Worldwide Photographic Journeys

South Africa

BOTSWANA & SOUTH AFRICA: Mashatu and Mala Mala Photo Safari


There are few places more beguiling for wildlife photography than southern Africa.  This celebrated region is renowned for some of the best “Big 5” viewing in Africa. These famous five – Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, African Elephant and African (or Cape) Buffalo – were once favourite hunting targets, and while many were hunted nearly to extinction, some reserves have made inspiring strides in bringing them back and making them fantastic photographic subjects.



Located in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve of Botswana, which is situated between the Tuli Safari Area, a national park in Zimbabwe, and the Mapungubwe National Park (a World Heritage Site) in South Africa, Mashatu shares unfenced borders with both the South African and Zimbabwean national parks in the south and north respectively. This vast area forms part of a cross-border wildlife conservation area protecting the substantial biodiversity of the fauna and flora in this region.

Mashatu, ‘Land of Giants’, takes its name from the locally sacrosanct Mashatu or Nyala berry tree (Xanthrocercis zambesiaca) and the giants that roam its terrain. These magnificent dark green trees, which are found along the rivers in the reserve, provide refuge, shade and food to a myriad of wildlife. Mashatu, which is one of the largest privately-owned game reserves in southern Africa, provides a sanctuary for the largest herds of African Elephants on privately owned land on the continent.

In addition to that, the world’s tallest mammal, the Southern Giraffe, the world’s largest antelope, the Common Eland, the world’s largest bird, the Common Ostrich, and the world’s heaviest flying bird, the Kori Bustard are all part of the game drive experience at Mashatu. Add the king of the beasts, the Lion and the iconic baobab tree…and you have Africa’s ‘big seven’ land based giants.

Due to the exceptional diversity of landscapes in the reserve, Mashatu enjoys an ecological biodiversity uncommon in other game reserves. Three members of the Big Five, namely the Leopard, the Lion and the African Elephant, are complimented by some lesser well-known, but interesting species, including Aardwolf, Bat-eared fox, African Wild Cat, Honey Badger, Spotted Hyena and Black-backed Jackal.  For visitors who are interested in birdlife and bird photography, Mashatu is home to more than 350 bird species, including the enchanting Lilac-breasted Roller.

During our time at Mashatu we will explore the wilderness area during morning and afternoon wildlife photography drives in open safari vehicles.


Eye-Level with Elephants

At Mashatu, the Matabole hide has been sunk into the ground in prime elephant habitat. Inside, you are seated so that your head and camera are at ground level, resulting in fantastic low angle images!  There is nothing quite like photographing wild African Elephants from a low-level hide! On many occasions they are completely unaware of your presence and you are sometimes forced to swap your prime or telephoto lens out for a wide angle when they get really close!

We will spend two morning sessions in the underground Matabole photographic hide, which is a unique and thrilling experience for wildlife photographers or indeed any lovers of wildlife.



Internationally renowned for the quality of its game viewing, MalaMala adjoins the Kruger National Park, with an unfenced border of some 7.5 kilometres (about 4.5 miles), and is the largest private reserve to do so. This celebrated region is renowned for some of the best “Big 5” viewing in Africa.

The MalaMala reserve is especially famous for its fantastic Leopard viewing, and night drives are a highlight, with an array of nocturnal species that include big cats (Lions and Leopards), Spotted Hyenas, Side-striped Jackals, African Civets, Large-spotted Genets and various owl species.

During our time at MalaMala we will be exploring this magnificent wilderness area twice a day during early morning and afternoon/evening wildlife photography drives in a private, open 4-wheel drive vehicle. The 4×4 vehicle enables the guide to leave the road and provide us with close-up game viewing and fantastic photo opportunities.

We will be visiting Mala Mala during the colder winter months, so the savanna bushveld will be dry and more open to spot and photograph the wildlife. The beautiful Sand River flowing through MalaMala from north to south is a big draw card for thirsty animals, especially at the end of winter.


This extraordinary tour will provide an opportunity to photograph the Big 5 and so much more!


Accommodation and Road Transport

Most accommodation on the tour will be in two truly luxury grade lodges with costs to match. There are also two nights in a comfortable hotel near Johannesburg international airport.

An open, safari-style 4×4 vehicle, for our group’s exclusive use, will be used for all game drives. Having our own private vehicle involves high extra cost, but it means that we are not going to have to compromise our photographic needs because of the presence of other lodge guests.  Airport transfers are by minibus/passenger van.



