The Mashatu Walking Safari is privately guided by Stuart Quinn, an excellent and very engaging field guide with a wealth of experience and knowledge, who ensures you have undivided attention, focuses on your specific interests in the wild and sets the pace that suits you best. These safaris take place in a special walking concession within the Mashatu Game Reserve in eastern Botswana, with several rustic, back-to-basics camps providing the bases for walking. The area is particularly well suited to walking and enjoying an immersive wilderness experience, with the Motloutse and Limpopo rivers providing a strong draw for wildlife; sandstone outcrops provide scenic interest and the opportunity to enjoy far-reaching vistas.
Walking at mashatu highlights
- A completely private safari – just you, the guide and small support team
- Stuart Quinn is a top-notch guide – very knowledgeable and engaging
- Mashatu is an excellent area for walking and scenically appealing
- Good wildlife, including large numbers of Elephant
- Easy access from South Africa with a short transfer from the border post
- Appealing selection of small, dedicated walking camps
walking at mashatu in detail
Mashatu covers 29,000 Hectares in total and is a private concession covering 40% of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve in eastern Botswana, where Botswana joins South Africa and Zimbabwe at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. It shares unfenced borders with both the Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa (this is a World Heritage Site) and the Tuli Safari Area, a national park in Zimbabwe. This vast area forms part of a cross-boundary wildlife conservation area protecting the substantial biodiversity of fauna and flora in this region. Other than having a reputation for superb predator viewing, Mashatu is home to the largest herds of elephants on private land in Africa.
Walking safaris take place in the remote western corner of Mashatu Game Reserve, in a concession that has been set aside specifically for walking – you can enjoy walks well away from areas that are frequented by game viewing vehicles. This area lends itself well to walking, with plenty of open space to ensure safety when out on foot. It’s also very appealing scenically, with large sandstone outcrops dotting the landscape and fringing the rivers, which can be scaled to obtain far-reaching views.
Elsewhere in Mashatu, away from the walking area, there are three private camps as well as a riding safari operation. A good way to experience Mashatu to the full is to combine a walking safari with Stuart Quinn with a stay in one of Mashatu’s other camps, enjoying the full gamut of safari activities on offer; there are two fairly luxurious camps along with a more rustic tented camp to choose from. These lodges also offer photographic safaris and have access to spectacular hides.
A combination of camps are used and you usually move to a new camp each day. Each is unique and they are all situated in very different habitats. There is no particular order to which the camps are visited, but the guide will choose the sequence according to wildlife concentrations and suitability for the time of year (access may be dictated by water levels in rivers). None of the walking camps are fenced so it is not uncommon to have a variety of animal species walk through camp.
SEROLO CAMP is located along the shady floodplain of the Limpopo River, situated beneath a canopy of large riverine trees, including the magnificent Mashatu and Apple-leaf trees. This camp offers accommodation in five safari-style tents – each tent sleeps two people and has an en suite shower and flushing loo, an electric fan and electric lamps. Hot water is created by ‘donkey-boilers’. The camp has 220V electricity.
THE KGOTLA is based on an old tribal court comprising leadwood logs constructed in a circular boma. Guests sleep within the boma on comfortable camp cots beneath the stars and around a central fire. Your guide will sleep in the boma with you to ensure safety and security. There are hot showers and flushing loos. Should rain be predicted, tents may be erected at the Kgotla, or Mohave Camp or Serolo Camp will be utilised instead.
MOHAVE BUSH CAMP is a small, rustic bush camp, comprised of three mopane-pole huts, communal outdoor bathrooms and a main lapa or kitchen area. The camp is located on the banks of the Mohave River in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Each hut sleeps two persons in twin beds. There is no electricity so lighting is provided using gas, paraffin and solar lanterns. Shower water is heated by a solar geyser and the cookers and freezer are gas operated. The ablutions are open-air and are sited close to the huts. The night sounds heard at Mohave are magical and game such as Elephant, Lion, Brown and Spotted Hyaena, Civet, Genet and African Wild Cat may possibly be seen in and around the camp. The Mohave River is a hotspot for game movements and the remoteness of the camp ensures that you will truly feel that you are deep in the wilderness.
