… AND WE DON’T JUST MEAN THE 1000+ ELEPHANTS WHO CALL IT HOME!
Mashatu is a private wildlife sanctuary that comprises a whopping 40% of Botswana’s Northern Tuli Game Reserve – and it’s not called “Land of Giants” for nothing – for it is home to the largest population of elephants on private land on the African continent as well as prolific wildlife and birds.
What is perhaps lesser known is how fantastic it is for families – especially now that access is so much easier with direct 1-hour flights on Sundays and Thursdays between Johannesburg’s OR Tambo and Mashatu’s Limpopo Valley Airfield.
Just 14 luxury suites line Mashatu Main Camp’s perimeter with amazing views over a large and busy waterhole. Each suite has a double bed and an extra-large single bed, together with a seating area that includes a single day bed so they can very comfortably accommodate families with younger children. The ample ensuite bathroom has both bath and shower facilities and a separate W.C. The Camp also offers a reception area, curio shop, inviting bar with terrace and a boma for dining – as well as a large swimming pool to cool off in and relax between game activities. The Discovery Room with its rich history, animal specimens and relics will fascinate and educate visitors of all ages, as will the resident crocodiles.
Mashatu is ideal for multi-generational family holidays because there is something for everyone. There are lots of activities families can share together – or enjoy separately. Adults can enjoy various adventure activities such as mountain biking, bush walks or horseback safaris – or opt for a few quiet hours in one of the underground photographic hides, knowing their youngsters are having the time of their lives on the Children’s programme.
The Children’s programme is designed to entertain children aged 4–12 years, while teaching them about the bush and the wildlife we share our lives with. Leading the programme is Gaone Ratsoma, together with a team of Mashatu rangers. Gaone has the benefit of two years on Disney Cruise Liners out of Fort Lauderdale in the USA, and many of the games designed for this programme originated at Disney World. Children are at all times supervised by a responsible manager and/or ranger, whether they are within the confines of the camp or out in the bush. Activities depend on the time of year, and the number of days the children will be staying in camp.
Each child is given a Mashatu backpack containing an interactive checklist, bird colouring book, coloured pencils and sharper, a compass and thermometer. Things they can enjoy include:
Each child is given a poster of an animal with photos and facts about the animal. After studying the animal, the child then explains the specifics of his or her subject to the rest of the group. This fun exercise expands the child’s general knowledge, while facilitating relationship building and interaction.
Who am I?
An animal poster is pinned to the child’s back. He or she then asks the children in the group simple questions like “do I have horns?” or “do I have scales?” – questions that can be answered “yes” or “no” – to get clues to help to identify the animal.
An armed ranger takes the children on a short walk around the Main Camp area, where they are introduced to the different plants and trees, birds and their nests, and other things they may encounter. There are also taught how to track animals and identify their spoor and droppings while out in the bush.
Should parents want an evening out at the boma, their children can be accommodated. A delicious children’s dinner is served followed by a wildlife video screening in the recreation area.
After eating brunch the children are taken to watch the crocodiles being fed by one of the Mashatu managers or rangers. They are entertained with a short talk on crocodile ecology and behaviour while the large reptiles tuck into their meal. For the feeding, all parents are requested to be present!
Interactive “animal-building” exercise
Children learn the difference between carnivores and herbivores by studying the skulls of various animals in the Discovery Room. They are then given the opportunity to build an animal using a selection of bones; at the same time learning how the bones fit together and what each of the bones is used for.
Botswana has a rich cultural history, and this activity is designed to teach the children about the inhabitants of the country and area, as well as the ancient cultures that walked the plains thousands of years ago. Children will learn to make their own stone tools, ostrich and land snail beads and clay figurines from termite mound clay. This is a great play session – prepare for very dirty children!
There is no better way to get clean than to wash off in a swimming pool. Children are entertained with a variety of pool games, including “hippo polo”, under the diligent supervision of the camp managers.