“The Land of Giants & Big Cats” – Mashatu Photo Safari with Daniel Bailey
Step into the heart of the untamed wilderness, where colossal giants roam freely, and the kings and queens of the savannah reign supreme. Recently, ORYX Photo Tours embarked on a thrilling photographic safari to the Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana, led by the seasoned Photo Tour Leader, Daniel Bailey. From September 5th to 10th, 2023, our guest delved into the wonders of this pristine landscape, capturing the enchanting beauty of both birdlife and wildlife from the unique vantage point of the renowned sunken Matebole underground photographic hide. Join us as we relive our remarkable journey through the Mashatu – Hides and Predators Photo Safari.
Hidden Treasures of the Matebole Hide:
Our adventure began with a series of hide sessions, totalling five in all—three during the mornings and two in the afternoons. These sessions allowed us to uncover the hidden treasures of the Matebole Hide, revealing diverse lighting conditions and encounters with the remarkable species that call Mashatu their home. The Matebole Hide granted us an unmatched opportunity to observe nature up close and personal. Here, our camera lenses were trained on a mesmerizing array of avian species, including Cape Turtle Doves, Golden Breasted Buntings, Blue Waxbills, Red-Billed Quelea, African Green Pigeons, Meyer’s Parrots, and a chance encounter with the diminutive Pearl Spotted Owlet. We even had the privilege of capturing images of the world’s largest flying bird, the majestic Kori Bustard.
But our fascination didn’t stop with the avian wonders. We were treated to the spectacle of various mammal species, from the graceful Impalas and majestic Kudus to the towering Giraffes, a dazzle of Zebras, and the generally shy and elusive Eland. The surprise appearance of an impressive Rock Monitor lizard added an unexpected twist to our photographic encounters. Banded mongooses provided endless entertainment with their playful antics, while multiple herds of Elephants reminded us why Mashatu is aptly known as the “Land of Giants.”
Observing Giants from Ground Level:
One of the most unforgettable highlights of our journey was the unique perspective offered by the Matebole Hide. Here, we had the privilege of witnessing the comings and goings of different species from the viewpoint of a frog in the pond. With cautious zeal, Zebras approached the waterhole, Impalas congregated in vast herds, and wildebeest bulls strode confidently onto the scene. Families of Elephants displayed remarkable organization and patience, waiting their turn at the waterhole before excited calves and teenagers broke ranks, sprinting towards the water for a refreshing drink and a bath.
We found ourselves mere feet away from these gentle giants, who exuded an air of complete comfort and relaxation with our presence underground. We listened to their vocalizations, their deep rumbles, and witnessed their intricate social interactions—all while capturing awe-inspiring images that beautifully showcased the textures of their wrinkled skin, the intricate patterns on their massive bodies, and the unique details of their trunks, toenails, and feet.
Camera Setup and Photography Tips:
Throughout our guests adventure, ORYX Photo Tour Leader Daniel Bailey provided invaluable private photographic tuition. Together they delved into the intricacies of camera settings, optimizing exposure and lighting conditions, and mastering the art of composing their shots to convey captivating stories through their images. It was not a matter of merely snapping photos and hoping for the best results; it was about understanding the delicate balance between ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed in manual mode to achieve the optimal settings for each unique scene and species.
Big Cats and Beyond:
The game drives were meticulously planned to offer our guest opportunities to encounter the area’s magnificent big cats. They were privileged to witness the stealthy grace of leopards, the lightning speed of cheetahs, and the majestic presence of lions in this untamed wilderness. A particularly memorable moment was an encounter with a mother leopard and her 5-month-old cub, who approached their Land Cruiser with curiosity, affording our guest incredible close-up shots that will forever be etched in his memories.
The sightings of lions were equally captivating, with the dominant male lion posing regally for their cameras. The specialized photography vehicle, equipped with the latest technology, and the open footwell without doors allowed our guest to capture images from the big cats’ perspective, offering a unique and intimate view of their world.
Exploring the Land and Night Skies:
In addition to the magnificent wildlife, Mashatu Game Reserve presented our guest with breath-taking landscapes and scenery. They explored ancient ruins, including the awe-inspiring Solomons Wall, where the riverbed dramatically cuts through the sandstone cliff face. They delved into the rich history of the area, encountered iconic Baobab trees, and visited the very spot where Cecil John Rhodes once left his mark on this timeless land.
The western parts of the Tuli Game Reserve unveiled incredible vistas, where we had the privilege of encountering rarer species such as the African Wild Cat and Bat-Eared Foxes. A particular highlight was witnessing the awe-inspiring flight of a Martial Eagle as it soared from a nearby tree.
As night descended and the moon rose later in the night, they seized the opportunity to gaze at the Milky Way, a dazzling celestial display that added a magical touch to their adventure. Our guest also received an in-depth astro-photographic tutorial, learning the best settings and compositions for capturing the mesmerizing night sky.
Our journey through Mashatu Game Reserve was nothing short of extraordinary. From the hidden wonders of the Matebole Hide to the awe-inspiring encounters with giants of the savannah and the regal big cats, every moment was a photographic adventure. We immersed ourselves in the splendour of the landscape, the storied history of the region, and the mysteries of the night sky. Mashatu truly lives up to its reputation as the “Land of Giants,” where the grandeur of nature unfolds before your lens, leaving you with indelible memories and stunning photographs that will be cherished for a lifetime.
We invite you to join us on our next adventure as we continue to explore the world’s most captivating wildlife destinations, forging connections with nature that transcend both time and space.
Daniel Bailey, ORYX Photo Tour Leader
Daniel Bailey is a Photo Tour Leader for ORYX private and scheduled departures. To view Daniel’s small group photo tours, click here.
To have Daniel join you on your tailor-made tour as your private Photo Tour Leader, please email