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 this safari
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 an African Safari
Plan Your Trip to Africa
- Travel Insurance: We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
- Travel Waterbottle: When we’re uncertain about the water supply we use our Grayl Purifier. It’s come in exceptionally handy around Africa.
- Camera Gear: Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. We love the Sony RX100V for a pocket-size camera and the Fujifilm XT-3 for a professional camera. Check out our favorite cameras for Africa.
- Safari Clothes: Lightweight, beige, and moisture-wicking clothing are great for traveling Africa. See our favorite safari clothing here.
- Safari Hat: A good hat is both stylish and functional.
- Safari Bag: A durable bag is ideal for traveling around Africa.
- Safari Pants: We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors.
- Safari Shirt: Shirts like these are lightweight and keep the bugs away!
- Boots: While you don’t need to wear sturdy shoes everyday, at least one pair of safari boots will make your trip nicer!
- Travel Adapter: You’ll need a special travel adapter for traveling Africa. Get one before you get there so you don’t pay a premium on the ground.