Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog

Out Of Africa

  • Me holding on to Ruth as she feeds the elephant called 'Mouse' during our African holiday with Zara's Planet

You would think in my job I would see enough of horses all year round, but when I went on holidays with my girlfriend Ruth recently, we actually ended up on horseback!

How it happened was this - I met Zara Stassin of the Zara’s Planet adventure holiday firm while I was competing at Birmingham last year and she was urging me to try one of their African safari packages. She contacted me several times after that and finally I gave in!

Mind you, this was a very different kind of horseback from international show jumping. But it turned out to be the very best way to see South Africa, its vast scenery and its wildlife.

More accurately it allowed us to see a tiny, but special, part of South Africa, a country so big Ireland would fit into a tiny corner. We were in Limpopo Province, which you access via Johannesburg, and where Ant and Tessa Baber run private bush homes called Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill - but no connection to real insect ants, I have to emphasise!

There's a wonderful backup team at Ant’s Hill that get everything ready for your safari. They say your business is only as good as your staff, and the Babers can be very happy indeed with the level of service politeness and dedication shown by all their staff members.

The horses are fit and reliable, and you get equipped with comfortable McClellan saddles, based upon the famous US cavalry saddle which was designed for many long hours of riding, and which are made here locally.

If you’re a family group and some members don’t ride, there are plenty of alternative activities, such as jeep safaris, and safaris on foot.

But both Ruth and I agreed that there is a magic in going on horseback, especially when the crew go ahead and prepare a camp where when you arrive you can watch as the sun goes down and enjoy a ‘sundowner’ drink before being taken back to the lodge in a 4X4.

After the wonderful few days at Ant’s Hill, the second leg of our Zara’s Planet holiday took us by air to an island off the coast of Mozambique called Benguerra, where we stayed at the luxurious Benguerra Lodge, and, as promised in the brochure, it is ‘barefoot luxury’ all the way.

This was a very different type of holiday to the safari, insofar as it was pure peace and relaxation. It consisted of the main lodge where the bars and restaurants were, and several casitas (small bungalows) with their own pool and deck right on the beach. Wonderful stuff!

Zara’s Planet can be contacted as follows:

Zara's Planet Irish Office:

Zara's Planet UK Office:

Check back next week for more news of a different kind.

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