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Mashatu Madness/Tuli-tastic: our first trip to Botswana, August-Sept 2014


Tdgraves

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Tdgraves

There has been a very long delay in this TR. Mainly due to the number of photos that needed processing, but also when we returned, there were so many new TRs, I was too busy reading, rather than writing! So I figured I need to at least start this before we go on our next trip (24 days and counting...)

 

Given that the Rand is so weak at present and we have only been on safari in South Africa at the "wrong" time of year i.e. January, we thought that we would spend our Septemeber trip in South Africa in the hope of seeing cubs and comparing the scenery in the dry season to our more usual wet season. I had been looking at the Tuli block, so it seemed like a good idea to do a triangular route, mainly in RSA, but starting in Mashatu, Tuli block, Botswana. Now that the TR section is in separate countries, this will only cover the Mashatu part: 30th August - 3rd September 2014, 4 nights.

 

We flew BA in their new A380, it was excellent - so quiet. We were on the top deck, so not sure if it is quiet throughout, but we were very impressed. Because we were going straight to Mashatu from the airport, we paid for a meet and greet service to get through the queues (these A380s hold a lot of passengers). This worked so well, we had to wait for the luggage! Into the rental car and we headed North as fast as the speed limits allowed. The first half of the journey was motorway, so we made good progress, but once onto the rural roads, this slowed. Although the border crossing closes at 16.00, the camp wanted us to be there by 15.00, I guess to get in before dark. So with comfort breaks only, we made it to Pont Drift at about 14.00 and had to wait about 30 minutes for our driver to arrive from camp to take us into Botswana. In retrospect, it would have been better either to stop for food or to have had some proper lunch as a takeway, as by about 15.30, I was starving. All that driving, I suppose. The rental was parked in no-mans-land between the two border posts, on the banks of the Limpopo. Usually the crossing is made by cable car, which I was really looking forward to as an unusual start to a safari. Unfortunately, it was broken that day, so we just drove across in the Land Cruiser :(

 

Immigration formalities completed, we started the hours drive to Mashatu Tented Camp, in the same winter clothing we wore to leave the UK (my first game drive in black!). Given it was mid-afternoon, there was not much game about, but he showed us these sleepy guys.

 

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Our driver told us that we would meet up with a game drive en route and change vehicles. If I had realised that we were not going to camp first, I would have made better use of the 30 mins waiting time and changed, got the cameras ready and dug out the extra layers for the night drive. It is very difficult to unpack in the back of a moving Land Cruiser!!

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Afternoon drive, 31/8/14   The new guests had all arrived. A group from Australia, including a man in a wheelchair with their pilot/guide and a group of 12 South African friends who come to Mashatu

Morning 2/9/14 - Mashatu Elephant Hide   One of the novel things about Mashatu is its' elephant hide. A man-made structure dug into the ground so that you are looking and shooting practically at th

Morning drive: part two   Had to separate the posts as I was worried that I'd lose what I had done and there are rather a lot more photos to come.   A mother cheetah and cubs, less than 24 hours a

Tdgraves

Evening game drive, 30/8/14

 

So we were transferred onto a game vehicle, with a family who were leaving the next morning. We then started to drive back along the way we had come! The camp managers were obviously used to these transfers, as we almost immediately stopped for us to have something to eat.

 

Mashatu is known for its elephant and we had some wonderful sightings. This guy wanted to cross the river where we were sitting

 

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And then a relaxed family herd

 

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We then drove further along the dry river bed and I think that our guide was surprised that we were interested in the jackal as initially, he didn't stop

 

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And this was the reason why - very well disguised in the grass....cubs on the first day!

 

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"Why are they looking so intently over there?" I asked...

 

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Because that's where a very heavily pregnant aunt was relaxing

 

Not far away was dad (one of a coalition of two)

 

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It was now rapidly getting dark. Not bad for a first drive!

 

We didn't see much with the spotlight on the way back to camp and to be honest, all I wanted was a wash and some clean clothes, having been in them for over 24 hours. When we got to camp, the novelty of an outdoor shower rapidly wore off, as the air temperature was so low. So the worlds shortest shower, followed by jumping into bed to warm up before dinner. The only time on safari that I have ever used a hairdryer (and the camp provided one)! It was definitely cold, as they warmed the beds with hot water bottles. We ate dinner quickly so that we could get some much needed sleep prior to our 5.30 wake up call the next day.

