Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Travel with a purpose

- Author Sophie Neville in South Africa - 

I have been passionate about promoting the conservation of the rhinoceros all my adult life. This year we gathered a group of twelve experienced riders to generate funds for Save The Waterberg Rhino and associated community projects in rural South Africa.

The idea was to raise sponsorship by riding 180kms across the Waterberg hills to the Palala River, a six-day trek through the big game country featured in my memoir 'Ride the Wings of Morning'. Each rider paid their own safari costs and raised £1,000 or more for The Waterberg Trust - a small but effective UK registered charity.

We set out on 20th January. It was high summer in southern Africa where the bush was blooming after recent rains. We came across zebra and wildebeest enjoying lush grazing after a year of dought. 

To our joy we saw animals great and small from warthog to giraffe.

We came across Cape buffalo

along with a number of different species of antelope, including rare roan antelope recently been re-introduced to the area.

And then we encountered white rhino.

I was cautious about approaching these two young males but they are used to horses, who graze with them on the game reserve, and I was able to get pretty close. 

-The author Sophie Neville riding with rhino-

The threat of poaching is so accute that their horns have been saturated in poison to negate their astonishing commercial value. They also have a 24 hour armed guard.

Details of the current crisis were revealed by Save The Waterberg Rhino. There are five different species of rhinoceros in the world. All are threatened, some to the edge of extinction. In South Africa along, poachers have been slaughtering about four white rhino a day. These are breeding animals. Females with small calves are shot, their horns hacked off and exported to the Far East. 

There is a huge market for the horn. It is only keratin and can smell revolting but sadly it is fashionable to own what has become a symbol of wealth. 

The good news is that The Waterberg Trust raised over £30,000 this year. 50% of funds will be used to install a vital security post with high-tech vehicle recognition systems. 

-Sophie Neville with some TWT Riders outside a security post about to be installed-

The remainder will go to established community projects in the area that benefit local children. £2,000 has been sent to Lethabo Kids Club for the provision of school shoes and bags. 

-TWT riders financing a 'Back to School' project-

We've been able to send more than 100 pupils from the township of Leseding on a residential course at Lapalala Wilderness School to learn about nature conservation. After gaining environmental awareness some chose to work with wildlife or in education and there is a marked committment to re-cycling.  

-Sophie Neville speaking to the students of Metshesethela School-

If you would like to know more or get involved please contact us at The Waterberg Trust

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Riding for Rhinos

On 15th January 2017, author Sophie Neville led twelve intrepid ladies across the Waterberg Plateau in South Africa on horseback. The aim of the challenge rides is to gain an understanding of this pristine wilderness and learn about challenges faced by the rural community. 

Lying three hours drive north of Johannesburg, the Waterberg is home to the third highest population of rhino in the world. As up to four rhino are being poached in South Africa every day, it is imperative to guard this upland area where they can be protected.
A challenging section of the Waterberg Charity Ride
Would you help us to raise funds for Save The Waterberg Rhino, who are combating anti-poaching, the Lapalala Wilderness School who help ensure local children grow up with an understanding of nature conservation, and other community projects in the region?
LWS pupils with python
The riders are paying their own way, so every penny will go straight to The Waterberg Trust, a UK registered charity who can send donations, plus any Gift Aid, to these small but effective projects in South Africa. Funds will go a long way to really make a difference in the Waterberg where they will be administered by trusted conservationists with years of experience. You can meet those who are striving to Save The Waterberg Rhino and protect the wilderness while uplifting communities in the Waterberg, here:

Those taking part in The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2017 were able to observe a number of white rhino living on Ant's Nest game reserve, while being updated on anti-poaching initiatives by Tess and her husband Ant Baber who hosted the six-day ride.
Riders then crossed the Waterberg hills on horseback, traversing Kwalata private game reserve to Lapalala Wilderness run by Anton Walker, who also appears in this film. He cares for wildlife re-introduced to the area thirty years ago by his father, the author and conservationist Clive Walker.
LWS meeting Clive Walker
While on this reserve, riders visited the Lapalala Wilderness School where children, often from deprived communities, come for a residential course on wildlife conservation. Many of them testify how this experience changes their outlook on life, giving them an appreciation for their environment and the future of South Africa's wild animals. The children take their enthusiasm into the community whose support is essential if poaching is to be combated.

