8-Day Mashatu Mountain Bike Safari
To see the Uganda Chimpanzees and Gorillas is a bucket list experience. Combine that with exquisite wildlife, including the famous African Big 5 and you have an unforgettable safari experience.
Full Itinerary – Mashatu MTB Safari Experience
Arrival at Mashatu Game Reserve; ride from Reception to Two Mashatus Camp
Welcome to your African active safari experience! You are in for a great time! You will be met by a company representative at O.R. Tambo International Airport on the outskirts of South Africa’s “city of gold”, Johannesburg and transferred to Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana.
If the transfer is done by vehicle, we will drive north on the N1 highway and enter Botswana at the Pont Drift border post. The drive will take approximately 6 hours. If you choose the air charter option, we will fly to the Limpopo Valley Airfield at Mashatu. This will take about 90 minutes.
We will meet up for lunch and some legal paperwork and get to know each other before doing our bike fitting. The bikes are Silverback Stride 29SX 29-inch aluminium 12-speed mountain bikes with front shocks. They have a 12 speed SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain and feature POP geometry, which improves balance, climbing and traction. Small, medium, large and extra-large frames are available. Pedals are flat on one side and SPD cleat the other. Of course if you prefer to bring your own MTB you are more than welcome. We can help you arrange the transfer of the bike to Mashatu (at your own cost).
As soon as everyone is kitted out (including compulsory helmets) and ready we will head off on our first ride across the Limpopo floodplains towards Two Mashatus Camp on the eastern perimeter of the reserve. Cycling is done on paths trampled by herds of Elephant for thousands of years, resulting in singletrack that is often smoother and more free-flowing than any man-made equivalent. The complex interlinking network of these trails allows the guides to adjust the route to the group’s requirements and skill level. We are fully guided by local professional guides armed with rifles at all times.
The name Mashatu refers to the Nyala Tree Xanthocercis zambesiaca, a beautiful, large, evergreen tree native to the southern subtropics of sub-Saharan Africa. Mashatu is the name given to the Nyala Tree by the local people of the area. We will see many of these beautiful trees during our time here.
Mashatu is 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 UNESCO 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-boundary wildlife conservation area protecting the substantial biodiversity of fauna and flora in this region. Mashatu is home to the largest free-roaming population of wild African Elephants on private land in Africa and encounters with these magnificent beasts will form an integral part of our experience cycling through Mashatu. Other fauna species include over 50 mammal and reptile species and more than 350 avian species.
We will arrive at our bush camp in time for sundowners. The Two Mashatus camp is set up prior to our arrival and offers comfort without distracting from the wilderness experience. Nestled in the shade of two large Mashatu trees, the heart of the camp has two traditionally built Lala Palm rondavels (a round, African-style hut) for dining and lounge areas. Our accommodation is in large A-frame walk-in tents set on teak platforms each with en suite bathrooms. Each tent is private and positioned in the shade of a tree in the bush, not far from the main area. Each tent has a small deck area in front where we can relax privately during the afternoons. Two Mashatus also has a small swimming pool under a Mashatu tree for us to enjoy.
Our meal tonight (and on the other nights on this safari) will be prepared on an open fire, and the hot water bucket showers and ice cold drinks will all add up to make for a memorable night in the African bush.
After dinner, we head to bed for our first night under African skies.
Two Mashatus Camp to Tree Camp
We will wake early to freshly brewed coffee or tea and a light breakfast, enjoying the dawn chorus of birds singing around us.
As the largest private game reserve in Botswana (at 29,000 hectares/72,000 acres) and one of the largest in southern Africa, Mashatu is an appropriate setting for the world’s largest land mammal, the African Elephant, the world’s tallest mammal, the Giraffe and the king of the beasts, the Lion. Let’s hope we see all three (and more) today!
From the dense woodland that hugs the mighty Limpopo river, today’s (±30km/20 mile) route heads towards the network of rivers that criss-cross the centre of the reserve. This fertile area is dense in game all year round, with herds of Common Wildebeest, Plains Zebra, Waterbuck and Common Eland easily seen. There are numerous river crossings to navigate, with the guides constantly on the lookout for Leopard, Lion and Cheetah. How exciting!
We’ll break for coffee and muffins en route in a nice spot; keep your cameras close by!
Having meandered through dense thickets and open plains, up and around gentle hills with vast views back towards South Africa, and past numerous pools surrounded by majestic Mashatu(Nyala) and Leadwood trees, the ride arrives at Tree Camp in time for lunch.
