Game on; guest blog post by Tabby Mittings & Villiers Steyn

Game drives in any reserve in any country are a gamble. There are so many variables influencing where the animals are and what they’re doing, even more so in a large, unfenced reserve such as Mashatu. Even so, it’s unheard of for guests to return to camp feeling as though their drive was a waste of time.

The landscape plays a large role in this. Mashatu has some of the most scenic and emotive scenery in Botswana, with seasonal changes so dramatic they border on histrionic. A naturally semi-arid reserve, the bare earth of Mashatu in the dry season may at first seem stark and barren, but it doesn’t take long to realise that entire reserve is really a relative paracosm of natural African wilderness.

Enormous evergreen Mashatu trees, the reserve’s namesake, dot the landscape between stunted mopanes and the odd bulbous baobab, furnishing the dusty red earth with greenery and providing welcome shelter from the inexorable African sun. In the rainy season, Mashatu’s three riverbeds fill up and flow, at times flooding huge areas of the reserve and creating short-lived wetlands that attract rarities like grey-crowned cranes not commonly seen in the region. Soon after the rainy season begins, the devil’s thorn creeper flushes the reserve with a beautiful blanket of green with jovial yellow flowers, rendering the once dry and dusty landscape entirely unrecognisable for weeks at a time.

Game is abundant throughout the year, with impala, kudu, and giraffe numbers trumping those you’re likely to see in the average South African reserve. At times, following their own enigmatic agenda, enormous elephant and eland herds accumulate, hundreds of animals congregating and dispersing in an uncoordinated waltz across the landscape. The sight of them is enough to humble even the most phlegmatic visitor.

At any given time of the year, the Mashatu elephants are a treat. Twenty years ago visitors to the area wouldn’t have been able to get within one hundred metres of them without spooking them and driving them off, but over the years Mashatu’s guides have built up a relationship with these animals. After years and years of patience and respectful driving, visitors can now experience the antics and interactions of relaxed herds right up close. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of an elephant’s rumble reverberating through your ribcage and settling your soul.

And then, best of all, there are the predators. When people speak of incredible leopard or lion sightings, lodges of the Sabi Sands or Okavango Delta usually spring to mind, but the leopard and lion sightings at Mashatu could give them all a run for their money. On top of all that, there are also laid-back spotted hyena and cheetah, rounding up a full compliment of predators and rendering Mashatu a predator-Mecca fit for the likes of any and all local and international visitors.

Game drives are always a gamble, and game drives in Mashatu are no different, but between stunning landscapes, multitudes of general game and relaxed predators, the odds are always in your favour.

Words by Tabby Mittins and photos by Villiers Steyn

One Response to “ “Game on; guest blog post by Tabby Mittings & Villiers Steyn”

  1. Keith Smith says:

    I love the photographs, Villiers, especially the resting leopard at the top.

    I never cease from looking at my own photos from when I was at Mashatu in July. So much so that I have them coming up at random on my PC as my screen saver.

    Mashatu is certainly a magical place!

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