Walking is minmal and easy.



During the winter months in the northern parts of South Africa and southern Botswana most days will be warm, dry and sunny, but the early mornings can be cold, especially in the open safari vehicles.


Photographic Equipment

If you use a DSLR for photography you should bring telephotos (and converters) that will (with a full-frame body) cover the range 200-500mm or 600mm or more. You will also find a wide angle lens good for landscapes. There will be only limited opportunities to use a macro lens.

If you bring a good quality bridge camera it will be best if it has an optical zoom of 18-20x or more, combined with a reasonable wide-angle at the other end of the zoom range.

We will have power at all our accommodations, but would recommend having at least one spare battery per camera. Dust is ever-present in Africa, so cleaning your photography equipment is important. A monopod can be helpful if you use a heavy telephoto, as the vehicle sides are low and so often unsuitable for resting on. A beanbag can also be very useful for wildlife photography. If you do not have one yourself, let us know as our lodges can usually provide one. Don’t forget a flash for night-drives.

If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact our office.

Photographic Highlights

  • Get down to eye level with large populations of African elephants and other creatures visiting the Matabole underground hide at Mashatu
  • Stunning, vast open plains that are roamed by Cheetahs and Lions
  • Magical baobab trees for fantastic landscape and Milky Way images
  • A chance to spend time with Spotted Hyenas at a den site
  • Habituated troops of Chacma Baboons
  • Fantastic big cat photography, especially Leopards
  • A great diversity of savanna birds, with many colourful or striking photogenic subjects
  • A chance to observe African Wild Dog pups at a den site in MalaMala
  • African (Cape) Buffalo, White Rhinoceros and Hippopotamus, not found at Mashatu, can be seen and photographed at MalaMala


Wild Images Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

Our tour prices also include the extra charge for a private safari vehicle and guide for our group’s exclusive use.

Our tour prices also include these flights: Johannesburg-Polokwane-Johannesburg and Johannesburg-Skukuza (Kruger)-Johannesburg.

Tips/Gratuities are not included. We suggest you allow around US$400 per person for this itinerary.

Deposit: 40% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

The deposit level is unusually high because both Mashatu and Mala Mala are exclusive and in high demand, so require very high advance deposits.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

If you are travelling alone, the single supplement will not apply if you are willing to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.


Day 1  Our Botswana & South Africa wildlife photography tour begins this evening at our hotel near Johannesburg International Airport. Our leader will brief you on the safari this evening, over dinner.

Day 2  We will take a morning flight to Polokwane in northern South Africa and then transfer by road across the border into friendly Botswana and the Mashatu Lodge in Mashatu Game Reserve, our home for the next five nights. The road transfer, including border crossing, takes around two hours. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Days 3-6  During stay at Mashatu Lodge we will explore the Mashatu Game Reserve on morning and afternoon game drives in an open safari vehicle reserved for the exclusive use of our group, the perfect photograpy platform. Two full mornings will be spent doing photography from the incredible Matabole Hide located at the lodge.

Mashatu Lodge is an oasis among the undulating and seemingly endless plains of wild southern Africa.  The lodge has only 14 luxury suites, allowing for a quiet base for our photography safaris.

Day 7  We will depart Mashatu Game Reserve after our last morning safari and return to Johannesburg for an overnight stay.

Day 8  We will take a short morning flight from Johannesburg to Skukuza and then a roughly one hour road transfer to MalaMala Game Reserve, situated in the Sabi Sands area next to the world renowned Kruger National Park, where we will stay for three nights at MalaMala Camp.

We will enjoy our first MalaMala safari this afternoon.

Days 9-10  MalaMala is the oldest and most historic private game reserve in South Africa as it was the first to make the transition from hunting to photographic safaris. It is the blueprint on which the modern South African safari industry was built.

Every aspect of the MalaMala Camp is designed to appreciate and enjoy the view of the surrounding wilds. Pathways wind their way along the perimeter of the camp to reveal individual ochre colored units tucked into the greenery which flanks the Sand River. Massive trees and rolling green lawns are filled with birdsong, with the occasional antelope or elephant which seeks to consume the succulent greenery! The camp is an unfenced oasis in the middle of the bushveld.

As at Mashatu, we will explore the reserve on morning and afternoon game drives in our private, open safari vehicle.

Day 11  After our last morning game drive at MalaMala we will return to Skukuza and fly back to Johannesburg, where our Botswana & South Africa wildlife photography tour will end this afternoon.

Other Tours featuring signature large mammals