​Expert Reviews – Mashatu GR

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Expert
Philip Briggs   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Wet season

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

19 people found this review helpful.

Southern Africa’s best-kept game viewing secret
Overall rating
5/5

The largest private game reserve in southern Africa, under the same management as the legendary MalaMala near Kruger, Mashatu is one of the finest and most underrated reserves I have visited anywhere on the continent. The reason it tends to be overlooked is partly that it is so remote, situated in the Tuli Block, the part of southern of Botswana abutting the borders with South Africa and Zimbabwe, and also that while it lies within Botswana, it feels more like an extension of the South African tourist industry. Serviced by just two intimate lodges, it offers all-inclusive guided safari packages similar to Sabi Sands or MalaMala, but with so little tourist traffic that you often feel you have the entire reserve to yourself. Game viewing is superb too, though my experience is that it is more about quality than quantity if sightings, so you’d ideally want at least 3-4 days there. Highlights include the large elephant herds that haunt the sandy river beds, excellent lion and leopard sightings, a good chance of spotting the endangered African wild dog, as well as excellent dry-country birding including several species whose core range is focussed on the Kalahari sands of Botswana.

Expert
Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Dry season

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

8 people found this review helpful.

Mashatu, where elephants congregate
Overall rating
4/5

Mashatu GR is the largest private game reserve in Southern Africa. It doesn’t actually feel like a private game reserve at all. Not like some of the small private reserves that are great for ticking off the big five in a day, but lack wilderness appeal. Not Mashatu…this place is wild.

My highlights in Mashatu are the elephant and leopard sightings. Game drives are usually centered on the dry riverbeds. The sandy soil is excellent for spotting tracks and the riverine forest is prime leopard country. This combined with excellent guiding and tracking skills makes this park a real leopard hot spot. The riverbeds also attract huge herds of elephants in search for water. The big herds congregating in this park give a real opportunity for watching their social interactions: the playing youngsters, caring mothers and the fighting young bulls.

Expert
Mark Eveleigh   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: April

Mark is a travel writer who grew up in Africa and has written over 700 titles for CNN Traveller, Travel Africa, BBC Wildlife and others.

6 people found this review helpful.

Location for some of my best safari experiences ever
Overall rating
5/5

I arrived at Mashatu at the end of a five-week trip from Kenya and the 10 days I spent there still stick in my mind as some of the best experiences I have ever had in Africa. I spent some time on an incredible horse-safari that gave us a chance to gallop with a stampeding herd of eland and to ride – cautiously and as silently as possible – through a very nervous breeding herd of more than 100 elephants. It was thoroughly nerve-wracking. I also mountain-biked through big-cat territory here...which really gives you something more to think about than the normal pitfalls of mountain-biking!

Expert
Stephen Cunliffe   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: September

Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.

5 people found this review helpful.

Carnivore Central
Overall rating
4/5

The 32,000 hectare Mashatu private game reserve, in the heart of Tuli Block, is quite rightly renowned for its big cat sighting and burgeoning elephant population, but there’s a lot more to this incredible place. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see lion, leopard and cheetah in a single game drive here, and the elephant sightings give new meaning to the word ‘unfazed’. Although Mashatu is not blessed with the same quantities and densities of wildlife as you’ll see in Moremi or Chobe, the diversity here is impressive and the animals are well-habituated, allowing for really up-close-and-personal wildlife encounters. The combination of swanky lodges and quality sightings makes Mashatu a must explore safari destination whenever you are next within striking distance of southeast Botswana.

Expert
Emma Gregg   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: May

Emma is an award-winning travel writer for Rough Guides, National Geographic Traveller, Travel Africa magazine and The Independent.

5 people found this review helpful.

Take to the saddle for a ride through the wilderness
Overall rating
4/5

Several places in Botswana offer the opportunity to explore the wilderness by mountain bike or on horseback; I think Mashatu is one of the best. Part of the Tuli Block near the Limpopo River, this is a lovely chunk of private wilderness with a healthy population of all three big cats – lions, leopards and cheetahs. While I’ve never seen these from the saddle, you’re able to get surprisingly close to giraffes, antelopes and zebras and may see elephants, too. Majestic raptors and smaller birds such as kingfishers and bee-eaters are also here in abundance. On a dry season mobile riding safari, you ride every day, moving from camp to camp – a wonderful way to bond with the region.

Expert
Harriet Nimmo   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: October

Harriet is a zoologist with more than 20 years’ experience. She has the privilege of working with the world’s top wildlife photographers and photo-guides.

3 people found this review helpful.

Land of Giants
Overall rating
4/5

Mashatu is a privately owned reserve in the Tuli Block in eastern Botswana, but is most easily accessed from South Africa. There are only a handful of lodges, so with fewer vehicles you can spend longer at sightings.
Mashatu Game Reserve is nicknamed ‘Land of the Giants’ after the eponymous mashatu trees, huge baobabs and its elephants. The reserve has wide-open vistas, so very different to the bushier reserves in Greater Kruger. After the rains, the reserve is stunningly beautiful with carpets of yellow devil’s thorn flowers. During the Dry season the landscape can appear barren and harsh, but wildlife viewing is still good.
There are no buffalo or rhino, but there are fantastic relaxed elephant herds, and Mashatu has a great track record with leopard sightings. When I last visited I saw four different leopards over three days. Lion and cheetah are also present.
Another unique aspect is the sunken photographic hide, so you’re at eye level at a waterhole. I loved spending the morning in the hide. The silence is magical, with the thrill of never knowing what is going to enter stage right. The hide is most productive in the Dry season and there is an additional charge.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.3/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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