Before we ever reached Mashatu, our expectations had reached almost unattainable levels due to the constant raving about the place by any student or EcoTraining employee who had been lucky enough to visit. The last time I can remember having my expectations built to such astronomical heights was about the movie Argo. The good news is that both managed to live up to the expectations!
While on one of my first drives in Mashatu I was busy thinking about what I could call this blog. I wanted to go with 'The Magic of Mashatu' because it was very appropriate, but of course everyone would accuse me of being unoriginal because I already called my blog about Makuleke 'The Magic of Makuleke'. WHAT TO DO? In what was probably one of the most fateful moments of MY ENTIRE LIFE, right when I was pondering this, one of the students piped up in the back (talking about something completely unrelated) and said 'the wonders of Mashatu'. Admittedly it lost some of the alliterative charm, but I figured it was pretty spot on. Thanks Callum - I don't know how you managed to read my mind at that moment but it saved my brain from any further thinking, which is always appreciated. The wonders of Mashatu - where do I begin?
Even the way you get to Mashatu is pretty cool - as the Limpopo river was in full flow we had to take a rickety cable car over the rushing river with all of our belongings. It was very rustic, and I'm pretty sure my mother would have had a heart attack if she saw! Then during our 30 minute drive to Mashatu we started seeing what all the fuss was about. Gorgeous green plains, thousands of zebra as well as stacks of wildebeest, impalas, giraffes, warthogs and even some ellies taking a bath in the midday heat. There was even eland!!!
The scenery was equally as stunning. Green plains, baobab trees atop rocky hilltops, amazing orange koppies against a blue sky and green plains. Magical. The afternoon that we arrived we got to climb up to Mamagwa, which is an awesome sandstone koppie with one lone baobab at its edge and an absolutely spectacular view over mostly open plains and some marshland (there was some water due to the recent rains). Van and I certainly started to understand what all the fuss was about!
We were lucky enough to visit after lots of rain - in fact Henry, the head instructor at Mashatu camp, believes Mashatu won't be this green and lush again in our lifetime. It's a little hard to imagine it without so much vegetation and water, but after seeing Kruger park during the drought and now after a stack of rain, I can almost get there!
The camp itself is situated on the Motloutse River, and there was a very shallow river flowing when we arrived - the students enjoyed swimming in there in the heat of the day (and it was very hot!) and the ellies enjoyed crossing it in the mornings, afternoons and especially in the evenings! There are so many elephants around Mashatu to add to the prolific plains game. Apparently it's also great for leopards, lions, cheetahs and hyenas! We did spot a pride of lions on our second day here - the cubs were enjoying a baboon kill. That same day we also saw a couple of young hyenas and a jackal feasting on a wildebeest by a small waterhole. Very special sighting, particularly when the hyenas had a nice swim.
We have only been here for a few days so far, but there's no doubt that it is a slice of heaven here in Botswana. Once again I am so glad that EcoTraining is contributing to the conservation of such amazing and diverse wilderness areas in Africa so that so many students passionate about the bush get to experience such a special place.