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Awesome Mashatu


pedro maia

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pedro maia

This August, the family was going to visit Namibia, which is very high on my wish list for quite a while. Everything was booked and mostly paid since the end of last year, flights, lodges, rental car, etc, but in June, for family reasons, we had to cancel the trip, sometimes thigs just don´t work as planned and that´s just how it is.

 

In the meantime, with things stabilized, we had the opportunity to take just a few days, unfortunately without the kids, the available day were very few, we would have to leave on the 14th and be back on the 19th September, 6 days (5 nights) total, Namibia was out of question but in my head it had to be Africa, somewhere I haven´t gone before (which is most of it) but there weren´t many choices for what I was looking for and within our budget.

 

I had my mind set at Porini Lion Camp, there might be a spot for us but then no, I had to decide and Mashatu seemed to be a good choice, considering the reviews and also the reports here in the forum, so I booked the flights and the camps, it was going to be Mashatu (a couple of days latter I was informed by Gamewatcher Safaris that a tent was available at Porini Lion, but it was too late).

 

According to the information available here and in other websites, Mashatu is the biggest private reserve of Southern Africa, with lots of elephants and famous for good predator sightings, just perfect, they don´t have buffalo nor rhino but that wasn´t an issue, what is a pity is that they don´t have wild dogs, first place on my sightings wish list, but I could live with that.

 

Thnks to to schedules of KLM, we could leave Lisbon on the 14th at 5:00am in time to take a daytime flight from Amsterdam and arrive at Joburg around 9;00pm, pick-up the rental car, sleep at an hotel nearby the airport, leave the hotel a little before 6:00am and drive to Pontdrift border post with plenty of time to arrive in time to be pick-up and taken to Camp already in Mashatu, the time limit was 1:00pm, the drive takes around 5:30, with stops for breakfast and to fill the tank at Polokwane we arrived at Pontdrift at 12:30 and after the formalities they were already waiting for us and drove us to the Tented Camp where we would stay for one night, before moving to the Main Camp for other two nights. On the 18th we still had time to the morning game drive since our flight back to Amsterdam would leave at 11:30pm, with a morning stopover before the last flight to Lisbon, where we would arrive on the 19th around 2:30pm.

 

Intense, tiring, crazy plan according to all our friends, but perfect for us and we would do it again if we hadn´t another choice, like this time.

 

Crazy or not, there we were, at Pondrift Border post, ready for another African experience...

 

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From the border to Tented Camp it takes a little less than one hour, already inside the reserve, on the way the first game we saw were ellies, which was a promising start, and also a few impalas and a

We left the lioness with her impala snack and stopped somewhere to have a warm drink and rusks, and as we prepared to get back to camp there were news on the radio that a cheetah had been seen and so

The pride isn´t too big, two lionesses with 5 cubs, 3 are 5 month old and 2 are 3 months old, and only one male.   I think it´s the only pride resident to Mashatu but there are also some you

pedro maia

From the border to Tented Camp it takes a little less than one hour, already inside the reserve, on the way the first game we saw were ellies, which was a promising start, and also a few impalas and a couple of giraffes.

 

After arriving at camp, it was time to grab a bite and rest for a while in our tent, it was our first time at a tented camp and it definitely has nothing to do with camping:

 

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In Mashatu the maximum number of guest per car is 6 but on our 2 game drives while at Tented Camp we were only 4, me, my wife and 2 Americans, brother and sister, besides our guide, Ronald, and our tracker, Komando, it was quite a team!

 

We started the afternoon game drive and first stop was to take a picture of some zebra which were in an elevated place, catching a beautiful light:

 

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It didn´t take long for Mashatu live up to the expectations of a great place to see predators, as Ronald and Komando quickly spotted a female leopard up in a Mashatu tree.

 

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She had the remains of an impala in the tree and it really stank, surely the carcass wasn´t from that day.

 

On the ground was her 18 month old male son that she wouldn´t let go up the tree and feed, it was time for him to start thinking about following his own way.

 

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Two leopards after less than an our of our first game drive, what a great start for our stay at Mashatu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by pedro maia
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pedro maia

We left the leopards and crossed ways with this young bull ellie

 

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It´s always great to get up close to an elephant

 

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Watching Mashatu Facebook page while waiting for the trip, I knew there were lionesses with cubs, so I told our guide Ronald that we would like to try and see them, so we were looking for the local pride, and iit didn´t take long for him and Komando, our tracker, to find it.

