Safari Diary, MASHATU – 2015/04/25


Photo Workshop, Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana

25 April 2015

The April rains in Mashatu carpeted the land in a stunning green with yellow and purple flowers and I’ve never seen the bush this beautiful. Temperatures are also down with warm days and cool nights. I met the guests at the border for the start of the first scheduled photo workshop for 2015. After checking everyone into the lodge we embarked on our first game drive where we were blessed with good sightings of jackals in golden light and a leopard just before sunset. We toasted to another stunning day in Africa! Let’s see what tomorrow will bring!

20150425_2735 | , Mashatu Game Reserve in 1-800 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 2500   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF200-400mm f-4L IS USM lens   |   Shutter priority, 0 EV


26 April 2015

We left camp in the dark and managed to catch a beautiful sunrise in the bush with some zebras in the foreground. We were soon called to a leopard sighting and a large herd of elephants in the riverbed concluded our morning drive. After a workshop and the highlight of lemon meringue tart during high tea, we embarked on our afternoon drive. We found a leopard that entertained us until sunset and a hyena den with 2 tiny cubs.

20150426_2796 | , Mashatu Game Reserve in 1-100 sec at f - 5,6, ISO 125   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF200-400mm f-4L IS USM   |   Shutter priority, 0 EV


27 April 2015

Our plan for the morning was to go to the bee-eater hide. This hide was first opened in 2012 and I’ve never seen it this dramatic as this morning with beautiful golden side-lighting against a dark background. There are plenty of White-fronted Bee-eaters and they kept us entertained for the whole morning. In the afternoon we went looking for the cheetah mother and her four cubs. We found them while trying to hunt an impala, unsuccessfully, but it delivered great photo opportunities. After sundowner drinks we made our way back to camp and found a Spotted Eagle owl to finish off another great day’s photography in the bush.

20150427_9367 | , Mashatu Game Reserve in 1-5 sec at f - 18, ISO 100   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF70-200mm f-4L USM lens   |   Shutter priority, -2-3 EV


28 April 2015

This morning one of our vehicles went to the Valley Hide in search of elephants while the other vehicle went to the Bee-eater hide. At the Valley Hide they photographed birds in the early morning and the elephants almost came to drink. An elephant that died from natural causes was found close to the hide while a herd of elephants that were on their way to drink in front of the hide got diverted because of the situation. The scene was amazing with elephants standing over the dead one to mourn. Two male lions waited behind the elephants in anticipation of a meal and hyenas even further behind lurking in the bushes. Mashatu switched it on during the afternoon drive with a cheetah sighting, jackals fighting with vultures over a carcass, lions on an elephant carcass and a hyena stealing a kill from a leopard!

20150428_9824 | , Mashatu Game Reserve in 1-640 sec at f - 8,0, ISO 800   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF200-400mm f-4L IS USM EXT   |   Aperture priority, -2-3 EV


29 April 2015

We were so inspired by our photos and the potential at the bee-eater hide that we decided to give it another try this morning. The dark background, golden side-lighting and action created stunning photos. A coffee break under a big Mashatu tree concluded both the morning drive as well as the first photo workshop. We took our guests back to the border and picked up the new guests for the second workshop. During the afternoon drive our original plan was to have a look at the lions feeding on the elephant carcass. Instead, we found a leopard and spent the whole drive with her as she climbed a few trees, walked around, drank water and finally disappeared into the thicket. This was a fantastic start to the second workshop and the bar had been raised very high.

20150429_5141 | , Mashatu Game Reserve in 1-50 sec at f - 4,5, ISO 2500   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF200-400mm f-4L IS USM   |   Shutter priority, -1 EV


30 April 2015

Our plan for the morning was to see what was happening at the elephant carcass. It was still pitch dark when we left the lodge but arrived at the sighting just before sunrise. We found lions feeding on the elephant with two clans of hyenas chasing each other around in anticipation of a meal. The early morning light got us great opportunities for front-lit and back-lit lion and hyena action photos. After a photo workshop session back at the lodge we embarked on our afternoon drive. Our plan was to look for the cheetah mother with the four cubs. We could not manage to find them but instead photographed some birds and zebra in the golden light. Sundowner drinks rounded off another great day in Africa! Let’s see what tomorrow will bring!

20150430_5525 | , Mashatu Game Reserve in 1-800 sec at f - 4,5, ISO 320   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF200-400mm f-4L IS USM lens   |   Shutter priority, 0 EV


1 May 2015

The elephant carcass, smelly as it was, was still delivering some excellent photo opportunities. We made this our first stop for the morning and found lions chasing lions, lions chasing hyenas, hyenas chasing hyenas, and elephants chasing lions. These opportunities got the shutters working in the early morning light. Bird photography of rollers, bee-eaters and other common birds concluded the morning drive. Our afternoon drive was equally exciting with a sighting of the cheetah mother and her four cubs, followed by more hyena action at the carcass.

20150501_7069 | , Mashatu Game Reserve in 1-200 sec at f - 6,3, ISO 2500   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF200-400mm f-4L IS USM   |   Shutter priority, 1 EV


2 May 2015

We decided to go to the bee-eater hide this morning – the first time for the second workshop and it did not disappoint. We all got great photos with the dark background and stunning early morning side-lighting. Back at camp we concluded our photo workshop sessions and started our afternoon game drive early to get to the sandstone formations where Rhodes’s Baobab is. Instead of landscape photos we focussed our attention on photographing the Elephant Shrews which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip! Tomorrow is the last day, so let’s see what the last morning drive will show us.

20150502_3153 | , Mashatu Game Reserve in 1-2000 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 250   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF200-400mm f-4L IS USM   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV


3 May 2015

The last day of safari arrived much too quickly as always! Our last drive was spent looking for the leopard mother with the cub which but turned out unsuccessful. The morning did however deliver great bird and baboon photos that we managed to see along the way. The other vehicle in our group found the cheetah mother with her cubs in golden light, and soon after that found the three cheetah brothers.

New friends made with laughs and great sightings shared with old friends! We can’t wait to get back to Mashatu Game Reserve later in the year for the next workshop.



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About the Author

Isak is a specialist wildlife photographic guide from South Africa. His discovery of nature's special moments at a young age shaped his aspirations of today: to showcase the beauty of his continent's natural wonders in a creative way.

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