Motswiri Camp - RAW Botswana
Experience of a Lifetime...
The e-mail said "Competition Winner" I was wondering what I had won without entering a competition when I realised it was from Horse Zone...It arrived on a cold sunny Tuesday afternoon in January, it took a minute or two to sink in and then the realisation hit...I had won a holiday of a lifetime and would be jetting off to the Okavango Delta in Botswana with a friend courtesy of RAW Botswana and Horse Zone. After a couple of e-mails back and forth to the Horse Zone office a date was set. All I had to do now was choose a friend to come with me, someone that I wouldn't feed to the lions upon arrival and that could ride well enough to gallop out of trouble. How hard could this be? Tamara it was then, I couldn't promise I wouldn't feed her to the lion's at some point during the week but she is a good rider and can gallop out of trouble (just hope her horse is slower than mine!!).
We spent the next few months stalking the RAW Botswana Facebook page and the website becoming more and more excited and apprehensive the closer we got to our departure date. Packing was proving a total nightmare but after looking at the website for the 10001 time it was discovered that the weight limit had been upped from 12KG to 20KG - Wow we could actually take normal clothes as well and Tamara could pack the all important hair straighteners!
Friday 23rd October was suddenly here and the upgrade bid on South African Airway's had been granted, we were flying to Johannesburg Business Class. We checked in...no queue at our desk...went through security and did some last minute shopping for the flight, checked into the Airport lounge at Heathrow's Terminal 2 and let the holiday begin... We boarded the plane...no queue for us at the gate, stepped onto the plane at the front and turned left...wow...huge seats that made flat beds, duvets, 3 course meal on china plates and champagne in glasses, amazing.
Meal, movie and sleep...
Saturday 24th We arrived feeling refreshed and ready for our adventure, one flight down 2 to go. We transited through to the Domestic terminal and didn't have to wait long for our next flight to Maun. Once in Maun we were then taken by mini bus onto the tarmac for our final flight into Motswiri Camp in none less than a caravan.
We both arrived feeling very sick and looking very green and were thankful that this flight was only 35 minutes. We were met by Johno who was going to be our Guide for the week, he picked us up and drove us the few hundred yards from the airstrip into camp. Here we recieved a very warm welcome from the Camp Manager Mossie and a couple of her team.
We were then shown to the mess tent and briefed on camp life. It was 45 deg C and we were melting. But no rest for the wicked...we were taken to our tent where we did a quick unpack and change into our riding kit (well a slow peel into our jods as we were so hot) and it was back to the mess tent for tea, cake and a riders briefing from our guide Johno and the horse manager and back up guide Carmen.
Off to the barn it was to meet the horses and the grooms that look after them so well under Carmen's expert guidence. We rode in trail saddles which had high pommels and for the hours we spent in the saddle each day we felt both safe and comfortable the whole time. Horses ranged in size from 15hh - 15.3hh and were all use to the trails and game that we came across. These ranged from the South African Boerperds and Kalahari crosses to Arabs and Thoroughbreds. I was on a horse that had been brought up from SA and was called 'Giza' Tamara was on a palomino called 'Buck'. We were lucky enough to see a Giraffe, Buffalo, Hippopotimusses, Hyena's and Vultures, we had only been in camp a few hours...wow. We arrived back in camp and jumped straight into the game drive vehicle, notification had come through that there was two lionesses resting after a good feast on a baby giraffe they had killed earlier. We were able to get very close to them and it was an amazing sight. Sadly the camera's were still packed!!
We just had time to shower before supper. Supper was served on the beach and we all ate at a long table together.
Sunday 25th We were woken at 5:15am by the tent ladies with a tea tray, it was still dark and chilly, the nights were cool which was refreshing from the heat of the day pushing mid 40's most of the time. Breakfast was served around the campfire on the beach at the Mess Tent. Porridge was keeping warm on the fire as was a coffee pot and toast that had been toasted on the fire, a reall rustic affair with the sun rising behind us.