 

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pedro maia

The pride isn´t too big, two lionesses with 5 cubs, 3 are 5 month old and 2 are 3 months old, and only one male.

 

I think it´s the only pride resident to Mashatu but there are also some young males in the fringes of their territory but we didn´t see them.

 

Back to the pride, we spent some of the best time we ever had while on safari watching them, we hadn´t seen cub that young before.

 

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Kids start to do what kids do

 

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How cute can future killers be?

 

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Edited by pedro maia
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Good start for you.  We saw young cubs play for the first time on our recent trip to Tanzania.  

It wears me out to think of your trip there for just a few nights but you are much closer to Africa than we are.  It was 36 hours in transit for us from Kilimanjaro.

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pedro maia

At this time I must warn that we took lot´s of pictures of the pride, especially of the cubs, so there may be a bit of an overload of lion pictures in the next few posts (as it may as well happen with other sightings we had), but I jus can´t resist to share them, just hope nobbody gets too bored.

 

Mom´s care is much apprectiated

 

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pedro maia

A couple of hundreds meters away there was the King, indulging himself with a quiet moment under the shade without being disturbed by the cubs energy, it´s a 10 male lion in his prime and without evident scars, which should mean that up to this moment he hasn´t been really chalenged by other males.

 

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It´s good to be the King...

 

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pedro maia

He wasn´t really moving, didn´t even bother to lift his head, so we went back to the river bed where the cubs and their moms were.

 

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A bit of grooming

 

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I must say that both lionesses also seemed to be in an excelent shape, without competition and with plenty of prey around they seem to have a good life.

 

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Too much stillness, time to do something

 

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pedro maia

Hi Mom!!

 

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It seems like this mom just wants to be left alone...

 

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BFFs

 

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A few close ups

 

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Leopards and a pride of lions. What a start to your safari.

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Alexander33

Congratulations for finding a way to make this trip happen. As they say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  Looking forward to more. 

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pedro maia

Still with the pride, two cubs play fighting

 

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Also some more peaceful moments

 

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pedro maia

Time to practice what mom teatches.

 

The predator:

 

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And the prey:

 

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Surprise!!!

 

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Ok, maybe next time...

 

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Back to the drawing board...

 

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pedro maia

Let´s try again

 

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Stealth is key to success

 

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Charge!!

 

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Gotcha!!

 

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After all this action and fun it was time to leave the pride, find a place for sundowners, call it a day and head back to camp, everyone with a big smile and, after such a start, with great expectations for the next day.

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pedro maia

Our Tented Camp car buddies had asked us if we would mind to wake up earlier next morning to go and see the sunrise, that was perfect for us so the wake up call was at 5:15, time to have a cup of tea and a few biscuits and there we went to choose a place, right by a baobab, before this trip I hadn´t seen baobabs and they are really beautiful and impressive trees.

 

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Then  we only had to wait for mother nature to do its magic...

 

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it was, of course, totally worth it to wake up a little earlier to see these colours...

 

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We then started the game drive passing by this very old baobab, with nice morning sun colours.

 

And by this giraffe, allways photogenic

 

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pedro maia

Next goal was to go and check a hyena den, unfortunately the little ones didn´t came out of the den but we still had the pleasure of staying for a good while watching two very curious 7 month old cubs and part of the pride.

 

This one came immediately to check the car

 

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I must say that, contrary to many people, I´m a big fan of hyenas and although I had seen them in all our previous safaris I never had a chance to see their behaviour as a group, nor have I seen hyena cubs before.

 

This adult was in the perfect position to catch the golden morning light:

 

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More members of the pride

 

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And again the curiosity of the cubs with the vehicule

 

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Who said they are ugly?

 

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Itchy hyena cub

 

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pedro maia

A small piece of bone is a treat for a hyena cub

 

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And it must be chewed over and over

 

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Although it can attract unwanted attention

 

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and start a dispute

 

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It may be a bad idea to go and fight for the prize close to the adults

 

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because they may also get interested in it

 

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Even an adult hyena looks nice in the golden hours. Puppies are adorable in any light.

Edited by xelas
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pedro maia

We left the hyenas and went looking for other animals, we stopped by this lilac-breasted roller, I´m not a birder but they are just beautiful:

 

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We had the first chance to take a picture of an eland, I had never seen them before (and don´t find them to be very beautiful), they are quite common in Mashatu but are also quite skittish, maybe because apparently they are the favourite prey of the lions in the reserve.

