Mashatu Game Reserve is part of the Tuli Block in Botswana, where the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers flow together. The riverine forests and marshland give way to savannah, rocky outcrops and red sand. Leopards, lions and elephants roam as they did in ancient days, and dinosaur footprints remember even older times.
Mashatu is the Land of Giants. Elephants, giraffes and cheetahs—the largest, tallest and fastest animals on dry land—are all subjects of the kingdom of Mashatu. The largest bird, the ostrich, and the world’s heaviest flying bird, the Kori Bustard, drink from the watering hole. The largest antelope, the Eland, is chased by the lion, Africa’s biggest cat and king of the beasts.
The massive baobab with its thick, squat trunk and spindly branches is an odd-looking tree standing all alone—legend says that another of Mashatu’s residents, the hyena, in ancient days was given the task of planting it and, being lazy and not too bright, put its branches into the ground and left its roots in the air! Another unique sight is the Nyala Tree, also called the Mashatu Tree, which grows in flood plains and along the river banks. It can grow taller than the baobab, with a gnarled, thick trunk and spreading branches.
The giants of Mashatu are not limited to flora and fauna. One of the world’s most dramatic natural geographical features is the dolerite dyke called Solomon's Wall, colossal cliffs looming 30 m (98 ft) above the sandy banks of the Motloutse River.
Not everything in Mashatu is the biggest of its kind. Other intriguing highlights include some of the world’s oldest rock art, the dinosaur footprints of Vhembe and ancient stone tool quarries.
In addition to three members of the big five – leopard, lion and elephant – are wildebeest, varieties of antelope including eland, impala, kudu and steenbok, hyenas, aardwolf (or “earth wolf”), African wildcat, honey badger, bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, the cape fox and the endangered wild dog. Crocodiles lurk in the river. Over 350 bird species can be found in Mashatu, including some of the most vibrantly colored birds anywhere.
Pete’s Pond is a fascinating feature of Mashatu. In 2005, Pete Le Roux was so upset by the poaching happening along the Limpopo River that he created an alternate source of drinking water for the animals. Excavating a large area and utilizing an old, existing irrigation system, he created Pete’s Pond. A live webcam broadcasts continuously from the watering hole, and people from around the world can witness the enormous variety of animals and birds that visit the pond regularly to rehydrate and cool down.
Mashatu Game Reserve is open year round, with good wildlife viewing at all times. The dry season lasts from June to September and features increased wildlife viewing at the water holes. The rainy season from October to May is wonderful for viewing birdlife, baby animals and lush green savannahs.