Located in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in the remote eastern corner of Botswana, Mashatu Game Reserve shares unfenced borders with both South African and Zimbabwean national parks. This vast area forms part of a cross-boundary conservation area protecting the substantial biodiversity of fauna and flora in this region and is a refuge to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa.
On Wael’s journey to the reserve and his first experience he blogged “The drive there was incredible because it was like a private game drive - we saw a beautiful herd of elephants playing in the mud cooling off. When I got to camp I was greeted with a refreshing cold towel and a sweet cocktail and then quickly shown to my beautiful room and was told I had 7 minutes before the next game drive! I rushed to pack my binos, camera and safari hat and hit the road! Bashi was my guide and what a guide! We saw it all! I’m ready to go back to Geneva - we really hit big on the first drive! Leopard, lion, elephant, eland, impala, hornbills, warthogs, etc! My group is cool too! What are the chances I bump into a couple who live in Geneva!”
Wael was staying at Mashatu’s main camp, Mashatu Lodge. Being located on the fringes of the desert, water is a precious resource and as the camp is close to water and in thick vegetation, it is an oasis for birds and animals ensuring the most incredible sightings in an otherwise endless wilderness. Guests are welcomed through an entrance lined with flaming torches and 14 luxury suites lie along the perimeter of the camp ensuring complete privacy and a connection to the bush and its inhabitants.
Wael comments: “This lodge has two types of accommodation - a tented camp and a more modern cement lodges. They can hold in total about 45 guests I think so it’s definitely one of the bigger lodges….. The tented camps were full so I stayed at the main camp lodge. Very spacious rooms, high ceilings, had one double bed and one single with two bathrooms and a cute little veranda that still has privacy from the other rooms due to the bush in between. They gift you a flask on arrival and the shower provides great quality water with heat on demand! A great luxury in the bush! You have a multiplug socket to charge your equipment 24/7 - another real luxury in the bush. I didn’t find any mosquitoes overnight but I don’t want to speak too soon…. Overall a very comfortable and beautiful living space……”
A 30-minute drive from the main camp, Mashatu Tented Camp is a very different experience. This exclusive tented camp is the choice for guests looking for the ultimate one-on-one bush experience and a more intimate environment. Eight completely private tents are linked by accessible pathways and tucked under the branches of enormous trees. Each tent is spacious and includes private outdoor facilities – who’s for a shower under the stars? Communal dining is the norm either in the open air gazebo or the enclosed boma overlooking the well populated, and floodlit, watering hole. The camp’s plunge pool is a welcome relief from the hotter summer temperatures.
Wael continues: “After the magical game drive we had 20 minutes to run back to our rooms and take a quick shower before drinks at the bar followed by dinner. Found my Pimms drink and hit one with some ginger ale. I only drink it when I’m on safari so it made my mind connect the taste to safaris! The thing about safaris is that you can never know what to expect, there are always surprises with the wildlife you see and surprises with the people you ride with! My safari crew consisted of two couples: the first couple from Denmark in their 50’s I think, Hans and Vivienne who have been to Mashatu lodge 23 times!!!! Real experts of African travel they go twice a year! Lovely couple. Second couple: David and Sandrine, he is in fine arts working in Geneva and she works for the tribunal courts in Lausanne. What are the chances? We had a great dinner in a sort of boma enclosure with a firepit in the middle, no mosquitoes, nice food while Bashi, our guide, told us about his story with Stella an old female matriarch, very touching. I love Africa!”
“Passed out last night after dinner so quickly, read 4 words of my book maybe. Got woken up at 6 am with a gentle knock instead of my daughter’s crying. Today is my walking safari day so I grabbed my gear and headed out with Bellamy and his gun and his powder sack that tells which way the wind blows so that animals won’t be able to spot/smell us! A bit chilly around 12 degrees! It heated up later to 25 so I brought layers. Managed to catch the beautiful African sunrise as we trekked through the bush. The feeling on the foot is drastically different than the jeep. Much more vulnerable so there are strict rules to walk in a single file and frequent stops every few minutes to check there is no predator following us. On walks, you get to see the detail you don’t see while on a jeep like spotting the footprints and droppings of all the different wildlife.
Highlights were (1) seeing an ant-lion larvae trap a beetle in its hole and (2) walking 30 metres away from a herd of 23 elephants - just incredible!!!!!”
“The majestic Mashatu tree (or Nyala tree) may not look like much in the photo but when you’re here in Bots you can spot it a mile away because of its size and its unique all-year-round lush green leaves. Leopards love it.
THE HIDE! OMG!!!! This is why I chose Mashatu Lodge. A truly special experience unlike any other that I have seen! Clyde said there was a hide where you can take pics of wildlife up close without them noticing. So I said YES sounds like my style. Basically, it’s like an army bunker. A container that is dug into the ground adjacent to a natural little pond that is pumped with water artificially. The wildlife love to come over and drink from it. We saw: zebra, eland, impala, guinea fowl, kingfisher, mongoose, parrots, francolin, dove, kudu, wildebeest, tree squirrel... etc... but no elephants! Let’s hope for my luck to change tomorrow! I am enjoying every second of this magic in all cases. What is awesome about the hide is that there is a ranger inside who is a professional photographer too so she coached me and helped configure my photos. The hide is perfectly set up for photographers so they have the stands and all the props for you!
At the hide, we were lucky enough to see the world’s most dangerous animal. This animal is extremely destructive to the environment and leaves a trail of hell everywhere it settles. The only way to stop them is to throw them onto another planet”. WJ is referring to the human being – a funny comment it may be but oh so true.
Wael continues: “Dinner at Mashatu lodge! Beautiful setting with some local homemade feel-good comfort food - ratatouille, stroganoff, brown rice, salad, butternut squash,etc... and of course, now I want to pass out!!!”
“The Hide (part 2) I went back again this morning because I didn’t get to see elephants so I tried my luck again and HIT BIG! A group of 35 (!!!!) ellies came by for a quick drink. No words can describe the feeling of being so close to these gentle giants. There is this energy that is radiating from them. You feel so small and so insignificant.. how can anybody shoot these guys I don’t get it. Shared the hide with an Indian couple who are pro photographers so many useful tips."
Here’s my main man, Mr Bashi the ultimate guide. Knows his stuff inside out. He would be driving along an unmarked dirt path then suddenly stop the jeep and says “cheetahs passed here a few minutes ago”...then a few minutes later BOOM, we drive by four cheetahs chilling on the ground. Legendary guiding is rare to find.”
“Final night at Mashatu Lodge... sad to be leaving this beautiful and special place filled with special staff and even more special wildlife……”
“Final words on Mashatu: it really has a unique combination of excellent guiding, great staff, a multitude of activities (cycling, the hide, walks, drives), excellent home cooked food and very good hot water - all at a great value!”