Horse Safaris

The 11 Day St James Ada Valley Safari

Departs from: Waitohi Downs.


Day 1

Leave from Waitohi Downs Stables at approximately 10.00 – 10.30 a.m. and ride around track to influx of Mandamus into Hurunui River. We cross the Hurunui River and ride up Mandamus River onto road, travel along passing Glens of Tekoa Homestead and buildings onto Island Hills Station run by Dan and Mandy Shand. Island Hills Station covers an area of 6,850 hectares (17,000 acres).

We ride over the saddle to the Glencoe River, passing hill country of native scrub and scattered silver tussocks on our way to reaching the Mandamus River once more. We travel up the east bank, crossing for our last time and follow the track through dense manuka scrub into Organ Stream where our first night is spent in the Valley Camp Hut.

Day 2

Leave Valley Camp Hut approximately 8-30 a.m. and head up pack track through beech bush into Hut Saddle and down to Darkies Gully, follow pack track through beech forest to Gorge Creek Saddle. Descend down steep face into Gorge Creek, follow down creek for approximately ½ mile and take track on west side of Gorge Creek. Ride onto top of Little Organs Range. From here a magnificent view can be seen of Glynn Wye Station, the Lewis Pass Road, also views up the Doubtful and Hope Rivers with the Southern Alps in the background. It covers an area of 24,300 hectares (60,000 acres)  From here, we descend down leading Spur to the mouth of Gorge Creek and Lewis Pass Road, cross the Hope River to Glenhope Station where we spend our second night. Glenhope Station is owned by Jude and Pete Alfeld, covering an area of 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) running cattle and red deer.

Day 3

Leave Glenhope Station approximately 8-30 a.m. riding north up the Waiau River viewing the water 150 metres below us. From here we wind our way in and out of gullies passing through native beech forest until we reach the Tin Jug Hut approximately 12-30 p.m.  for lunch.
From the beech forest and Tin Jug Hut we ride up the Waiau River crossing at the mouth of the Edwards River to our tent camp where we cook dinner on the open fire.

Day 4

After a good night spent round the fire we leave here and ride up pack track , onto 4-wheel vehicle track, over Charlies Saddle back to the Edwards  and up river past Scotties Camp to Peters Pass, down Peters Valley to St James Station where we spend the night.
St James Station is owned by Department of Conservation (D.O.C.) an area of 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) The wild horses are still bred and run in Ada and Henry Valleys.

Day 5

Leaving St James we ride north up the Clarence River on Molesworth country until reaching Fowlers camp, where we stop for lunch. Continuing after lunch we ride up one of the finest and best kept pack tracks in the country to the top of Fowlers Pass. We are now at at a height of 4,250 feet and we are surrounded by many different species of alpine plants. A breathtaking view can be seen of the Spencer Mountain Range with Mt Una towing high above the other peaks and the Faerie Queene with pockets of frozen snow cemented on the slopes all year round.
We descend from Fowlers Pass down a zig-zag track of broken rock and greywacke scree. On reaching the bottom, we meet up with and follow the Stanley River down to the vast areas of swampy flats, where in the distance lies the Stanley Vale Hut, our accommodation for the night.

Day 6

Saddled up and ready to go we ride north west till we catch a glimpse of Lake Guyon, surrounded by bush on two sides and a magnificent view of the Spenser Range reflected in the lake. Always a must for a photograph. As we ride round the edge of the lake through manuka and beech forest, we can see fat brown trout lazing in the shallows and gliding quietly into deeper water when they see movement. Riding on we cross the Waiau River and head towards the Ada Homestead, an out-station of St James. To the west is the magnificent Ada Valley stretching up to the Ada Pass and further on to Cannibal Gorge. Every second year the horses are mustered into the Ada yards, where the two and three year olds are drafted out and driven up the Waiau River, over Malings Pass, down the Clarence River to St James yards for sale. A distance of 33 miles. These horses are well sought after by the discerning horseman for hunting, show jumping, dressage and a general hack.

We leave the Ada area and ride towards the Henry River, following the pack track down the Waiau River past Paradise Lake and have lunch at Dumpy Stream. Continuing down the Waiau River we cross at the mouth of the Jones Stream, follow the track along the Terraces until Edwards River, down packtrack, cross the Waiau River and back to the Tin Jug Hut. We follow the track up Steyning Stream. We ride through scenic bush that opens out to a large valley of flat land. Rugged mountains face on one side and on the other, a native beech forest running to the valley floor like a large expanse of carpet. This is the Magdalen Valley, altitude of 2,500 ft. above sea level, our destination, the St Andrews Hut in the middle of this beautiful landscape.

Day 7

Today is a relaxing day where you can either go for a tramp in the bush, catch up with your laundry  or just sit and admire the view.

Day 8

Departing at 8.30 a.m. we leave the St Andrews Hut and the Magdalen Valley behind we ride west to the Lewis Pass Road where we enter the Poplars Station managed by Kevin Henderson.We then ride under the Boyle Road bridge and follow down the Boyle River crossing the mouth of the Doubtful River to our lunch stop, behind the Engineers Camp. From here we ride across Windy Point to the Hope River and follow it up until we reach the Hope Kiwi Lodge.

Day 9

After we saddle up, we ride from the Hope Kiwi Lodge up the Kiwi Flats to the start of the Kiwi track where we leave the Poplars Station. Climbing very gently to the Kiwi Saddle, passing through a Mountain Beech forest abound with bird life. Small fantails flit around the horses, following us through the track. Bellbirds thrill one with their magnificent song and an awesome screech from a Kea keeps everyone on the alert.

From the Kiwi Saddle we ride towards Three Mile Stream, passing a lookout where a postcard view of Lake Sumner can be seen. The track, through terraced beech forest, finishes at the head of Lake Sumner, where we enter the Lakes Station, covering an area of 8,100 hectares (20,000 acres) running 12,500 sheep and 900 cattle.

We follow around the shores of Lake Sumner crossing the Hurunui River to Taylor Stream, over the Catherine Saddle and down to the picturesque Lake Mason. Just as we arrive at the Lake Mason Hut, our bed for the night, we enter Lake Taylor Station, a property of 7,200 hectares, (18,000 acres) running 6,500 sheep and 300 cattle.

Day 10

With swags rolled, horses saddled and pack horses loaded we ride out from Lake Mason towards the south branch of the Hurunui River. We cross over to Nosewiper Point on Eskhead Station, covering 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) running 11,000 sheep and 600 cattle.

Riding towards Eskhead homestead we pass Sugar Loaf, Homestead Fan and Bush Camp, arriving at Deep Creek for lunch.  After lunch a two hour ride takes us along some beautiful north facing country into the station where we camp at the cook shop in the shearer’s quarters..

Day 11

Unfortunately every trip has  last day and the horses know they are on the way home so stride out at a cracking pace through the scenic Maori Gully and along the banks of the Hurunui River back to Waitohi Downs where we started from  eleven days ago. When the horses are unsaddled all the gear is returned to its rightful place in the stable ready for the next trip, the horses are hosed down and returned to their paddock until it all starts again.


No shower or electricity for 7 nights

Price & Dates         

Maximum riders: 12

not available at the moment


Additional Information / Instructions

Click here for Google map and driving directions.

To make a reservation on any of our rides we require a honest assessment of your height, weight, and riding ability. The horses really appreciate it!