One of the safari experiences that until recently had evaded me (and I am lucky enough to have in my time enjoyed a few) was a horse-riding safari. To combine the two great passions I have, that being my love of horses and time spent in the African bush was an exceptional experience.

My first, and I certainly hope not my last, safari enjoyed on horseback, was in the malaria free Welgevonden area of South Africa a few miles north-east of Johannesburg. I left London on  Thursday evening and in less than 24 hours was firmly in the saddle. The 11 hour direct flight from London Heathrow to Johannesburg with South African Airways got me on the ground at 07.30am. By 9.00 am I had collected my trusted Toyota Corolla and was on the freeway heading north.

After a 3 hour drive and only a small section of sand road (always the first sign that you are truly in the bush), I was at Ants Hill. Ants is a family run property with an emphasis not only on riding, but riding quality horses. I was amazed to discover they have roughly 90 horses between the two lodges on the reserve, thereby ensuring that when both lodges are at full capacity there is a horse for every rider no matter their ability.

The horses are free to roam and live out in the reserve, so are accustomed to being with the animals you would hope to encounter on any safari experience. These include 40 species of game including giraffe, white rhino, sable antelope, buffalo, gemsbok (oryx), kudu, blue wildebeest (gnu), red hartebeest, zebra, impala, waterbuck, warthog, baboons, leopard jackal, brown hyena and caracal to name but a few. When you’re on a ride and find yourself galloping alongside a family of giraffe who hardly notice you’re there, you almost transition from being a ‘tourist’ in the bush to having a sense of actual belonging.

Mealtimes are generally communal dining (and delicious), giving you the opportunity to get to know your fellow horse and safari lovers and discuss your days activities. For me the highlight was a morning ride followed by a surprise stop in the bush next to a serene lake for a lunch time braai (BBQ). We dismounted our trusty steeds, removed their tack and watched our horses along with 20 – 30 others, who hadn’t been ridden that morning, go for a refreshing roll in the lake.

The accommodation options are varied and exceptionally comfortable in spacious rooms with breath-taking views over the African bush. Lying in an outdoor bath on a raised deck, sipping South African sparkling wine, after a 3 hour ride is an experience I hope to repeat again soon. I have promised my children (one of whom rides and the other not), that I would take them back one day. This is something I realised Ants has managed to get just right, the way the lodge although very much horse-focused, caters for all levels of riders, even those who have never sat on the back of a horse and too for those who have no interest in riding at all but wish to appreciate the beauty of the South African bushveld.