EcoTraining’s Evolution at Mashatu

At Mashatu, we started operating along the Motloutse River near Solomon’s wall in 2010. This parcel of land is part of Mashatu, about 10 km west of the central game viewing area, and was under pressure from poachers, trespassers and people removing artefacts from historic sites. There was also pressure from cattle grazing as it borders communal land. The wildlife density in this area was lower as the animals were stressed. Working with Mashatu management and Notugra to protect and stabilize this area was our privilege and role. We were educators and guardians of this beautiful area.

Guardians of the land

Over the following ten years, we removed countless snares and displaced poachers, trespassers, and opportunists from the area. The wildlife appreciated our sensitive symbiosis and started to return in numbers. A few years after our operation began, animals were breeding in that area as their core territories were secure. Brown and spotted hyenas had dens, cheetahs, lions, and leopards had cubs, and the region returned to its optimal ecological state, as indicated by a high number of apex predators. Many community members were trained by EcoTraining from nearby villages and around Botswana. Our groups of students engaged with communities and supported local schools with environmental education initiatives. We were humbled to play a part in ensuring the sustainability of this area as an ecotourism-based conservation model. We operated hand-in-glove with Mashatu and their subsidiary operators, such as the horseback safaris, cycling and the anti-poaching unit.

The end of an era

Mashatu Game Reserve and EcoTraining built a good relationship of trust, so when our concession period ended along the Motloutse River, we were allowed to contribute again to the East of Mashatu. Mashatu changed ownership and has expanded significantly over the last few years to include multiple properties east and west of the original reserve, allowing for alignment with ecological management and tourism standards. 

New beginnings

We are privileged to operate our new tented camp on the eastern side of Mashatu. Our camp is along a tributary of the Pitsane River on the east side of the Mashatu Central game viewing area. We can now operate in an area four times larger than we had at the Motloutse. The area is beautiful and is between three countries with three rivers. The Pitsane River forms our western boundary, open to the rest of Mashatu and the northern Tuli game reserve. This open system is the core area where we may find lions, leopards and hyenas. 

To the south, we access about 15 km of Limpopo River frontage, including a lengthy dam that often holds kilometres of water. You might find hippos, crocodiles, fish eagles, and brilliant birdlife here. Near the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers, our concession is open to the famous Mapungubwe National Park on the South African side. Wildlife can cross the international border between Mashatu and Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa. 

The scenery along the Limpopo and the sandstone hills in that area is spectacular, and it is also the home of Verreaux eagles and rock hyrax. Our boundary to the east is the Sashe River, the international border between Botswana and Zimbabwe. This wide riverbed is the site of some spectacular scenes when herds of elephants walk in procession across this sandy landscape. In Zimbabwe, a mixture of wildlife and rural communities engage in subsistence agriculture and cattle herding.

The interior of our concession contains rolling hills and plains with good numbers of wildebeest, zebra, giraffes, and elephants. Ostriches and bat-eared foxes are also a feature of this open landscape. 

Our camp turned over a new leaf

At our previous camp along the Motloutse River, we operated a tented camp comprising 3 m x 3 m dome tents. We have significantly upgraded our student accommodation to large, comfortable Meru-style tents, which give our trainees more space and comfort while retaining our values of wilderness and sensory immersion.

Once again, we are fortunate to be able to assist in protecting and enhancing the region as we have done before at Mashatu. This has been our role in various reserves including Makuleke in the Kruger National Park. 

We support Mashatu Game Reserve and contribute to sustainability by training guides for safari lodges from the local communities. This symbiosis supports the Botswana tourism industry and attracts people to the EcoTraining programs. 

EcoTraining celebrates our renewed opportunity as we work hand-in-glove with the Mashatu game reserve and the neighbours to be guardians of this land. 

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Adventure awaits just across the border

EcoTraining would like to welcome you to a very special place: our fabulous new Mashatu camp in Botswana. We join Jodie Moffat, an EcoTraining backup, for a walk-through of our new camp and some incredible wildlife and scenery. She shows us all the facilities, including the lovely accommodation on the riverbank’s edge.

The Mashatu Reserve is part of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, located at the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers confluence in Botswana’s easternmost corner.

About the Author:
Anton Lategan

Anton Lategan

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