After thirty-two hours in the saddle, riders ended up at the Palala River on Jembisa private game reserve. On their way home they went to visit Letabo Kids Club in the local township of Leseding who minister to the poorest of the poor and ensure all children attend primary school.
Sophie Neville at the Palala River
50% of funds raised by the sponsored ride will go to Save The Waterberg Rhino and 50% to support community projects in the area.
Riding safaris at Ant's (60)
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As a UK registered charity, The Waterberg Trust can claim Gift Aid on eligible donations, and organise transfer of funds to South Africa efficiently. Add a note to specify 'Save the Waterberg Rhino' or 'Lapalala Wilderness School' with your donation.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Author advocating the outdoor life-style

Sophie Neville with Nina Ninnar on ITV News at Ten

This summer, Sophie Neville, author of 'Ride the Wings of Morning' has been promoting the outdoor-life style on national television and BBC Radio in the UK and beyond. 

NZ3 in New Zealand

Sophie spoke on BBC Radio Cumbria and BBC Radio Suffolk, promoting summer camps for children that involve sailing, hill-walking and cooking in the great out-doors

'A grab a chance', Arthur Ransome wrote, 'and you won't be sorry for a Might Has Been.' Since Sophie starred as Titty in the original film of 'Swallow and Amazons' she has been interviewed about her life in the weekend supplements in view of the release of the new adaption, released in cinemas on 19th August.

Both in her own rights and as President of The Arthur Ransome Society:

Event ~ Mail on Sunday magazine 

Sophie was able to write about her own adventures in Africa on the Daily Telegraph 

Sophie Neville published in the Telegraph

and will next appear on BBC Television on 18th August speaking about:

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Back from the Waterberg

Sophie Neville and wildebeeste
In February 1992 I flew to the Waterberg, three hours north of Johannesburg and started writing the letters home that later became the essence of my memoir 'Ride the Wings of Morning'. 
Zebra by Sophie Neville
The dream of riding through the game reserves of South Africa has not ended. This March it became a reality for twelve British riders when they took up the challenge of joining me in raising £1,000 each for Save The Waterberg Rhino and local community projects. 
The team was made up of experienced riders and was led by Ant Baber, who appears in the book.
Ant Baber
Endless sandy tracks ensured the going was good and the pace was both fast and exhilarating.
The idea was to traverse 175kms  of remote country
Walking uphill
while taking the opportunity to learn about rhino conservation and discover more about the Waterberg in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

Photographing giraffe
If you would like to get involved or find out more The Waterberg Trust have a Facebook page here. Riders are raising sponsorship on here
Sophie Neville watching rhino
Author Sophie Neville riding with rhino, March 2016

Monday, 15 February 2016

Getting ready for The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2016

Photo of new baby rhino by Ant Baber at Ant's Nest
We are packing our bags and making plans for The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2016 , which is being organised to raise funds for Save the Waterberg Rhino along with associated community education projects, to help fight rhino poaching and teach local children about the conservation of these amazing animals at the Lapalala Wilderness School.
Over 5,000 rhino have been killed by poachers in South Africa alone. The Waterberg is home to a signification concentration of rhino, second only to Kruger National Park.
Rhino horn treatment
Tracking devices for rhinos
Equipment, such as:
• Binoculars
• Night vision
• Thermal vision
• Hi Tech solutions
• Bullet proof vests
• Crime scene equipment
• Uniforms and kit for scouts
Anti-poaching scouts for rhino protection
Tracker Dogs
Training for Anti-Poaching UNITS
Management Courses for Rhino Owners
donate_white Justgiving button
As a UK registered charity, we can claim Gift Aid on eligible donations, and organise transfer of funds to South Africa efficiently. Add a note to specify 'Save the Waterberg Rhino' with your donation.
Sophie Neville in the Waterberg -1
makeapage_your_white justgiving
To find out about Save The Waterberg Rhino, click on the banner below:

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Waterberg Trust Challenge Ride 2016

