Imagine yourself on the back of a horse riding through vast stretches of land north of the Limpopo River. Giant mashatu trees decorate the landscape, colourful bee-eaters chirp next to the river, and a leopard yawns lazily in the shade nearby. Not far away, a herd of elephants gulp up water from a puddle in the dry riverbed.
Here, in the arid Kalahari. rain hardly every interrupts spectacular sightings, but there are exceptions. Back in 2000, tropical cyclone Leon-Eline smashed into the east coast of Southern Africa, causing severe flooding and storms. At the time, horses from Limpopo Horse Safaris broke free from their stables and disappeared into the wilderness. Eventually all of the horses made their way back, except one. Zulu, a stallion descended from Namib Desert horses was presumed dead.
Years later, however, he was seen alive and well – living as the alpha male to a herd of zebras. Eventually recaptured, Zulu had become a much wiser horse. The remarkable story of his survival is perfectly captured in author David Bristow’s book, Running Wild: The Story of Zulu, an African Stallion.
Plan your Mashatu Adventure
- Have a drink at The Gin Trap while watching game at the nearby waterhole.
- Discover all things Mashatu at the Discovery Room in the main camp. This includes archaeological artefacts, reconstructed skeletons, and research findings.
- Lounge next to the pool or cool down in the water during hot days.
- Visit a hide or embark on one of the other guided activities on offer.
- Ask about the archaeological ruins in the reserve. Mashatu contains the sister ruins to the Kingdom of Mapungubwe and archaeology that dates back over one million years.
Horse riding is just one of the many activities on offer at the Mashatu Game Reserve – quite fitting, as you will experience the surroundings through Zulu’s eyes. But don’t despair: the reserve is not only for experienced riders.
Apart from the scheduled game drives. other options include guided cycling, wilderness walks and underground photographic hides.
Walks are almost always about the smaller things. If you’re lucky, you might even happen upon a hyena den along the way. While these scavengers keep their distance, a few inquisitive youngsters might come close to investigate. Not to worry though – the knowledgeable guides know exactly what to do to make sure the hyenas do not get too close.
“Animals are easily viewed all year round because of the low rainfall and the absence of thick vegetation and long grass in green season.” – David Evans, managing director, Mashatu Game Reserve.
Game drives deliver every time. From a leopard with a cub, cheetahs in their numbers. elephant herds or Zulu’s zebra friends – there’s plenty to see. This 29 000-hectare reserve also boasts more than 350 bird species. many of which can be spotted in the vegetation around the main camp.
Time flies at Mashatu, so set aside a few hours to explore the camp in between all the activities and meals. It’s a little piece of Botswana that will draw you back again and again.
Know before you go
Travel: Plan your journey in advance. You won’t use your own vehicle in the reserve. Once you cross through the South African side of the Pont Drift border, you will leave your vehicle behind. The scheduled pickup is at 1pm. Additional fees apply for late arrivals.
Remember: Make sure you have the necessary documents, including ownership papers, or a letter from the bank or car rental company to cross the border.
Crossing the Limpopo River: Additional fees apply for transport via the cableway or boat during wet season
Stay: The main lodge offers 14 luxury private suites with a double and single bed, seating area and en-suite bathroom. Rates include all meals, snacks, game drives and transfers from the border in low season.
Where is Mashatu Game Reserve?
Mashatu Game Reserve lies just north of the mighty Limpopo River in Botswana and forms part of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. The nearest town is Alldays. The reserve is straddled by national parks of both South Africa and Zimbabwe, and forms part of the larger Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
Written by René de Klerk
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