The MOTLOUSTE RIVER is a large river that is dry throughout most of the year, bar the occasional time where it rises rapidly and soaks away again just as quickly. The name Motloutse means ‘Great Elephant’ and this is exactly the right place to find these remarkable beasts. When the riverbed is dry, the river continues to flow just beneath the surface and the elephants spend the heat of the day digging down to find water and creating water points for other animal species at the same time.
EAGLE ROCK is named after the resident pair of Verreaux’s Eagles that nest on the cliff face and sometimes perform their aerial stunts very close to visitors. A walk to Eagle Rock’s summit offers 360 degree panoramic views. The sandstone buttress continues for some distance and is home to a diverse range of animal and bird species. The area is used regularly by Brown Hyaena for their denning sites. There are a few signs and remnants of past civilisations, including Bushman paintings beneath some of the rock overhangs.
MMAMAGWE HILL contains archaeological evidence of various ancient civilisations, some of which are linked to Mapungubwe. The history of the hill is fascinating and it’s littered with artefacts. There is even an old Baobab tree upon which Cecil John Rhodes inscribed his name. The views are stupendous.
The LIMPOPO RIVER forms the international boundary between South Africa and Botswana and usually contains a number of permanent pools once it has stopped flowing. The massive Mashatu, Ana and Fig trees provide welcome shade when exploring the floodplain. You may catch glimpses of some of the more shy animals that frequent this area such as Bushbuck, Bush Pig and Aardvark. A walk along the banks of the Limpopo is usually a very peaceful experience and the birdlife is spectacular. Crocodiles may be found basking on the banks close to a plethora of other animals that have come to drink.
Guests are woken at first light and meet for an early breakfast after they have freshened up. You’ll then depart on a morning walk, focusing on nearby points of interest and following up on any interesting sounds heard during the night. The morning walk usually lasts between 3 and 4 hours. You’ll have snacks and juice at a rest stop, usually taken at a nice vantage point. On return to camp, brunch will then be taken. There will then be a bit of time to relax and take a shower, before moving on to the next camp. A vehicle is used to take you to the next camp as this minimises travel time.
Once at the new camp, you’ll then have time to relax during the heat of the day, usually a short siesta. Afternoon tea is then taken before you head out on an afternoon walk. This walk is normally a bit shorter than the morning walk, usually lasting between 2 and 3 hours. You’ll get back into camp just after sunset as you cannot be out on foot after dark. A fire and drinks will welcome you back. There is some time to have a shower and freshen up before dinner. After dinner, time is spent relaxing and socialising around the fire, listening to the sounds of the bush at night.
Stuart Quinn runs the walking concession within Mashatu Game Reserve. He has lived and guided trails in the Tuli area for over 13 years. He has been actively involved in the darting, collaring and relocation of 60+ high profile species including rhino, leopard, lion, wild dog, elephant, buffalo, hyena and cheetah. Stuart has a lifelong passion for all things related to nature and one of his greatest enjoyments is imparting his knowledge to others. He is an all-round naturalist and finds the smallest insect as fascinating as the largest tree. His enthusiasm and infectious laugh are highly contagious and guests always walk away with a deeper understanding of African wildlife and conservation, as well as memories and experiences which they will never forget.
The simplest and most usual way to get to Mashatu is directly from South Africa, using one of the following methods:
- Take a morning scheduled flight between Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International and Polokwane Airport (formerly Pietersburg) using SA Airlink. We will then arrange a 2-stage road transfer from Polokwane to Mashatu; it takes about 2 hours to get to the Botswana border post, and a further 40 minutes or so on from there to the first walking camp in a camp vehicle.
- Self-drive to the border post at either Pont Drift or Platjan and leave your car securely there. This takes 5½ hours from Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International. You’ll be met and transferred to camp in a 4×4, which takes approximately 40 minutes. If your itinerary is based on a self-drive touring holiday in the northern part of South Africa, it is very easy to incorporate a visit to Mashatu.
- In you have the budget, various air shuttle services operate between Johannesburg Lanseria Airport and the Limpopo Valley Airfield, which is close to Mashatu.
Possible, but less usual, is to drive from either Gaborone in Botswana or Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Both are long drives.
WHEN TO GO
Walk Mashatu is only offered in the dry season between April and October. This is the time when the bush loses its foliage and grasses subside, which opens lines of sight and ensures safety when out walking. You are also unlikely to experience any rain and be able to enjoy clear skies, particularly from May onwards. Wildlife concentrates around rivers as surface water in the outlying bush dries up, making their movements more predictable.