Are you up for a challenge in 2016?
Would you help us raise funds for Save the Waterberg Rhino along with health and education community projects that uplift communities in the area?
Following the success of last year, we are looking for fit and experienced riders to join us on a sponsored horse safari.
Ant's Nest have offered to take riders through the private game reserves of the Waterberg whose owners have generously offered to host our party.
TWT Rider with rhino
Overall dates: 11th March to 19th March 2016 
Friday 11th March: Fly out to Johannesburg
DAY 1 - Saturday 12th March
You will be met off your International flight at Oliver Tambo Airport, Johannesburg and driven north, about 3 hours, to Ant’s Nest Private Game Reserve deep in the Africa bush.  Lunch will be served on your arrival.
horse and zebra
After settling into the lodge we will go for a game ride so that you can try out your horse. If you are not totally happy you can try a different mount the next day - there are about forty to chose from.
As the sun goes down, you will meet the white rhino living on the reserve, and have a drink while Tessa Baber gives us a talk on the work of 'Save the Waterberg Rhino'.
Rhnios with a rider and black skies
The Waterberg is home to the second largest population of rhino in south Africa after the Kruger Park, so their protection on the plateau is vital.
dinner in the boma
DAY 2 - Sunday 13th March
We will spend the day riding across Ant's Nest, up to Ant's Hill, viewing game on horseback and looking for a breeding herd of white rhino, along with buffalo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and antelope.
Swimming on horseback
We will have lunch in the bush, hopefully by a dam where you can swim with your horse. We'll return to Ant's Nest for the night.
lunch by the dam
DAY 3 - Monday 14th March
We set off early, riding north through the reserve looking for antelope and along sandy roads where we can canter for miles over the hills on our way to Kwalata Game Reserve. We'll ride up to a point where the horses can be stabled and take a game drive to the lodge where we are staying the night.
riding the road
DAY 4 - Tuesday 15th March
We ride into Lapalala Wilderness, which will give us another amazing opportunity to see game. We have the chance of seeing elephant and black rhino along with other species such as vervet monkey, baboon and even lion. The night will be spent at Kolobe Lodge where the leaders of South Africa have stayed and hope to be given a talk on community projects by the warden.
Lapalala Wilderness
DAY 5 - Wednesday 16th March
We ride to Jembisa, a private game reserve on the Palala River where we hope to find more plains game including giraffe, jackal, warthog and red heartebeest. The plan is to sleep out under the stars after supper around the camp fire.
rideing under syringa
DAY 6 - Thursday 17th March
We hope to spend the morning visiting charitable projects in the Waterberg when we can meet those running health and welfare and initiatives that help the local people.
Two boys at Kids Club
We'll ride across Jembisa that evening hoping to find hippos and perhaps see crocodile in the river before reaching the furthest point of the ride and grab a few photographs before bidding out horses farewell. There will then be time for a swim or a long hot bath before dinner at the lodge.
Zebra and riders
DAY 7 - Friday 18th March
After breakfast outside we will take a game drive to see the ancient bushmen paintings on the reserve before lunch and drive back via an excellent sewing project selling curios enroute to the airiport.
riders with two rhino
Saturday 19th March - your flight will arrive back in the UK
The itinerary may change - but hopefully only for the better!
If anyone would like to stay on for a night or two this can be arranged.
The cost is £1,500 per person, sharing, inclusive of all meals, local alcohol and soft drinks, accommodation, riding, game drives and bush walks, as well as road transfers to and from standard flights landing by 9.00am on morning of Saturday 12th March and returning pm on Friday 18th March.
It does not include flights, tips or travel insurance - which you will need. To secure your place Ant's Nest will require a non-returnable deposit of £500. The balance of £1,000 must have been paid 6 weeks before the trip commences.
Sophie riding with giraffe
We are hoping for a group of 10 experienced riders. You'll need to be fit as there will be approximately 25 – 40km’s of riding per day. You must be someone who rides at least twice a week, be comfortable at an extended canter and be able to cope with long hours in the saddle.
We can take non-riding partners. It will be high summer in South Africa, so the bushveldt will be green. It can be hot and sunny and could be overcast or rainy but will not get cold.
eland with riders
