There are so many places to go for polo, and in some way, you end up in a place that makes you feel like Polo is really what you live for. Jurassic Park is one of those places. Playing chukka as part of a local polo community in an environment far away from your own offers a special kind of sensation.
Jurassic Park sucks you into the family right from the pick-up at the airport. Grandma Merle waits for us and proves why she is a polo mom by driving the minivan professionally and fast through the beautiful hills of Eastern South Africa. It is not only 5-goaler Selby Williamson as a coach, but the Williamsons have three generations ready to make the stay at Jurassic Park a warm one.
Selby’s mom and dad drive the vehicles, assist with lunch, and tell stories at the fireplace with drinks. Selby’s partner Jacky is an expert on horses and riding, and is a strong player. The kids vary in ages and join the guests on weekends and holidays. For dog lovers, there are 10 more family members.
When we join the group to go with some Dutch, German, and English polo friends, there are so many questions—“Is it safe to go?” “Do I need my sticks?” “Do we do anything else other than polo?” “Can I join as a beginner?” “Are stay and food included?” “Are there any zebras?” And the answer to all of that is yes. So there we went, all of us arriving from separate international destinations at the local airport of Pietermaritzburg. We’re a little surprised by the feeling of an English atmosphere in a sunny climate filled with African culture.
We doze off despite the amazing view of hills, lakes, and little African round huts with thatched roofs. All of a sudden, we turn left and arrive at the main house. A herd of dogs greets us like they have known us forever and we are all divided into the romantic little cottages in the garden. Before we have time to think, we are on our way to the clubhouse and on the polo field playing chukka.
The horses in South Africa are based very much on the thoroughbreds of the racetrack which makes them elegant and fast. At Jurassic Park, there are around 150 horses and we visit the breeding mares in the hills around the field.
The paddocks are the size of a nature reserve and hold two groups of zebras who live happily with the Polo horses. For us, this is like a mini-safari on the way to the top of the mountain where we have sundowners, looking down from high-up to the club and enjoying the sunset.
We play chukka in the home field surrounded by the hills and zebras watching us by sunset. After a rainy day, we move to the neighboring club at Swartberg where the local members of the club join us.
All questions that arise about rules are addressed over drinks at the pool bar at night. Selby is a great believer in creating a solid technical basis on the wooden horse, and we start every day with the four basic shots and little secrets that make us hit further and more accurately.
Time flies by fast and before we know it, we have to leave our polo paradise and travel back home with great memories, some new friends, and an eagerness to start our polo season at home. My advice is to keep a good percentage of your Polo budget for traveling. Polo in your home country is a great way to relax after the office, to make friends, and to enjoy the benefit of spending time with horses. Traveling for polo is making it all complete!