It might seem a little odd for South Africans to cross the border into Botswana just to view the animals. It’s not like we’re short of choice, what with the Kruger and numerous other big-five-filled game reserves.
Yet Botswana’s Mashatu lodge, a 45-minute drive from the border post of Pont Drift, is worth visiting for one big reason. The biggest reason of them all, in fact – elephant.
The sheer size of a pachyderm parade at Mashatu is incredible. So much muscle and skin and flab ambling past your vehicle is absolutely mind-boggling. Where do they come from, where are they going, how can they all survive in this dry country?
And more importantly, what will happen if one suddenly turns aggressive and leads a 100-strong stampede into our truck, which now seems ridiculously frail amid a lumbering mass of mammoths?
Thankfully Mashatu also has elephant whisperer Jeanetta Selier, a researcher who has been studying elephant populations for a decade. As they file past Jeanetta points out some of her favourites, fascinating us with her stories of birth, death and elephant intelligence.
Guests at Mashatu pay for the privilege of having Jeanetta accompany them on a drive, but if you’re already splashing out for such luxury accommodation you can no doubt afford this little extra that makes an ordinary game drive an enthralling experience.
Guests can also pay to accompany predator expert Johann Snyman as he tracks down leopards at dusk. You’re almost guaranteed success, since some of the leopards are sporting collars to monitor their movements via satellite.
It all sounds terribly commercial, but the cash paid by wide-eyed tourists helps to fund Snyman’s conservation research. Even on a normal Mashatu game drive you won’t go short of action, as the lodge is in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve which is teeming with life.
The rangers always have a good idea of where to find the resident pack of wild dogs. The alpha pair gave birth to a litter recently, and despite there being fewer than 5,500 wild dogs in all of Africa, Mashatu is one place you’re likely to see them.
When the adults and pups romp around together to a soundtrack of dainty tweets and twitters, you’ll think they’re all barking mad. You’re also highly likely to bump into lions and their cubs frolicking by the river.
Mashatu offers morning walks and bike rides – sometimes a fraction too close to the lions – and horse riding for anyone proficient enough not to panic if a lion pops up to spook their steed.
The lodge itself boasts all the usual luxurious amenities. Yep, you can experience the same luxury at our local lodges, but if elephants en masse are your passion, Mashatu makes a cross-border foray worthwhile.
For further information follow the links alongside.