Riding: 1 - 2 hours
Following arrival by air or road, you will be greeted by your host and guide David Foot and settled into Camp Kalahari. The camp lies amongst the acacia trees and Mokolwane palms of Brown Hyena Island, located on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and next to the Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans National Park, Botswana.
After a chance to become accustomed to your surroundings and to have some tea, you will head off for an introductory ride in the beautiful afternoon light. This first ride is primarily used to pair up horses and riders but it is also a chance to see, for the first time, the incredible beauty of the area and where you will be riding for the coming days. After the ride you will head back to camp to enjoy sundowners (an African safari tradition!) followed by dinner. The horses will be kept close by, away from the threat of the Kalahari lions!
Riding: 3 - 4 hours
Today you will rise at dawn and eat a light breakfast before a long morning ride through the "land of a thousand islands". These are sand dunes covered in palm trees which dot the ancient lakebed, creating a fascinating landscape and one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Botswana. During the migration season these "islands" and their neighbouring grasslands become feeding grounds for zebra, wildebeest, hartebeest and ostrich, as well as the various predators. The white pans offer excellent going for the horses but depending on the rain, some of these areas will be full of water and a playground for migratory water birds. You will ride back to the camp for lunch and a rest - the camel thorn trees provide excellent shade or you may wish to cool off in the camp swimming pool.
After tea you will embark on a game drive to spot some of the special species unique to the desert - springbok, gemsbok, red hartebeest and the elusive brown hyena. These species are specially adapted to survive in the arid lands where food and water are often hard to come by. The brown hyena is rarely seen by humans as it is a timid, nocturnal animal which forages alone, despite living in clans of up to ten or twelve.
The night game drive back to camp is complete with a spot light to help you see the nocturnal animals such as the aardvark, bat-eared foxes, aardwolves, porcupine, honey badgers and maybe even a Kalahari Lion with a black mane! You will arrive back to Camp Kalahari in time for dinner.
Riding: 5 - 6 hours
Today's ride is a long route east towards Xau Xai Fly Camp so the group needs to make an early start. You will have to pack a few essentials for the next two days of adventure!
The ride leads you away from the Pans and into the mopane and acacia woodlands. These are characterised by stretches of short grassland which allow long, relaxed canters. The area is rich in incredible birdlife such as birds of prey, bustards, korhaans and other rare dry woodland bird species. You might also spot kudu or even a bull elephant! By lunchtime you will have reached the famous Green's Baobab which is situated next to Missionary Road once traversed by the explorer David Livingstone on his journey northwards. The trunk of this ancient tree is truly magnificent and is notched with the initials of early travellers dating back as far as 150 years. It is a living testimony to the history of the area!
Lunch break will be at the Gutsa Pan in the shade of palm trees, also a great spot to find Stone Age artefacts from ancient bushmen. A siesta through the midday heat followed by tea will fuel you for the journey onwards to Xau Xai Fly Camp, your home for the night.
Camp consists of comfortable dome tents, a central mess tent, toilets and bucket showers. A long, cool drink is the perfect accompaniment to a beautiful sunset and dinner out under the Kalahari sky.
Riding: 4 - 5 hours
Today you will wake up to steaming hot coffee and a light breakfast before saddling up and riding off in search of the meerkats!
You will leave the horses tethered as you continue on foot into the middle of the meerkat group. Uncharted Africa Safari co. are running an ongoing habituation programme meaning that you can get up close with these captivating creatures - they are not tame but are accustomed to the non-threatening presence of humans. On cold mornings you might find a meerkat cuddling up to you for warmth or, in the absence of a termite mound or tree, using your head as a sentry lookout post!
Your time spent with these enchanting animals will show you how they interact with both each other and their harsh environment. They are very social animals and extremely well-adapted for their habitat. This experience is bound to be one of the most special and memorable moments of your time in Botswana, a chance to view the desert as if through the eyes of a meerkat.
As the day gets warmer you will leave the meerkats to forage. You will mount up again and ride on to view the resident herds of zebra and large groups of ostriches which are attracted to the area by permanent fresh water hidden away in waterholes. You will make your way back to Xau Xai for lunch, a refreshing shower and most likely a snooze in the shade.
Later in the afternoon you saddle up for a moonlit ride across the pans to your campbeds, set out under the stars. The white pans glow under the light of the moon, lighting your path into the middle of what feels like the moon. The campfire will glow on the horizon as you open up and canter towards camp.
The horses are tethered around camp and your camp beds are set up ready for you to spend a beautiful evening under the Kalahari sky, with a tasty dinner around the campfire.
Riding: 3 - 4 hours
As dawn arrives and the stars disappear it is time to wake for a light breakfast. You will mount up and head homewards with this fast-paced ride, sometimes travelling along the edge of the Pans and at other times riding into the woodlands and open grasslands where the zebra and wildebeest are grazing.
From far away you will see the famous Chapman's Baobab on the horizon. This is also known as the Seven Sisters and is one of the largest trees in Africa, measuring 25m around its girth. It was the focal point of campsites for the early explorers such as Livingstone and Selous when they pioneered this area. (Sadly, Chapman's Baobab has fallen, but is still a worthy sight to behold).
You will arrive back at Camp Kalahari with time to enjoy a refreshing shower before sitting down to lunch. As the evening approaches and the sun disappears behind the horizon, you can take some time to think over the last few amazing days and all of the incredible landscapes and wildlife you've seen, not to mention the amazing riding!
Riding: No riding.
Depending on your departure time, today allows for a special cultural experience during which you will learn about the Zu/Hoasi bushmen and their ways of life.
Uncharted Africa (with whom your stay at Camp Kalahari is organised) has been a passionate supporter of cultural tourism in Botswana since the company's start in 1993. They strongly believe that tourism is an important tool in preserving this unique and unfortunately fast-vanishing culture. They have been working with the people of the Western Kalahari for several years now and are extremely fortunate to have bushmen, women and children spanning four generations living at their Jack's Camp in the Makgadikgadi.
The Zu/Hoasi lead a semi-traditional lifestyle these days, sharing their traditional hunting and food-gathering skills as well as their aptitude for making jewellery and hunting equipment. They can offer a window into the past and the opportunity to understand how they have survived in this harsh environment using their knowledge of the plants, animal behaviour and necessary survival skills. The intention is not to keep them frozen in time but to provide a glimpse of their traditional ways of life and their culture.
The initiative has allowed this community to work together with each other, sharing knowledge with both the camp guests and also their own younger generations, ensuring that the knowledge of their people is passed down. The hope is that these children will go into the modern world carrying this knowledge and the traditions of their ancient culture with a sense of pride.
After breakfast you will be drive through the bush to the traditionally built Bushmen's village where this community spends the day. These huts offer shelter from the environment but are not the community's permanent accommodation. On arrival you will be met by the elders of the community, in the traditional manner, after which you will take a walk out into the bush with the men, women and children. The focus of the walk will be to provide you with a gentle introduction to the Kalahari and the bushmen way of life. They will indicate distinct ecological characteristics of the area and it's animal and bird species. Your bushmen guides will talk about the uses of plants and wildlife offering a link between their culture and the wild environment that you have been experiencing.
After this special experience you will settle down to one more lunch before bidding farewell to Camp Kalahari and departing for your onward journey.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.