Mashatu Game Reserve
Mashatu Game Reserve, which is the largest private reserve in Southern Africa, has the largest elephant population (almost 900) on private land in the world. It occupies the area between the Shashe and Limpopo rivers south of the Tuli Circle. Mashatu covers 46,000ha of savannah plains, riverine forests, open marshland and rugged outcrops of sandstone.
The name comes from the Mashatu or Nyala trees - round-topped leafy giants which cover the huge open spaces of this wilderness. This beautiful sanctuary is home to seven of Africa's giant phenomena - the Limpopo River, the African Elephant, the baobab tree, the eland, the ostrich, the kori bustard and the endless African sky.
The elephants of Mashatu are known as the relic herds of Shashe, which once roamed the Limpopo Valley in vast numbers. The elephants became extinct locally for about 60 years, but after 1947 they started slowly returning to the Tuli Block.
Today, visitors may drive into the midst of these mighty herds and marvel at how their numbers have been restored by conservationist Mike Rattray and his exceptional field officers. Elephants are not all you'll see on the game drives. A ranger and tracker at the helm in open four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers, linked by two-way radios, will follow the spoor of lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, spotted hyaenas, bat eared foxes, aardwolves, cheetahs, kudu, Burchell's zebras, bushbuck and baboons. Spotlight-assisted night drives may reveal porcupines, aardvarks, spotted genets and civets, in addition to the larger carnivores. Other antelopes are eland, impala and steenbok.
Over 350 bird species have been identified in the area. One of the reserve's attractions is the game viewing walks and night drives on offer. The latter are not permitted in Botswana's national parks, so many visitors miss seeing nocturnal predators such as leopard, lynx and wild cat, which are reasonably common sightings in Mashatu.
The lodge offers luxury accommodation in both permanent and tented camps each designed to combine a luxury safari experience with a taste of the African bushveld.
Game drives and walking trails (with armed guides) are offered. Night drives are permitted to enable the visitor to witness rare and elusive nocturnal creatures such as the aardwolf, caracul, porcupine and leopard. Mountain biking within the reserve has become a popular adventure sport to combine game viewing with the excitement of approaching wild animals in the natural habitat. Armed game rangers oversee such excursions and add to the experience through their extensive knowledge of the bush.