Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana
Jutting sandstone cliffs, coupled with a wild mix of wetlands, savannah plains and riverine forests, provides the perfect backdrop for Mashatu’s large animal population. Elephants can frequently be seen digging for water in the dry riverbeds from May to September, and leopards are surprisingly easy to spot in the undergrowth along the riverbank. With mountain biking, horse riding, game walks and night drives, you can expect an exciting safari experience at Mashatu Game Reserve.
Best Time to Go
May - September
Average Safari Cost
Abundance of elephants and wildebeest, great leopard sightings, horse riding, mountain biking, night drives, walking safaris, over 350 birds
Why Visit Mashatu Game Reserve
Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana provides excellent wildlife viewing. While the reserve does not have a particularly wide variety of animals, those that are present, are thriving in large numbers. Elephants and buffalo are particularly common and leopards are surprisingly easily to spot with the help of excellent trackers. Giraffes and zebras are commonly seen as well, while lions and hyenas can be spotted occasionally. While the wild dog is present in the reserve, seeing them is not guaranteed.
The reserve offers a range of activities and visitors are sure to find something of interest. Mountain biking is available for the more active guests, and horseback riding is also an option. Walking safaris provide a more personal wildlife viewing experience, and night drives will give visitors a great opportunity to see nocturnal animals.
The birding in Mashatu is wonderful, with over 350 recorded species present. Expect sightings of the African Hawk Eagle, the Booted Eagle and the Martial Eagle. Other notable birds include Pel’s Fishing Owl, Secretarybird and the vibrant Malachite Kingfisher.
Pros and Cons
- Fantastic wildlife viewing
- Great leopard sightings
- Off-road driving
- Night drives and walking safaris
- Adventure activities
- Great trackers and guides
- Limited wildlife variety
- Only expensive accommodation available
Best Time to Go
Dry season: May to September
Wet season: October to April
Mashatu’s semi-arid climate is hot in the summer (October – April) and mild in the winter (May – September). The dry season is the best time for wildlife viewing, as the animals gather in large numbers around the more reliable water sources, and vegetation has thinned out, making animals easier to see.
October to April is lush with bright skies. This time of the year is great for birding, as many resident birds will be in their breeding plumage and migratory birds are present. There is also chance that baby animals could be seen, as this is the calving season. Unfortunately, the temperatures are hot and the rains means that vegetations will be thick and water sources plenty – wildlife will be dispersed and difficult to spot.
For more information when to visit see our Botswana Safari - Complete Travel Guide.
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Wildlife and Birds
- Wild Dog
Wildlife viewing in great in Mashatu, with great leopard sightings and large herds of elephants that can be seen daily. The trackers are able to find the secretive leopards easily and a few of them are relaxed enough to stay still for amazing photos. Wild dog sightings are infrequent, but there are several antelope species that are present and fairly easy to spot.
Infrequently Seen Animals
- Hippo, lion, leopard, hyena, wild dog, greater kudu
Frequently Seen Animals
- Elephant, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest
Mashatu has over 350 recorded species of birds, making this game reserve a great bird watching destination. Bird watching is generally not a priority for many parks and reserves, and if you are an avid birder, you may want to book a private tour or vehicle. There are a number of notable birds to be seen in Mashatu, including: African Hawk Eagle, Dusky Lark and Pel’s Fishing-Owl.
- For a complete list of endangered birds in Botswana see here.
Endemic and Near Endemic Birds
- African Hawk Eagle, African Pygmy Goose, Allen’s Gallinule, Ayre’s Hawk Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bronze-winged Courser, Dusky Lark, Dwarf Bittern, Green-winged Pytilia, Kori Bustard, Long-billed Crombec, Maccoa Duck, Malachite Kingfisher, Martial Eagle, Miombo Pied Barbet, Mocking Cliff Chat, Pel’s Fishing-Owl, Secretarybird, Senegal Coucal, Southern Ground Hornbill, Spotted Crake, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Temminck’s Courser, Three-banded Courser, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Yellow-breasted Apalis
Getting There and Safety
There are three main airports in Botswana: Maun Airport, Kasane Airport and Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, in Gaborone.
A charted flight is the easier way into Mashatu. There are two flights a week from Johannesburg to Limpopo Valley Airfield, which is the nearest airfield to the lodge. Alternatively, you could also take a chartered flight from Kasane, Muan or another camp. There are also chartered flights available from Cape Town and any South African lodges.
If you prefer to drive, you will need to rent a car in Gaborone and drive to the lodge from there. You will need to enter through the reserve’s western boundary, and it roughly an 8-hour drive.
If you are driving from South Africa instead, you will need to take the Pont’s Drift border crossing. Be prepared to leave your car at the border, as the someone from the lodge will fetch you from there. There border is open from 8am to 4pm.
For the flights to Botswana, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you there and compare various ticket prices.
If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights.
If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights.
For more information on visas see our Botswana Safari - Complete Country Guide.
Overall, Botswana is a safe country, and this includes the parks and reserves. It should be noted, however, that if you are flying from Johannesburg, there is a lot of crime in South Africa. Try, as far as possible, to stick to the airport (and your hotel if you have to stay overnight).
As with anywhere in the world, most crime takes place in busy market areas and bus stops. If you find yourself in these areas, please be vigilant. Practicing basic safety precautions while travelling is always prudent.
If you are travelling independently (i.e. self-drive), please ensure that you have lots of water, fuel, snack and perhaps a basic first aid kit. The roads are quite good, but accident can happen. It is best to be prepared.
Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Botswana. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.
Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.
- Wide-brimmed sunhat
- Warm clothing – nights and early mornings are chilly from May to September
- Spare rechargeable batteries
- Battery charger
- Spare memory card for camera
- General clothing
- Trail shoes and hiking boots
- Personal medication
- Small backpack (for game drives)
If you are visiting from October to April, wet-weather gear is necessary:
- Waterproof backpack
- Waterproof rain jacket
- Waterproof trousers
- Waterproof hiking boots
For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.