We rode the same horses again as the the day before and left camp at 6:30am. We saw Warthog, Elephants, Antolope, Zebra's bottoms as the ran away, Buffalo and Giraffe's. We watched a large herd of Elephants move across the plain.
After the elephants had moved on, we moved off to a shady spot with trees to tie the horses to for a brake. Once everyone had jumped off (except me) and was sorting their horses out a lone elephant was spotted moving infront of us. Carmen quickly instructed everyone to mount up (Tamara and Henry, another riding guest that was with us from France). Tamara went into total panic mode thinking she was going to be chased by an elephant and walked round and round her horse wondering how she got on!! Luckily she didn't need to and the elephant was only interested in catching up the herd that had left him behind.
Lunch was served in the Mess Tent and then we had 4 hours for some R & R, we would read our books, sleep and swim in the pool to cool off.
Rendezvous at 4pm for tea and cake and we had decided to spend a quiet afternoon punting down the river in Mekoros...
Life was idyllic until a Hippo decided Tamara was his next meal and popped his head up right beside us!! We were very quickly pushed into the reeds away from him and sat and watched with our exit route behind us, the bank!! On the way home we gave him a wide berth and pulled the mekoros around him on the bank and got back in down stream.
Monday 26th Another early tea tray and breakfast with the birds where one decided to pooh on my head!! A sign of good luck...and little did we know then that we would be so very grateful for that later in the day!
We had a slow morning, one of those days where you don't see any game, we didn't mind the views were amazing and it was great to be out on the horses, a bit of trotting and cantering we had smiles on our faces anyway. After a couple of hours we could Baboons making a racket in the distance, they were very upset about something so Johno decided to investigate. As we got close we soon realised why they were cross. Two lionesses had killed one of their friends. We stood watching as the lionesses had spotted the horses. They wern't bothered by us to start with but then one decided to protect the kill and warn us off. She gave chase!! Our back up guide had warned us that we may have to gallop away so we were prepared...As she launched herself out of the dust infront of us we got our que "GO-GO-GO". The horses didn't need asking twice they were running whether we stayed with them or not, they spun and galloped flat out away from the lion. The lion was on Johno's tail but we all out ran her, she retreated and we pulled up and turned to watch her go back to the other lioness and their kill. The horses all huddled together and snorted their disapproval at her. It gave us a proper meaning of the saying "Ride for your Life", we did good and we were pleased we had Henry with us who was an exceptionally good quiet rider and a true gentleman. And of course Johno and Carmen who were calm and we completely trusted with our lives.
That afternoon we were joined by 2 new riding guests. Our guides were doing an evening ride but were thought we would join James 007 and his guests on a game drive. We were told we were riding and didn't get a choice...we we pleased we did! We were on new horses as Buck and Giza were then given a couple of days off to get over their lion incounter. Tamara was on Mbogo which means Buffalo and I was on Mr B. Mr B was a thoroughbred that had run away from camp in November 2012 and was found alive some 50 killometeres away at a neighbouring camp 6 months later. He had seen all the game survived on his own and was a total lengend. We saw a herd of Buffalo, Hyena's chasing each other across the river and Baboons.
Tuesday 27th It was overcast and windy and a welcome relief from the plus 45 deg C temperatures. I was given a different horse this morning Tommy, he is Johno's lead horse but as he had taught him some bad habits it was my job to iron these out before he had him back. We spotted Honey Badgers, Elephants and more Buffalo.
That afternoon was spent on Game Drive with Johno and Carmen and our riding group. We got up close to; Baboons, Monkey's, Rebuck, Giraffe, Elephant's, Buffalo and Hippopotamusess.
On the way home we could smell the rain, it was raining somewhere and the wind was getting stronger, in the distance we had an amazing lightening storm but no thunder or rain over us. It was a little scarey in side the tent so we pushed our single beds together, just in case!!
