Friday, February 06, 2004

Gallop with Giraffes and Elephants - Mike Core

Those of you who regularly look at the web site might have noticed a new advertiser, "African Horse Safaris" which is a link to Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris in Botswana, Africa. Its in the Tuli block of Africa which is where South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe come together. I bumped into their web site while looking for other things to do while I was in Africa on my last hunting trip. I picked them out of many African Horse Safaris because they were near my hunting area and because they were the only ones that had a higher weight limit of 220 pounds. I barely made it.

Its been nine months since I went there and I have just booked my next trip for May 2nd thru the 16th. I didn't know what to expect but was blown away by my experience. I don't know what else I could possilby do to top the experiences I had on this trip.

The guides were very inquisitive about my riding experience and questioned me intently on it. They made it clear that you could not be a novice or even intermediate rider, you had to be advanced and comfortable with any gait over any terrain in physically threatening situations. Tranlation: DON'T PANIC AND FALL OFF YOUR HORSE JUST BECAUSE SOME GRUMPY ELEPHANT DECIDES TO CHASE YOU, it can lead to a crushing experience. As I was going through customs and the South African / Botswana border post a S.A. policeman informed that just a few days prior he had to pick up the body of a local man who got too close to elephants while walking home at night. Their not meat eaters, but if you get too close they will charge and stomp you.

They don't get too many Americans at LVHS and thats because they don't market it to us. Shockingly, we Americans have the reputation of being whiny and sue happy!!! Can you believe it?? After the first full day riding and our first encounter with a charging elephant where I managed to keep control of my Boerperd bred horse "Impi - Zulu Warrior" and not fall off, I got the story of the last group of Americans who showed up. It seems they were from the San Francisco Bay area and were quite the sensitive type. They had group hugs and said a prayer to Mother Earth before they started riding the first day. The African guides told me they kept quiet, but rolled their eyes and laughed to themselves. Steve Rufus, the head madman, decided to test their riding ability by going on a full gallop in the bush. Three out of the six fell off, one getting skinned up moderately well. The sensitive Bay area people complained profusely. The group lasted two more days then Steve sent them home, no refund, its in the contract. If he thinks your riding ability isn't up to the point of being able to avoid dangerous animal situations, then he will take away your saddle. In order to sue someone in Botswana, you have to be a citizen. Which means you have to move there and reside for ten years before you are even elidgable to apply. Good luck.

If your are a good endurance rider and not the panicky tpye, but love adventure and want to really ride, then you will have no problem. Steve likes to use Warmblood Crosses for his horses. They are especially picked for durability and temperment. My horse obviously had a lot of Arab in him. There were also Anglo Arabs and Quarter/Arab combos. He uses Australian stock saddles they work extremely well for their type of riding. They don't trot. You either walk, canter or do some full out gallops so the Aussie saddles are excellent. I never fell off once for the entire ten days. You sleep in two man dome tents each night while out in the African Wilderness. They come with extra long comfortable thick beds. The camp is already set up for you at each location by the staff. Joyce the cook will keep you full with a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner. If the staff likes the group, they will even sing to you each night at dinnertime. My group had two German men and three Proper British ladies. We had great times by the fire each night after an exciting day of riding.

I can't possibly tell you everything that happened, but over the next ten days: 1) I did the fastest galloping of my life over an African plain with warthogs, impala , eland, jackals and kudu darting out of the way while mixed in with a herd of about 15 giraffe 2) A five mile chase of a herd of Zebra with one of Steve's domestic Boerperd Stallions in it. This Stallion had run off two years earlier and had been breeding with the Zebras, we saw several small Zorses, we were not able to catch the Black Stallion 3) Galloped in seperate gallops with large herds of Blue Wildebeast, Impalas, and Baboons, 4) An additonal giraffe and zebra herd chase 5) I personally got chased around a game vehicle by some irate elephant bulls who were in must 6) Took two more charges by testy elephants 7) Ran into some wild lions on the ground 8) The last day I was there, Steve, myself and the two German guys, Hans and Frans, snuck up behind a herd of about 80 elephants and got them into a stampede and cantered behind them for about a quarter mile, you have to get off to the side quickly as those things throw up alot of dust. I am a 45 year old CPA and I was giggling like a twelve year old school girl.

There are some other experiences I will never forget. We went on long canters thru the bush as the sun was setting with warthogs, eland, kudu , blue wildebeast and impala darting out of the way. You will visit Boer battle sites and learn about the natural history of the area. Do some rock climbing and exploring on foot. The guides always have a 458 Winchester Magnum Rifle with them just in case.

As I have mentioned, they don't much care for American clients, but I assured them that endurance riders were different. After all, our mottos are "No Whining" "Ride, Really Ride" and "You Can Rest When Your Dead".

How much does it cost. Last year it was a mere $ 230 a day. That included everything except booze and optional tipping. Of course the air fare adds substantially. A round trip ticket from LA depending on the time of year will run from $1600 to $ 2000. This year the daily rate has risen to $ 280. Still, a fantastic bargain for what you receive. The staff takes care of everything. All you have to do is ride, eat and take pictures. I know it would still be a pricey trip for most people, but its worth it. You will never forget your trip to Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris. Check out their web page by the link at

I would like to help them build up their client base as Steve Rufus wants to expand into the Okavango Delta. There we could add Cape Buffalo, hippos and crocidiles to all the fun.

If any of you have any questions, please contact me by email at or 805-496-8315.

Happy Riding,
Mike Core