This is the third post from our recent trip to Mashatu in early June. I thought it would be worthwhile showing different scenes in Mashatu to give you an idea of the variety of vistas.
Each morning, around 06h30 after a cup of coffee and a rusk, we climbed on the game vehicle and headed out into the reserve. The first image is of a sun rising. It was just after 07h00 and was cold. You definitely need warm clothing when on the back of the vehicle so the cold air chills your face only. A blanket is welcome and a necessity for the girls.
As we are driving out I am always filled with excitement and anticipation of new and unexpected sightings. For me it is not about the ‘big five’ but about the intricately woven diversity of nature. Each drive reveals a little more of that intricacy. Mashatu has this diversity in abundance. One morning, we travelled parallel to a large herd of Elephants for about ten minutes before they crossed in front of us just as we were cresting the hill. The view was superb.
Despite the size of the herd, probably around 60 , they moved very quietly thought the bush. The herd moved surprisingly fast but this was possibly because they could, it was very cool that morning.
One of the bulls was staying at the back of the herd keeping an eye on us.
The next image is also early in the morning when the sun’s light was still diffused. We disturbed a pair of Saddle-billed Storks.
In early winter, the Mopani leaves start to change colour adding to the visual warmth of the early morning light. This Eland was browsing when it heard something which caught its attention.
The next image shows how dry the grass was in Mashatu. While this heralds tough times for the grazers, the browsers are fine and there is obviously enough seed on the ground to attract flocks of Red-billed Quelea.
It is such fun driving along the river bed. The perspectives are great and the sense of anticipation about seeing a predator or unusual sight at a pool of water around the corner is palpable, holding your attention.
Pools of water remain in the some bends of the Majali river. A small herd of Elephants drink peacefully in the cool morning sun. It is great to see so much water is still around mid-way through winter.
Some river beds are very rocky while others are filled with fine stones and yet others have fine sand. The Elephants love the sand as they throw vast quantities of it over their wet bodies. Elephants also dig in the sand to drink the water filtered through it rather than the stagnant water in some of the remaining pools.
Although the rivers in Mashatu are not flowing, there are pools of water which attract game and birds. The debris carried by the flooding rivers earlier this year was still piled up high on the banks and wrapped around sentinel trees in the river bed. It is hard to believe that so much water flows down these apparently dry river beds at certain times of the year.
Two girls peering around an acacia bush. Kudu can stand very still which can make them difficult to spot from a distance. Kudu, being browsers, do not have the problems at this time of the year. Grazers such as Impala start resorting to nibbling at Mopani leaves for sustenance in the dry season.
This is the kind of surprise you may see when driving along a river bed.
At sunset we usually stop for sundowners. It is a time to chat about sightings from earlier that afternoon. Usually about half an hour after the sun sets, the colours in the sky become deeply saturated. A great time for silhouettes. My brother Jerry picked up a pair of Wildebeeste horns and put them on his head.
For a short while, the evening sky has both saturated reds, yellows and deep blues and the first stars are visible. This is a shot of my daughter Lauren holding a star in one of her hands. This is always a fun photographic time.
On the last day of our trip we ventured down to Solomon’s Wall. It is still in the Mashatu Game Reserve but about an hour’s drive from the Lodge. Solomon’s Wall is a sheer basalt dyke, 30 metres high, which once formed a natural dam across the Motloutse river. Over time this intrusion weathered and was eventually breached by one of the occasional floods. Botswana’s first alluvial diamonds were found in the sands upstream in the Motloutse river.
Two years ago, we visited Solomon’s wall and could drive right up to the wall with not a drop of water in sight. This time there was a large pool of water blocking the normal river crossing point. Just to remind you not to fool around in the water, there was also a large ‘flat dog’, sunning itself on the sand bank in the warm winter sun.
Not far from Solomon’s Wall is ‘Rhodes Baobab’ growing on top of a large basalt outcrop. The rugged basalt hills make a dramatic backdrop. The next shot was taken to a give a sense of the size of the igneous intrusions.
On top of one massive basalt outcrop is what is referred to as ‘Rhodes Baobab”. The top of this massive tree has broken off but its large branches still direct one’s view to the massive vista below it.
It is blissfully quiet up on top of this basalt ridge. The view is vast, looking over rigged terrain to the north , Mapungubwe (a sacred hill) to the west and along the ridge towards to the east is Venetia.
It is worth staying on the outcrop until it is starting to get dark. ‘Rhodes Baobab’ provides a stunning silhouette subject. It is normally the sound of Hyaena’s whooping in the valley below which urges visitors to get down the outcrop and back onto the vehicle. Apart from which it is tricky getting down in the semi-dark especially with treasured camera kit.
Hopefully, I have given you an impression that Mashatu, apart from its wonderful diversity of wildlife, offers eye catching vistas which will soothe any soul. Each season gives the area a very different feel. In winter, wonderful sunsets blaze the dusty evening sky. In summer, massive cumulonimbus clouds provide a dramatic setting for equally impressive but different sunsets.
The next post will be of a selection of bird images from the same early June Mashatu trip. In winter, all the migrant eagles, cuckoos and carmine bee-eaters have moved north but an impressive selection of birds remain.
I hope you enjoyed the vistas and that they tickle your interest in Mashatu.
Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral.
Great post and I just love the images. Can’t wait to get back.
Oh Howie – these pics of Solomons wall and Rhodes Baobab really hit my heart string. It is such a unique setting. One can just imagine Cecil John Rhodes standing there and gazing over the very same vista. It is always a privilege to share your photos – but as you know nothing beats the actual physical visit. Keep posting your pics – it is a great journey!