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Did you stay at the bush camp? Who was your guide?

 

btw: the cable car was already broken in April 2013 and I wouldn't be surprised if it has been ever since

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Tdgraves

@@ice yes we stayed at the tented (or more rustic, bush) camp. Main camp looked a bit corporate to me. I can't remember the name of the guide that first night as I was so tired, but for the rest of the trip, we had Richard, who was superb. I think the cable car has been fixed, as they had added the charge to the bill.....

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sorry, just noticed the answer to my first question: bush camp = tented camp

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yeah, Richard is great, had him too during my stay - and yes, the main camp is rather posh

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Treepol

@@Tdgraves I have been looking forward to your TR, can't get enough Mashatu magic.

 

I am pleased that you enjoyed Richard's guiding, he is vey knowledgeable and takes the time to investigate alarm calls which led us to a Giant Eagle owl sighting in August this year. We stayed in id-August, shame we missed each other by just a few days.

 

So pleased to see the cubs again, and the pregnant lioness - I wonder when her own litter was due.

 

@@ice the cable car was working in mid-August as we crossed the Limpopo in it. Maybe its becoming unreliable as there are now 2 known breakdowns?

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Atravelynn

Excellent start. When another trip is on the horizon--lucky you--the pressure is on to complete the previous report! That baby giraffe has such baby features.

 

"There has been a very long delay in this TR. Mainly due to the number of photos that needed processing, but also when we returned, there were so many new TRs, I was too busy reading, rather than writing!" May I use this as my own TR intro?

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Soukous

about time @Tdgraves

I'm not quite sure how bird photos from Aldeburgh and Minsmere took precedence over a TR from Mashatu :ph34r:

 

I'll be reading with great interest as I am heading that way in May 2016. Similar itinerary to yours but in reverse and we'll also be visiting Gonarezhou.

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Tdgraves

about time @Tdgraves

I'm not quite sure how bird photos from Aldeburgh and Minsmere took precedence over a TR from Mashatu :ph34r:

 

I'll be reading with great interest as I am heading that way in May 2016. Similar itinerary to yours but in reverse and we'll also be visiting Gonarezhou.

 

@@Soukous - the big year had a deadline - this did not!

 

Have you sorted out your travel arrangements to Zim then? I'd be interested to do that trip, as we will definitely return to Mashatu at some point

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Soukous

 

about time @Tdgraves

I'm not quite sure how bird photos from Aldeburgh and Minsmere took precedence over a TR from Mashatu :ph34r:

 

I'll be reading with great interest as I am heading that way in May 2016. Similar itinerary to yours but in reverse and we'll also be visiting Gonarezhou.

 

@@Soukous - the big year had a deadline - this did not!

 

Have you sorted out your travel arrangements to Zim then? I'd be interested to do that trip, as we will definitely return to Mashatu at some point

 

 

Pretty much.

we have an itinerary and costs. Why, do you want to join us?

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Tdgraves

No thanks! May is not a good time for me. I know that you are not allowed to take rentals from RSA into Zim, so I wondered how you were going to do it. I was thinking about other places that can be combined with Tuli and Gonarezhou seemed an obvious choice. I considered Mapungubwe this time, but it is less game dense than Sabi/Timbavati, but maybe that'd be a good triangle - Tuli, Mapungubwe and Gonarezhou, as long as you could get into Zim....

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Towlersonsafari

Hurrah!-always fun to read a trip report on Mashatu-its a lovely place-we stopped on route both there and back at Kurisa Moya near polokwane, a wonderful forest setting with tree canbins, great emals and a splendid bird guide called David-one of the original local guides( the south African birding routes), who was very good, very funny and very patient! he showed us a Bat Hawk amongst others and when I asked what an unusual sound was, he gently pointed out it was a broken water pipe!-alas one of the co-owners-Ben de boer-sadly passed away suddenly a few years ago, but if you are interested in birds its a great place to stay for a few days. Looking forward to the rest of your report.

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graceland

Great start @@Tdgraves - love the elies of course! Looking forward to more. I've never been to that area of S. Africa; seems I've missed something!

 

I always rush to get my Tr's out as they keep the " buzz" going for me after a long arduous trip home that makes me wonder why I even bother to fly.

But then again I take about 200 shots, not 2,000!

