If you haven't read my post on Mala Mala in South Africa, I would recommend you do that before reading this one, as I will compare the two and reference Mala Mala a lot.
If you did click the link and read about Mala Mala I welcome you back and hope you are all caught up on our adventure!
Our next destination was Mashatu tent camp in Botswana. Yes, you did read that correctly, a tent camp. This may sound a bit daunting (and quite frankly it was), but tent I've learnt can mean more than a leaking, dirty one you used once at a festival when you were 17. Although I had seen pictures of these luxury tents online, I didn't quite know what to expect as tent, even with the word luxury in front of it, sounds quite intimidating to me.
But before facing that at all (I know this is a ridiculously small challenge, and very first world problem-y, just FYI), we had yet another "way-out-of-my-comfort-zone" experience; riding in a teeny tiny airplane. And by teeny tiny I mean teeny tiny. There was space for six passengers and two pilots! Eight people in total! I told you, TINY! Those fears I talked about in the other post that I never saw again, well I lied. They did make a brief appearance in this minuscule airplane... We were all quite stressed as it was a very hot day, and being Scandinavians we don't really know what to do with ourselves in the heat, unless we're on a chartered holiday or in our beloved northern part of Europe. The inside of the airplane felt like a sauna. I'm not trying to exaggerate when I say that we were all dripping sweat. As we were about to take off I though to myself, "You know what, I can't do this. I'll just stay here at Mala Mala forever". Then we took off...
... and everything was fine. I was stuck, it was all out of my control and everything was totally fine! I actually enjoyed looking out of the window at the beautiful landscape, flying just underneath the clouds. The only really not-great thing about it was the travel sickness I got, even though I had taken medication for it. There wasn't really any turbulence, but the plane "bumped" up and down the entire time. A bit like a boat would on really high waves.
After about 45 minutes we landed at Polokwane airport in South Africa to do immigration. That took about an hour, in the hottest airport in the world, and then it was back into the plane for another 30 minutes.
To say tensions were high when we landed would be a massive understatement. But after sitting in the shade for a while, drinking copious amounts of water, we all felt a little better. One of the rangers from Mashatu picked us up, and it took about an hour to get to the camp. On the way there we saw some zebras and giraffes and possibly wildebeest and/or buffaloe, I can't quite remember as it had been a long and hot day of travel and I might've been a bit delirious.
Haha! I don't know if you can tell, but there was one massive difference between Mala Mala and Mashatu; the landscape. It's more open in Mashatu, which is why you would see giraffe heads popping up like this everywhere.
When we arrived at the camp we were greeted with a refreshing guava juice and a tour of the camp. The tent camp is in the middle of the bush (not sure if bush is the right term, but woods doesn't feel right either), surrounded by trees and vegetation on all sides. The tents were beautiful and quite spacious and felt very luxurious indeed. I think my favourite feature about the camp was the bathrooms. So on the opposite side of the entrance to the tent there was another door that led out to the bathroom area where there was an outside shower (the pipes were hidden in the trees, and a bucket acted as the shower head), sink and toilet. All very high standard and newly renovated.
I really loved the feeling of showering under a big tree, outside in the middle of nowhere!
After our quick tour of the camp we went on our first safari at Mashatu, and boy was it HOT! The heat is the main reason for the lack of pictures from this day because I was a bit worried about my camera overheating (as well as myself). We also shared the vehicle with a couple of other guests, but I still got some good shots, so let's get right to it.
The first thing we saw was a big herd of wildebeest and one zebra that hung out with them, I think this was because they would play on each others strength and hunt together, or something along those lines. My memory is not the best, especially not in the Botswana heat!
Next up was a cheetah that was snacking on a dead baby impala in the shade.
I kept waiting for her (I think it was a she) to move out of the shade for better lighting, but sadly it never happened.
We stopped for a lot more birds at Mashatu as one of the other guests was really into bird photograpy. I don't know much about birds, but they can be quite frustrating and difficult to photograph as most of them are so small and move so quickly. We stayed with this blue one for a while and I was just waiting for it to take off, hoping to get a good shot of it with its wings spread...
... and my patience paid off! These blue birds were everywhere and very easy to spot due to their bright blue feathers.
A lonely elephant throwing dirt across his body to protect his skin from the sun.
Two supercute jackals that we were very happy to find as Cirsten really wanted to see some wild dogs, and these were at least a little bit close to that.
As the sun was starting to set, we found a huge herd of elephants and a group of them were standing in a circle, moving around a lot, seeming quite upset.
As we looked closer we saw that there was a baby elephant lying on the ground, barely moving. Elephants are very emotional animals, so this was clearly the reason they were so upset.
They next day we found the mother alone next to her dead baby, grieving. It was very sad and quite horrible to watch.
After a lovely dinner outside, we headed back to our tent for our first night at Mashatu. I was quite nervous about it, worried about not being able to sleep, but it was super cool! You could hear the hyenas howling and everything! I woke up the next morning feeling super well rested and refreshed,.
We got up in the pitch black morning the next day to head out on an early morning safari. I was really hoping to tick off one of the last things on my list to see: a colourful sunrise over the savannah. As you can tell by the picture my wish came true!
We sat for a good while, watching the blood-red sun slowly rise. It was such a peaceful moment I will never forget.
Not long after we found a pride of three lions, sleeping lazily in morning sun.
We definitely had better lighting for photography at Mashatu, but the temperatures were much more comfortable at Mala Mala. Although that was pure luck, the day before we arrived at Mala Mala it was around 40 degrees celcius!!!
Some storks chilling by the river, can you spot what's in the background?
A big crocodile! Right after I snapped this picture it swam away in the muddy water.
At the other side of this riverbank is where the rangers decided to stop for our morning tea! It was quite the experience, watching a huge herd of elephants on the other side and also knowing that a crocodile was in there somewhere, whilst sipping our tea.
Mashatu is the best for elephant viewing! I don't even know how many we saw during our stay, but it was a whole lot!
Just look how close we were (they are right on the other side of the river)!
When the elephants crossed the river, I decided it was time to go. They are beautiful animals, but also VERY intimidating! By the time we had packed up they were about 10 meters away from us.......
We decided to skip the safari that afternoon and just chill by the pool. This was a great decision as it only got hotter as the day went on.
Sitting in the lounge, waiting for our last dinner at Mashatu.
We got up early the next morning for breakfast before we started our long journey home. This was our route home:
Mashatu, Botswana > the border between Botswana and South Africa > Polokwane, South Africa > Johannesburg, South Africa > Zürich, Switzerland > Stockholm, Sweden > Oslo, Norway
Whilst it was nice to come home, I feel as if I've left part of myself in South Africa/Botswana. There's yet to pass a day where I don't think about going back.
Hopefully I'll be back again soon!