over the Waterberg.
Similar to many safari lodges meals are a communal affair where you are seated with a camp manager and your fellow guests. It’s a tradition we’ve always loved and with plenty of tables around the lodge, they rotate for a new atmosphere every night. It’s little touches like this where you can tell the experience of the lodge that has been serving guests for decades.
Book A Safari in South Africa
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you through booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.
What to Pack For South Africa?
Overland Tour in Africa
Traveling Africa on your own can be daunting to many travelers. However, there is no need to fear with overland tour companies who will show the ropes and a great time. You can check out some of them here to compare the different companies and possibly score a discount.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Africa so it’s best not to contribute to the problem of buying plastic water bottles everywhere. The tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, but a water purifier, like the Grayl waterbottle, works well!
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm.
For more professional photographs we use our Fuji XT-3, and LOVE IT.
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
I like two pairs, one pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other are convertible pants. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price.
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.
I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by. If you plan to walk around a lot get thick rubber soled shoes as acacia thorns are prone to stab through thin shoes. Cameron learned the hard way one day when he pulled a thorn out of his foot that went straight through his thin rubber sandals.
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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