[dropcap]W[/dropcap]aking in the half-light of the African dawn, vague memories of the night sounds heard in the distance, a thought of the day ahead quickens the heart rate. Venturing out from under the canvas covers, the air feels briskly chilled with excitement. Dew is settled on dusty leaves and mingles with the scent of passing night creatures. The aroma of wood smoke infused with freshly-brewed coffee and crackling sounds of campfire coming to life mark the outset of adventure.
Fresh hoof falls on damp Kalahari sand can be seen, the creak of a leather saddle heard nearby, and warm African sunlight glistens through the canopy of teak. Across a clearing, tails swishing, foliage rustling, a buffalo herd moves into the forest; in the distance, the rumble of a lion’s roar is heard.
In the deep shade, bacon can be heard sizzling in a skillet, crisp white linen and silver newly laid on the table, as you settle in the comfort of a director’s chair watching bubbles rise in a flute glass.
Ears pricked, a horse blows. A bark-stripped branch and remnants of green leaves litter the path. Newly-laid tracks lead the way. Between polished ivory, a massive, grey, wrinkled trunk uncurls and plucks a camel thorn pod. A burst of energy beneath, a game path unravelling between equine ears, pounding hooves ply the well-trodden earth.
Later, ice cubes tinkle on glass, while the orange ball sinks into a faraway land. Warm, refreshing droplets rinse away the salt of the day. Campfire flames lick the darkness, extending up towards the star-studded night sky. Relax, reminisce, replenish, retire, until dawn returns.
About Hwange National Park
Hwange Horseback Safaris operates on the border of the world-renowned Hwange National Park. Part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest park at 14,651km2.
It is one of Africa’s greatest when it comes to its incredible diversity of wildlife, boasting over 100 species of mammals, including 19 large herbivores, and over 400 species of birds. Hwange is best known for hosting part of the largest elephant population in Africa, and is just 150km from one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls.
What you can expect
Working closely with their daughter Natasha Aylward, an accomplished horsewoman herself, having represented her country for many years in polocrosse, and son-in-law Roy Aylward, top professional guide and photographer (both owners of Wild Walks), their dream became a reality in 2014.
A thriving stable of well-schooled horses, comprising Thoroughbreds, Percherons, Quarter Horses and other farm breeds, ensures that each guest is well catered for. Riding from camp to camp, this safari leads you through true unfenced wilderness, where the chances of encountering four of the big five are highly likely. Small groups of between two and eight experienced riders are led by our Zimbabwean qualified guides and trackers with their unprecedented skills and knowledge of the area.
Apart from riding, a range of activities are offered during the safari, for riders and non-riders, such as game drives, game walks, waterhole sits, wildlife photography workshops, wildlife tracking and approaches.
Text: Natasha Aylward