It will be an exploratory venture, indeed a unique opportunity to ride alongside wild animals in this beautiful area, now proclaimed a UNESCO biosphere.
Ant Baber
The horse safari will be led by Ant Baber who owns Ant's Nest. Sophie Neville, a trustee of TWT who was once a horse safari guide in the Waterberg will be leading the group. 
If you have any questions or would like to book your place, please contact Sophie Neville ~
To participate you need to raise a minimum sponsorship of £1000 for The Waterberg Trust. As a registered UK charity, Gift Aid can then be added.
50% of sponsorship raised will go to Save the Waterberg Rhino Trust and 50% will go to community health and welfare projects in the Waterberg.
We can help you with fundraising ideas.
While we encourage riders to find sponsorship some of us are raising the donation of £1,000 in other ways such as hosting a sale or asking for donations instead of birthday or Christmas gifts and then gaining matched funding.
makeapage_your_white justgiving
Information on the camps:
Ant's Nest ~ website:
Lapalala Wilderness ~ website:
Kwalata ~ website:
Jembisa ~ website:
Flights and Transfers: We find it is best if people book their own flights to Johannesburg - try Trailfinders or Flight Centre. It's great if riders can liaise and fly out together.
NB: please book flights that arrive in S.Africa no later than 9.00am and depart from Johannesburg no earlier than 7.00pm. Should you need to arrive late or depart early, a private transfer will be supplied at additional cost.
Make your way to the information desk in the arrivals hall where you will be met and driven to Ant's Nest for lunch.
At the end of the safari we will arrive at Johannesburg airport at a time suitable for all flights departing after 7 pm.
Rider with buffalo
Do I need a visa? You must be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six months after your return date and has at least 3 blank pages. Visas are not needed for those with British passports. Please check if you come from elsewhere.
Diner under the stars
What vaccinations do I need? Vaccinations and malaria medications are not required however we recommend your tetanus to be up to date.
Rider with buffalo at dusk
Are riding helmets compulsory? Yes, hard hats are mandatory and you will not be able to ride without one and suggest you bring your own hot-weather model. We do not provide half-chaps but might have the odd pair extra should they be needed.
riding with sable
What should I bring? As well as comfortable riding clothes and your hard hat, please bring the following; Bum bag, lip salve, strong sun protection cream factor 20 or higher, short boots and chaps. (Long rubber boots are not advised), swimming costume, light weight long sleeved shirts, raincoat, camera with memory cards and camera batteries, small torch (head torch style highly recommended) and toiletries.
Guide by the river
Is there a laundry service? We hope to be able to offer a limited laundry service. When packing do bear this in mind as it helps not to have too much luggage.  We can normally turn laundry around within 48 hours (excluding the 30 or so days a year that it rains!) Do bring out any children's clothes, especially grey/black/white school uniform or sports wear as we can donate it to one of the schools or welfare projects in the Waterberg.
Ants Nest
What is the accommodation like? This will be comfortable lodge accommodation with bathrooms. There are twin and double rooms. There are shared bathrooms at one lodge. We will have picnic lunches, evening meals cooked around the fire and hope to sleep out under the stars on one night, weather permitting.
double bedroom
Single supplements? Bookings are taken on a 'willing to share basis'. If you want a single room there would be 50% supplement.
horses in the bush
What are the horses like? They have been carefully chosen from various South African breeds, known for being able to walk-out well while being able to cope with tough going. the live in the bush so are familiar with wildlife. Breeds include Friesan-cross, Boerperds, Anglo-Thoroughbreds, and the S.A. Warmblood. They range in size from 14.3h. to 17h. Tack is McClellan long-distance saddles and usually snaffle bridles.
lunch with horses
Do cell phones work?  Yes, although there will be areas of no coverage
Looking over the Waterberg
Useful contact numbers: Please give loved ones who may need to contact you for any reason the Ant's Nest phone numbers:
Tel 1 : +27 (0) 83 287 2885
Tel 2 : +27 (0) 87 820 7233
Tel 3 : +27 (0) 83 681 8944 (Emergencies only)
These can also be used the case of a badly delayed flight
Sundowners in the bush
Money: We suggest you don’t change too much money into the local currency as your holiday is fully inclusive - however there is a local craft shop! Gratuities are at your discretion and can be paid in pounds, euros or dollars.

Rhinos with riders