Words and images by Andrew and Lucy Stephens.
My wife and I were looking for somewhere special to spend our first anniversary. We share photography and the natural world as our passion. We also belong to the Edenvale Photographic club where we participate in sharing our hobby. Its through the club that we were introduced to C4 Images and Safaris where Shem came to give a talk on wildlife photography. There were also club members who had been to Mashatu and highly recommended it for a trip. So, we booked and our trip began on the 18th of July 2013.
Entry to Botswana is through the Pontdrift border post, where we were then escorted by the Mashatu Rangers and C4 Workshop lead to the luxury tented camp in Mashatu.
There are two buckets of activity daily centered around the best morning and evening light for photography. In the morning you leave before sunset to get closer to the game by the time the sun rises, only coming back for brunch at about 10:30 AM. For the evening you leave mid afternoon, after a delicious tea. Staying out until all light has faded before making the way back to the camp. We really appreciated this, as we could stay at a sighting if required with the assistance of spot lights. The rangers and C4 team really make sure that the clients desires, in terms of time spent at sightings, are met.
The rangers also do their utmost to get the best possible photographic opportunities, by going off-road whenever it is needed. We probably spent 50-60% of the game drives off road at sightings or tracking animals! I found this extraordinary as it allowed us some of the rarest and most precious sightings we have ever had. The drivers also made sure that the vehicle stopped at the best spot for photographic opportunities.
In terms of game viewing, Mashatu really delivers, below are a few highlights:
Sighting # Quality in terms of photography
Lions 2 ****
Leopard 3 *****
Hyena 5+ *****
Elephant 6 *****
Jackal 5+ *****
Baboon 3 **** (Baboon eating a Guinea fowl)
Steenbok 2 ****
Bee Eaters 3+ ***** (White Fronted)
Meyers Parrot 1 *****
Namaqua Doves 3 ****
Namaqua Sandgrouse 3 ***
Francolin 4 ****
One of the main reasons we chose to go to Mashatu was to visit the sunken Elephant hide to get close to these giants. We spent one and a half days in the hide. The first day was really quiet, however the second day did not disappoint at all. The bird life visiting the water hole in between mammals gives you lots to focus on. I did some time lapse movies using my iPad to show the main sightings. See the links below:
Impala, Kudu and Baboon come to drink: http://youtu.be/9IhwuKz9q50
The Elephants arrive: http://youtu.be/BO5Ac77SS2E
The other really special sighting (besides leopards in tree’s, Bee Eater Colonies, and 2 lioness with 9 cubs) was being able to spend about 5 hours with 4 hyena cubs and their parents. It was pure joy watching these curios naughty pups evade their babysitters. It also provided many great photo’s. I also decided to try my hand at SLR video to share these special moments. Below is one of my favorite images plus the links to the 2 videos I put together of the sighting.
Night time playing: http://youtu.be/6b1DDjTIS0M (Skip to 2:45 to hear the caretakers moaning at the pups!)
Day time adventure: http://youtu.be/l8fVWH96aaA
The game viewing and sightings were really great. From a photographic workshop side the C4 team were always on hand to lend advice, answer questions or share stories. We spent the time on the workshops (between game drives) looking at the use of flash photography as a supplemental light source in nature photography, as at times there were shadows or even low light photography challenges to contend with. Then also by request we looked at the technicalities of star and star trail photography as this was an interest that some of the photographers shared. Some valuable lessons learned.
As they say all good things come to an end, and after a magical 5 days at Mashatu with C4 it was time to head back to reality.
What a magical trip! We look forward to coming back!!!