Nestled on the bank of the Majale river, this unique camp built on an elevated deck 4 metres off the ground, provides a safe and comfortable retreat while at the same time allowing you to experience all the sights, sounds and sensations of sleeping in the open within the upper branches of a tree. This is a very unique camp; any childhood dream of sleeping up in the arms of a tree, will be completely fulfilled here. Two guests each share an airy and cool sleeping pod. Along a short walkway, shared showers and toilets are under the Leadwood trees. The spacious dining and lounge area flow from the sleeping pods and overlook the Majale River. This truly extraordinary camp is one that will be remembered and spoken about for years to come.
This afternoon we will enjoy a game drive exploring the area in search of Nile Crocodile, Spotted Hyaena and of course the big cats of Africa!
After our drive we will return to our camp and have dinner, before we settle in for a good night’s sleep after an amazing day.
Northern area ride; return to Tree Camp
We will again enjoy an early breakfast and coffee or tea and then set off.
Setting off early is key as it is cooler and leads to excellent game sightings. Giant Baobab trees continue to scatter the landscape as they have for centuries. These iconic African trees have a special place in many locals’ hearts, as this ancient species plays a significant part in many traditional African remedies and folklore. Some specimens live for over 3,000 years and can reach 30 metres high, with trunks over 40 metres in circumference!
We will spend the day in excellent cycling country of the Upper Majale area, with some fun riverbanks and rocky routes to add a bit of variety to the day for the brave and skilled among us!
After our route this morning (anything from 20 to 45 km depending on the group’s preference) we will return to Tree camp for lunch.
This afternoon we will enjoy either a guided bush walk or a sundowner game drive along the north bank of the Majale river. The group will make a decision on which option to choose, but rest assured both are exciting and great mammal and bird sightings are guaranteed. Mashatu, being privately owned land, makes driving in uncovered vehicles possible. This definitely optimises intimate wildlife viewing, and if you haven’t been on an open safari vehicle before, these game drives will be another highlight of your trip. Qualified, passionate and professional guides are permitted to take us off-road responsibly, for unhindered sightings of animals, as well as to conduct exciting night drives.
After an exciting bush walk or game drive we will return to camp to relax and have dinner. We will sit around the camp fire and chat about our wonderful trip so far, hopefully with the legs not too stiff and sore at this point! Remember to look up at the stars tonight before going to bed; they are truly spectacular out here in the African bush.
Tree Camp to Kgotla Camp
Our day will start with an early breakfast and then we are off again.
Today’s ride (approximately 35km/22 miles) is in a northerly direction on well-worn elephant trails with a gentle ascent out of the Limpopo Valley. Mashatu is home to no less than seven of Africa’s “giants” – African Elephant, Lion, Giraffe, Common Eland, the Baobab tree and two bird species, Common Ostrich and Kori Bustard. We will see how many of these “giants” we can spot on our rides and game drives during our stay!
We turn west and ride through the “Valley of the Elephants”, then continue towards the Motloutse river where sandstone ridges provide a beautiful backdrop. The trail ends alongside the banks of the river at an old Leadwood ‘Kgotla’.
The ‘Kgotla’ is an old traditional court enclosure from a nearby community, which was relocated to the banks of the Motloutse river on the western periphery of Mashatu. This open-air enclosure, made of Leadwood logs, provides a secure location for a camp. The camp has hot running water, beautiful open-air showers and flushing toilets; the perfect combination for comfort and an authentic bush experience.
In the afternoon, we will go in search of the area’s resident Lions on another game drive and draw the day’s adventures to a close with sundowners at the ancient “Amphitheatre” rocks. Africa has often been recognised as the continent with the most remarkable sunsets and Mashatu is no different. Remember to take photos – you will treasure them forever.
Back at the Kgotla, dinner is enjoyed around a large log fire in a “boma”. This open-air enclosure forms the perfect, secure camp for the night and is just about as far away from city life and the modern world as anyone can imagine. We will sleep on single beds around a large log fire in the centre of the enclosure, under the stars and listening to the resonance of an Africa evening… Enjoy!
Kgotla Camp to Reception and Departure OR Mmamagwa area ride; return to Kgotla Camp
This morning it’s decision time!
