Working with safari lodges often sounds quite exciting and glamorous, but the truth is that many people involved with running the behind-the-scenes safari stuff aren’t actually based at the lodge.
This is why the Mashatu Lodge Reservations team was so excited when they found out that they would be spending a weekend at Mashatu instead of doing a normal year-end function! Heather Blignaut and Rozanne Smith shared the details of this trip with us:
“Our excitement began a few months ago when our management team told us that our year-end function this year would be quite different from previous years.
This year, we would be having a weekend at Mashatu! This meant that not only did we get to visit our favourite place on the planet, but we would also get to share it with some of our favourite people, our Mashatu family, all 9 of us. I often call our team at Mashatu (both in Botswana and the SA office) a family. That is what we are.
A true adventure started the minute we arrived at Pont Drift Border Post, where were welcomed by the dry hot Botswana air that hit us as soon as we cracked the door open from our trusty rental car. We drove 30 minutes up to Mashatu Lodge, spotting animals en route, all snapping away with our cameras already. On arrival at camp, our wonderful Mashatu family was waiting to meet us. Lots of hugs and introductions to the people we had not yet met face to face, but who had been our ‘pen-pals’ over email. The excitement was tangible!
After high tea, we were introduced to our Ranger, Mothusi, and our Tracker, Abel. We hit it off straight away and quickly became best friends. The Mashatu rangers have been with us for on average 14 years each and as a result, they have so many magical stories which they are always willing to share. These are the types of things that you will never read about in books. They are passed down from person to person. Our Mashatu family is so skilled in the art of storytelling.
True to Mashatu as an adventure destination, we all participated in different morning activities. There were walkers, cyclists, and horse riders. We all got back to camp from our respective adventure activities and spent time over brunch trading stories about our experiences.
The cyclists had ridden into a lioness hunting, which of course got the adrenaline pumping, while elephants had been encountered on foot and from horseback.
After one of the brunches, Catherine ran out onto the deck and gasped, “The crocodile has something in his mouth.” We jumped up and ran to the deck and there the elusive crocodile was chomping down on a tortoise. Later at high tea, the crocodile, having had his starters, decided on his main course and with a splash took down an impala.
We also did a PhotoMashatu hide session on one of the afternoons with the incredible Janet Kleyn, our resident professional photographer. This experience is an absolute must when visiting Mashatu. Janet showed us how to use our cameras and cellphones to get professional images. We were fortunate enough to witness the now-infamous “baboon klap”. A poor impala was the unfortunate recipient of a good smack from a grumpy baboon. Totally unprovoked! We are still laughing about it in the office.
During the drives we saw:
- Lioness and 4 young cubs with another 2 lionesses in the bushes
- Jackal mobbing a male leopard
- Another female leopard and a second sighting of a lone male leopard
- Bat-eared foxes and white-tailed mongooses
- Beautiful sighting of an African Wildcat
- Lone male lion
- Spotted hyena den and all the antics with the cubs
- 5 cheetah on a kill
- About a total of 100-150 giraffe (we re-introduced 22 in 1983 and now have over 700 in our area!!)
- More than 10 herds of elephant and all the usual general game
- Python eating a bushbuck There were also hundreds of birds, making Mashatu a twitcher’s paradise.
On our last afternoon, we drove to the very western part of Mashatu, where the landscapes are utterly breath-taking. We drove past the Mmamagwa ruins to see Solomon’s Wall and on to the Amphitheatre, where we stopped. From the bottom of the rock Amphitheatre, we ascended to the top of the outcrop. From up there, we had a 360-degree view of the limitless landscapes around us and that vast African sky above. We watched elephants cross the dry river bed to dig for water and even spotted a pride of lions, which we drove to find after scrambling down the rocks.
We are now back in the office, missing the pure silence and complete darkness of the magical Mashatu nights, with only the background noise of the nocturnal party animals and the occasional far-off clap of thunder. Mashatu is so special. It really cannot be described, it must be experienced. The landscapes, the animals, and most importantly the people, have a way of creeping into your heart, to ensure that you absolutely must keep going back time and time again.”