Wednesday 28th We didn't sleep that well because of the wind but as we weren't ones to complain and were embracing camp life in the bush...onwards and upwards! Fresh lion prints were spotted in the sand as we rode away from the airstrip from camp. Tamara and I did feel quite apprehensive but we need not have worried plan B was quickly executed and we steered well clear.
We thought is was odd that we didn't get a midway stop this morning and kept going spotting; Baboons, Hippo's, Elephant's and Giraffe's. We were heading back in the general direction of the camp through the scrub when we turned a corner to a clearing and there in front of us was a picnic lunch stop. Carmen's grooms were there to take the horses from us System, Tops, White and Flossy and ride and lead then the last bit home to camp. We sat enjoying more delicious food and admiring the view.
Johno took Henry, myself and Tamara on another game drive where we got really close to Zebra, Elephant's and Warthog's, we also saw Buffalo and birds. Luckily today Johno didn't forget the tonic for my Gin like yesterday but he did forget the white wine so Tamara had to improvise with beer in a wine glass on ice!
Thursday 29th Today Tamara and I were back on our original horses Giza and Buck, we have a strong bond with them now. We came across at least 20 hippo's in the same pool, an amazing sight to see. We also saw, Elephants, Buffalo, Zebra, Antelope and Warthogs.
That afternoon we were joined by Linda and Chris from the UK, AKA Margo and Jerry (The Good Life). We had a lovely afternoon ride and I was back on Tommy for a final bad habits ironing out session!! We were very lucky to see 9 Giraffe, Zebra and a herd of about 20+ Elephants. We arrived back into camp from across the river and were greted with sundown drinks.
Friday 30th This morning's ride was full of game again: Elephant's, Warthog's, Giraffe, Marabou Storks, Rebuck, Buffalo, Impala and Kudu. We also saw the King of the jungle; a male lion as we rounded a corner who had been to a water hole for a drink and was heading back to his friend in a cool shady spot.
Each day the horses spend time out in a very large pen in the bush and are walked across the river, it's shady and gives them a chance to unwind and graze. At night they come in to the big airy barn where they are safe from the game that are around, they each have their own stalls and are very loved and cared for by Carmen and her team.
Natalie and her husband flew in at lunch time today they were from Austria. Natalie was riding and her husband doing game drives. Tamara and I decided to join him on his game drive with James 007 and go in search of the male lions. We had almost given up hope of seeing them when we did come across them...and wow what a sight and so close we could almost have tickled their tummies!! We also saw more Elephants and Rebuck.
We were joined on our last night in camp by Buffalo, there were three outside our tent. One just outside our mesh window, we could hear it breathe and chew.
Saturday 31st The tent lady with our tea tray disturbed the Buffalo who with his friends splashed across the river. We were relieved as we did wonder how we would make breakfast otherwise. Departure day...but not until 11am so plenty of time for a last morning ride, we had a couple of last canters and look at the landscape and said our goodbyes to the Hippo's, Rebuck and Elephants.
We were collected by the smallest aircraft possible and our journey home began it wasn't quite as comfortable as our outbound flight!
Every night we were accompanied by Hyenas and honey badgers around camp and of course the buffalo on our last night. We could hear elephants and lions calling at night and other noises that we had no idea what they were, we really were in the middle of no-where!!
Tamara and I really did have the holiday of a lifetime and amazing experiences we will forever treasure. We can't thank everyone enough for looking after us so well and making us feel so welcome at the Motswiri Camp. Mossie and her team in camp, Carmen our back up guide and her team who looked after us and the horses so very well and last but not least our Guide Johno who we trusted with our lives.
Kate at HQ for organising eveything so well. Horse Zone who ran the competition back in November when they launched their website at Tattersalls Newmarket and RAW Botswana's owners Tim and Tessa Vesty who very generously donated the holiday to Horse Zone for thier launch.