For the 4 night riders only, enjoy your last cycle (about 25 km/16 miles) in the Limpopo valley. This is a great opportunity to snap one last picture of African Elephants and enjoy a long and winding ride through the scattered mustard bush with our guides. We will arrive back at the Mashatu reception area with plenty time to enjoy a hot shower and a tasty brunch, before saying farewell to Mashatu. We then depart by vehicle to the Pont Drift border post (or to the airfield if you chose the air charter option), bringing this epic African adventure to an end. Then it’s time to say farewell and prepare for the nostalgia to settle in.
Cyclists on the 7-night adventure continue to explore the Kgotla area, including the many sandstone formations like the famed Solomon’s Wall, one of the numerous dolerite dykes in the area. Some of the oldest civilisations in southern Africa settled in this valley. Archaeological evidence in the area includes middle and late stone age tools, rock art and the legendary Mapungubwe Dynasty (1220 AD).
In the afternoon we will enjoy a game drive in one of the most game-rich areas of Mashatu. For the most visually stunning sunset you have ever seen, we will visit the Mmamagwa hill. A short climb (how are the legs feeling?) up this sandstone massif leads to the site of the famed Rhodes Baobab and a rich iron site of a similar period to the nearby Mapungubwe UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will enjoy sundowners beneath the famous tree with a breathtaking view as a bonus!
After our afternoon game drive we will return to camp to freshen up and have dinner together. We will sit under the African sky and reminisce about our wonderful time here and maybe start planning our next safari!
We will then head to bed and good night’s rest; remember to listen out for the roar of a Lion or a nightjar’s call before falling asleep… Isn’t Africa fantastic!
Kgotla Camp to Tree Camp
We will again start our day with a light breakfast and some coffee or tea.
Our route today (anything from 20 to 45 kilometres, depending on the group’s preference) winds up Elephant valley along ancient trails stamped into the soil by centuries of migrating elephants, before heading north towards upper reaches of the Majale river. This area is peppered with enormous Baobab trees and is one of the more remote areas of the reserve.
After an exhilarating cycle through this timeless countryside, we enjoy a relaxing lunch back at Tree camp, where we were a few nights ago.
An afternoon bush walk or game drive is again on the cards, exploring the northern banks of the Majale, Matabole and Jwala rivers. We will again end our day under the vast African sky with a delectable dinner and some socialising.
Tree Camp to a Mashatu Luxury Lodge
We will again start our day with a light breakfast and some coffee or tea.
Today’s cycling promises abundant game and spectacular views across the Pitsane area. The route follows the historical stagecoach line, called Zeederbergs, which ran from the towns of the old Transvaal province in South Africa to the newly forged settlements of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. This leads to the upper reaches of the Pitsani river, where history tells of a skirmish during the Boer war which destroyed Bryce’s Store, an old British supply post.
The route then winds its way back to one of Mashatu’s luxury camps or lodges for the chance of a well-deserved dose of comfort and relaxation. A decision as to which specific camp is chosen for tonight will be made when we arrive at Mashatu; the decision is based on the amount of participants as well as availability at the time. Rest assured though; all the luxury camps and lodges are fantastic! They all boast a delicate balance between the subtle comforts (such as outdoor bathrooms, two fans per tent, a plunge pool, electricity and scrumptious cuisine) and the experience of being in such close proximity to the African bush.
This afternoon and evening, a game drive hosted by Mashatu takes us in search of the big cats in the Central Reserve. The chances of seeing Leopard, Lion and Cheetah on this drive are some of the best anywhere in Africa.
We will return to the luxury camp or lodge and enjoy a fantastic Nature Travel Active farewell dinner, chatting long into the night about the wonderful time we had in Africa!
Return to Mashatu Reception and Departure
And so an amazing African cycling safari unfortunately comes an end. But there is one more ride to do!
The morning ride (about 25 kilometres) takes us back through the Central Reserve and Limpopo Floodplains to our original starting point. Our last cycle in the Limpopo valley is a great opportunity to snap one last picture of a memory of African Elephants or a journey of Giraffes. The going is easy and mostly downhill, with the mood jovial and relaxed.
What a great way to bring an epic trip to a close. We will arrive back at the reception area with plenty time to enjoy a hot shower and a tasty brunch, before saying farewell to Mashatu.
We then depart by vehicle to the Pont Drift border post (or to the airfield if you chose the air charter option), bringing this epic active African adventure to an end. Then it’s time to say goodbye, having surely made friends for life.
Do you have a quick question about this safari? Speak to a specialist at