 

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We had again the pleasure of coming across a breading heard of elephants:

 

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Although it seems that the pleasure wasn´t mutual, maybe because they didn´t like the way we approached them:

 

 

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pedro maia

I also like to see vultures, and vultures may indicate the presence of carcasses, and that may also mean that predators are feeding on a carcass, which is something we hadn´t seen before.

 

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I can´t assure that this vulture was close to our next sighting but Ronald and komando found this lioness feeding on the remains of an impala:

 

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it was quite an excitement for everyone in the car, Ronald just had to repositionate it and we stayed there for a good while, quite close, it was just the head and neck, I think, it wasn´t really a meal anymore, I would call it a snack for the lioness, but nonetheless it was fascinating to watch and listen, the next set of pictures may seem quite repetitive but for me they are like frames of a movie with subtle different movements, expressions, stances and also noises, at least I see the pictures and remember the noises, what a great momment for us (and for the lioness, not so much for the impala).

 

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pedro maia

We left the lioness with her impala snack and stopped somewhere to have a warm drink and rusks, and as we prepared to get back to camp there were news on the radio that a cheetah had been seen and so we went on to try and spot it, I don´t have a clue on where we were on the reserve but it was tough uphill terrain, full of stones and quite bumpy, but that was not a problem for Ronald´s driving skills, so we managed to find the cheetah, who at first didn´t seem very pleased with our presence.

 

A very short clip showing the driving conditions:

 

 

Trying to avoid us:

 

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Eventually, we were able to get closer:

 

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They are absolutely amazing animals and we got some close-ups

 

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I was time for us to part ways with the cheetah, she followed her way, looking for prey

 

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and we returned to the camp for brunch, it had been a long and incredible morning game drive, Mashatu was delivering sightings way beyond our expectations.

 

Edited by pedro maia
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Enjoyed photographs of your morning drive, what will pm bring?

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pedro maia

Pm was also great, as were all game drives at Mashatu.

 

Since we were only able to book one night at the Tented Camp, after brunch we were transfered to Main Camp, it´s about a half an hour drive.

 

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Although I liked a lot the Tented Camp, were the bush atmosphere is more "direct" (although there can be surprises everywhere, but let´s leave that for later) it was very hot, with max temperatures above 35º, and in between game drives it was better to have A/C which you don´t get at tents, so it ended up being a good thing to stay two nights at Main Camp.

 

Besides that, a big group (a trip organized by National Geographic) had left that morning so when we arrived we were the only guest, although two other couples would arrive in time for the afternoon game drive, both Americans, one younger couple in their honeymoon, the other in a more golden age and we somwhere in between, and nother guests arrive during our stay.

 

As in the tented camp, guest and guides from the same vehicule shared tables for meals.

 

 

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pedro maia

Our guide during our stay at Main Camp was Bellamy, very expereienced with 22 years of practice, 12 of them in Mashatu, and Goms was our tracker, I can only say they are a great team and their work made each of our game drives an increible experience.

 

The first afternoon game drive would be the only one with 6 guest, we and the two other couples that were staying at Main Camp, we started by going to a part of Mashatu we hadn´t been yet, and got to see landscapes totally different, Mashatu is big for a private reserve and can be quite diverse, with open plains, parts that look like wastelands, others with scattered bushes, there is the ever green of the masahtu trees, mostly dry river beds with some clifs in the banks, and it was in one of these zones that we saw my favourite antelope which we had seen only once, during our first trip to Kruger, the klipspringer:

 

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It wasn´t easy to take this pictures of this little fellow because he didn´t stay quiet for more than a momment and soon vanished into the bush.

 

On top of those clifs there a strange and beautiful mix of vegetation, in this case baobabs and cactus.

 

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We followed our way and came across this lonely giraffe, posed for us and kept going.

 

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Next sighting was a troop of baboons that was passing by

 

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Then we had a very special sighting, this beutiful big owl, I know nothing about owls so I can´t identify it but it was great to see it

 

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Bellamy and Goms allways checked the mashatu trees and in one of them there was female leopard, sleeping in this big branch

 

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On the other side of the tree we found the reason for the leopar nap

 

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After a while with absolutely no movement from the leopard, we decided to go and try to find other interesting things and return later to check the leopard and the dead impala.

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pedro maia

Soon after leaving the leopard and the carcass we found the lions pride, everything was quiet:

 

The lionesses

 

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And the cubs

 

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But as every parent knows, when you want to rest the kids always have different plans

 

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And they know how to be irresistible

 

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Of course they want something

 

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But mom isn´t willing to give that thing

 

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