For all of you who have been privileged enough to go to Mashatu, you might recognise some of these spots. The variety of wildlife and birdlife in Mashatu is exceptional. This is a place unlike any other in Botswana because of the variety of its scenery. In this post, I want to show you some of the spots we visited, which you will likely see when game driving around Mashatu.
“We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”
– Wallace Stegner
A bend in the Matabole river. The outside part of the bend is usually deeper because the water flows faster that side. This was the first time I had seen Elephant swimming in the river. We stopped at the top of the river bank for early morning coffee and rusks and could see the whole herd milling around on the sand bank below.
Higher up away from the river in the thornveld you will find many Giraffe, sometimes big family groups.
Driving north towards the Majale river in the distance. The sky was overcast and moody – great for photography as it softens some of the harshness in the high contrast daylight. The clouds cooled the ground temperature somewhat making it warm but not hot. You can see how green it was early in the year. Come July it will have changed to browns, yellows and some orange from the drying Mopani leaves. Thankfully, all the roads in Mashatu are dirt so you still get that feeling of really being in the bush.
The next image is of a waterhole just up from the Limpopo river. The Elephant seemed to visit it for a mud bath rather than to drink. They usually came to visit around midday or early afternoon when it was hottest. Often on our morning game drive we would see them slowly making their way down for their afternoon beauty treatment.
“Because the heart beats under a covering of hair, of fur, feathers, or wings, it is, for that reason, to be of no account? “
– Jean Paul Richter
A typical seen in a riverbed. The flash floods cut deeply into the riverbank creating almost vertical cliffs which can be 10 to 15 metres high in some places. The direction of the sun indicates that it was late afternoon with the light directed from the west. The mood of the place can be quite different in the morning when the vertical banks are in deep shadow. The water in the river creates the anticipation of unexpected birds at the water’s edge or coming around a bend to find a Leopard drinking quietly with the sun setting and shadows cooling.
Our game vehicle got stuck in the riverbed on one occasion. It was the last light of the afternoon. We had to get out of the vehicle to reduce the weight so it could be towed out of the loose gravel in the river. This gave me a chance to take a shot of the serene scene down in the river.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
– Rachel Carson
This was the scene once the sun had set as we were having our sundowners. It was warm and balmy, the drinks were “bitterly” cold, the conversation between old family friends was animated and the sky was on fire!!!! These are times when you have to pinch yourself just to be sure you are not dreaming. The feeling and the colours are sublime.
Watching darkness descend over Mashatu as the daylight gave way allowing the moon and the evening star to make their appearance in a darkening colour stained evening sky.
One afternoon we went down to Soloman’s Wall to see how the Mouloutse river had altered the scenery since we were last there. On our way back rather than go to Mmagwa, we went down to the Mouloutse lookout. Once we turned off the main dirt road to go down to the lookout we saw more game than we had ever seen before in that area with herds of Zebra, Wildebeest and many Elephant.
“Our relationship with nature is more one of being than having. We are nature: we do not have nature.”
– Steven Harper
At the look out point the terrain is shaped by rugged sandstone ridges. In amongst these sandstones ridges are lush arenas of grass and bushes.
Looking west from Mouloutse outlook.
The lookout point gives you a 360 degree panorama and a what a wonderful view of the surrounding area and the Mouloutse river.
The area is characterised by its rugged sandstone outcrops and ridges. In the evening light, the sandstone and the grass at the foot of the sandstone outcrops take on an ethereal light.
“The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask.”
– Nancy Newhall
At last light, the ground darkens and the sky is illuminated with blues, yellows, pinks and oranges as the stars start to shine through the coloured evening sky.
The climb down from the outlook in the semi-dark gets quite interesting with camera kit. It is worth it because part the way down I was able to stop, set up my tripod and get silhouettes in the fading light.
I could not resist it, my brother Jerry with the moon in the palm of his hand.
By now is was quite dark, the Hyaenas had started their nightly whooping telling us it was a good time to get back on the game vehicle. For a quiet moment on the vehicle all your senses are swimming as you become aware of all the colours, smells and sounds you are immersed in and feel really alive.
The next morning we came across a herd of zebra and Wildebeest in an open plain just south of the Majale river. They were wary having spent the night in the open area for protection to give them some time to react to approaching predators. The herds seemed to have made it through the night intact.
“Living wild species are like a library of books still unread. Our heedless destruction of them is akin to burning the library without ever having read its books.”
– John Dingell
The herds of Wildebeest are small but wary because there are so many predators around day and night.
There are many young to be seen at this time of plenty.
I took this panorama during one of our morning coffee breaks to give you a sense of the view from one of the hilltops overlooking the Majale river, characterised by the large Mashatu trees along its course.
One of the many giants to be found in Mashatu. This size Mashatu tree can be home to Pythons, Leopards, Baboon and many more. These are enormous trees which offer wonderful cool shade for the animals in the heat of the day and protection, for some, at night.
The third last day we travelled east down to Shalimpo. This is the utmost Eastern corner of the Mashatu Game Reserve where the Limpopo and Shashe rivers meet. I was “blown away” by how beautiful it was down here. On the river banks, massive trees have rooted themselves. There are not many places you can go where you get the confluence of three countries, in this case Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The three closest are the quadripoint at the eastern tip of Impalila Island which is an eastern point of Namibia, the confluence of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, the tripoint on the Kuando River where Angola, Namibia and Botswana converge into the Linyanti Swamp and the third is the tripoint at Kanyemba in Zimbabwe ( the confluence of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique).
The vistas from the beacon are breath-taking. The next image shows a view looking north-west up the Shashe river. I am not sure how wide the Shashe is at this point but it must be at least half a kilometre. The massive sand riverbed gives a hint of what this must look like when the river is in flood.
Looking directly north, from the lookout point across the vast sand riverbed was this sandstone outcrop. There is something very special about this place. Not only because it is the meeting point of three countries but there is a different energy about the place. The landscape is imposing. It is not difficult to understand why the Mapungubwe empire was centred here.
In the last few posts, hopefully you have got a sense of the wonderful variety in Mashatu, and that is just the natural history. This was also a place steeped in man-made history.
“Cooperation for mutual benefit, a survival strategy very common in natural systems, is one that humanity needs to emulate.”
– Eugene Odum
Louie Schwartzberg is a special human being with wonderful vision. The following video is not new but timeless and I think appropriate after having seen the variety of landscapes in Mashatu. Double click on the Granadilla flower to be taken to Louie’s Ted talk on Gratitude.
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.