 

@@Soukous - you are going to Gonarezhou :o

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Soukous

 

@@Soukous - you are going to Gonarezhou :o

 

That's the plan @@graceland and I'm really looking forward to it as well.

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Tdgraves

Morning Drive, 31/8/14

 

You know that it is cold, when the guide has a blanket wrapped around his legs! This was the first safari where we had to buy special cold weather clothing, rather than the reverse. Brrrrr.

 

As the other family were leaving and new groups were arriving later, we had a private vehicle on our first proper drive, where I was actually feeling awake and interested.

 

First sighting of the day was of course, eles

 

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Then the hyaena family

 

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Especially for @@Big_Dog and @@Marks

 

We then drove round and round in circles, tracking lion, with no success. They had covered an enormous distance, so they assumed that they were protecting the cubs from something.

 

I know that were going in circles, as we saw an African Hawk Eagle percing in a tree and it was still there on lap two. Given that there was no chance of catching up with the lions, we took a closer look.

 

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We also came a group of bipedal pedallers - a mountain bike safari!!

 

Oue guide then heard about another sighting by radio.....

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Tdgraves

Morning drive: part two

 

Had to separate the posts as I was worried that I'd lose what I had done and there are rather a lot more photos to come.

 

A mother cheetah and cubs, less than 24 hours after arriving - result. The ones which @@Treepol saw a few weeks earlier. And all 5 were still alive and in fine form! We haven't seen many cheetah in the wild and never cubs, so to see them on the first day was brilliant (we were tipped off of their existance by the family we shared a vehicle with the night before)

 

This one's for you@@madaboutcheetah

 

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We had the sighting to ourselves apart from a film crew on the back of a bakkie. And then to top it off, we found him on the way back to camp....eating an elephant!

 

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He was collared, so this was a good angle. I'm not sure that the guide understood why I was more interested in the jackals looking for scraps....

 

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As you can see the light was already getting harsh. All in all, not a bad first morning :D

Back to camp for a hearty brunch.

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graceland

OH my, not just for MAC, but for all - those cheetah cubs are too darn precious. I've never seen any yet!! Perhaps next trip...

and I love the elies walking in formation; I do love them so much; until they want me out of their sight..LOL

 

The hyena pups are just as cute; makes one appreciate them much more seeing them as babes.

 

Great sightings, @@Tdgraves

 

 

Is that 8800 for us to follow @@Soukous through Zim?

 

Got to check his web page out.

 

Happy New Year; been reading this waiting for my bubbly :D

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Tdgraves

OH my, not just for MAC, but for all - those cheetah cubs are too darn precious. I've never seen any yet!! Perhaps next trip...

and I love the elies walking in formation; I do love them so much; until they want me out of their sight..LOL

 

The hyena pups are just as cute; makes one appreciate them much more seeing them as babes.

 

Great sightings, @@Tdgraves

 

 

Is that 8800 for us to follow @@Soukous through Zim?

 

Got to check his web page out.

 

Happy New Year; been reading this waiting for my bubbly :D

 

hi @ graceland not £8800, 8800 photos!!! HNY - we are on the red wine :)

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Treepol

@@Tdgraves we missed the hyena pups and only saw a shy adult peeping above the edge of the den.

 

How wonderful to see the 5 cheetah cubs again. Richard said that as long as the could keep them away from lions all 5 had a good chance of reaching adulthood. I've just checked and a recent post indicates that in November there were 4 cubs remaining.

 

How old was the ele the lions were eating? Did Richard say that they had killed it or found a carcass?

 

Looking forward to more when you have time...

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madaboutcheetah

@@Tdgraves - you had an awesome trip!!! Lovely sightings, well captured images and fabulous trip report! Thank You!!!!

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Tdgraves

@@Tdgraves we missed the hyena pups and only saw a shy adult peeping above the edge of the den.

 

How wonderful to see the 5 cheetah cubs again. Richard said that as long as the could keep them away from lions all 5 had a good chance of reaching adulthood. I've just checked and a recent post indicates that in November there were 4 cubs remaining.

 

How old was the ele the lions were eating? Did Richard say that they had killed it or found a carcass?

 

Looking forward to more when you have time...

The elephant was mainly just bones really by the time we were there (there wasn't much to show that it was an ele) I would have thought by its size that it was quite young...He wasn't sure if it was a kill or scavenging.

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Great stuff - hugely appreciative of the awesome hyaena cub photos! :D
Mashatu also looks like a great place!

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