Apart from the diversity of wildlife, one thing which will strike you when game driving around Mashatu is the different landscapes you will come across. One unique area is Shalimpo. This post shows a few images I took on our trip down to Shalimpo, a conjoined name from Shashi and Limpopo. It is the point at which the Shashi and the Limpopo rivers join. It is also the confluence of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. There are no fences in this area so the game can move freely between Zimbabwe and Mashatu – SA is fenced.
“Humankind has not woven the web of life .
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.”
~Chief Seattle ( letter to President Franklin Pearce)
While the lack of fences is preferred from a wildlife point of view, when people get involved then there are problems. The Zimbabweans drive their cattle, goats and donkeys across the Shashi to graze in Shalimpo. In some respects this is understandable as sections of the Limpopo, around Shalimpo, offer the only available water for miles around in winter. Needless to say, the wildlife experience becomes like an over sized farmyard or so it seemed during our last visit to Shalimpo. The infiltration of Zimbabwean livestock has become an issue which has increased political tensions and with it security problems.
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.”
~ Samuel Johnson
If we look at nature and forget about the human intrusion, then the journey to Shalimpo is an worthwhile experience. From our camp it took about two hours driving time to get there as there are many stops on the way for wildlife. From Mashatu, we have to cross the Charter reserve to get to Shalimpo. On this occasion we came across many elephant. We had wondered where they were because we had only seen a few in Mashatu. They seemed to have spread out looking for food in winter.
“The highest realms of thought are impossible to reach without first attaining an understanding of compassion.”
Elephants breed all year round so it was not unusual to see a few youngsters among this breeding herd.
The flora changes dramatically as you drive through Charter reserve into the Shalimpo area. Down near Shalimpo, the trees get bigger, there are more Lala palms and the bush becomes more dense. Once at Shalimpo, you drive to the end of the Botswana peninsula and it opens up onto a sea of sand. As we drove across from the peninsula onto an island we passed these three large Ana trees. The elephants love their seed pods. The Ana trees were rooted in this sea of sand which was where the Shashi and Limpopo rivers meet. In the dry season, it looks like a vast stretch of sand. In the wet season this entire area of sand can be covered in flood waters – an impressive sight. These Ana trees must be deeply rooted in the sand to survive annual flood waters.
Looking through two of the Ana trees out across this vast tract of sand riverbed.
“We’re certainly a dominant species, but that’s not the same as a keystone species. A keystone species is one that, when you remove it, the diversity collapses; we’re a species that when you add us, the diversity collapses. We can change everything, dictate everything and destroy everything.”
At the end of the Shalimpo peninsula there is a sand bar which you can walk across to get to a smaller island. As you cross the sand bar, looking to the south, you look across the Limpopo into the Mapungubwe reserve in South Africa.
Down at the end of the peninsula is an avenue of giants. These are mostly Mashatu trees, leadwoods and figtrees. There is something very serene and permanent about this avenue of giants.
“Lets take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees….”
On the Shalimpo island, is a lone large iconic Baobab tree. This specimen has hardly been touched by elephants.
There is something about this scene which warms my Zimbabwean roots. I think it is absolutely beautiful in an African way. Double click on these panorama images to get a better look at the view.
A view looking south down the Limpopo river as it travels toward Messina and the north part of Kruger Park on its way down to Mozambique and the Indian ocean.
“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery.
There is always more mystery.”
This is the scene looking north up the Shashi and up the Limpopo. I took this panorama standing next to the beacon on the Shalimpo island.
Looking down from the island beacon onto the last pools of water in the Limpopo river and across to Mapangubwe in South Africa.
“There is something bigger than fact: the underlying spirit, all it stands for, the mood, the vastness, the wildness.”
At the edge of the Shalimpo island. These large sandstone outcrops create an eternal aura about the place.
Standing next to the Limpopo river looking north west. It was mid-winter but there was still a reasonable amount of water in the river. In winter this river looks so tame. In summer when flooding it is a massive raging torrent.
The rock outcrops on the Shalimpo island create a desert feel about the place. There are a few massive Baobab trees on the island. They call this “the upside down tree” because it looks like its roots are stretching out to the sky. This Baobab had been damaged by elephants digging their tusks into the trunk to dislodge the bark which they eat.
“Listen to the wind, it talks.
Listen to the silence, it speaks.
Listen to your heart, it knows.”
~Native American Proverb
Once out of Shalimpo and back in Mashatu we were traveling back to camp when our guide, Graphite, stopped the vehicle and said there was a leopard under that small acacia bush. This image was taken with a 200mm telephoto lens. How he saw this leopard I will never know. Once you become attuned to the subtleties in the bush. Your senses sharpen to the point where slightly unusual shapes and colours become more evident.
There is no doubt that you need time in the bush to tune in. We come out of a so-called civilised society where the overloading of our five senses dulls them. A weekend in the bush is always good but to get the full benefit, especially as a wildlife photographer, you need at least five days to tune in enough to start seeing.
” I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my sense put in tune more more.”
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.