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Specialist Wildlife Photography Safari with Grant Atkinson

Botswana Mashatu

1 – 6 November 2014

Photographic Opportunities include:
Elephant, leopards, lions, spotted hyena, black-backed jackals, cheetah, giraffe, eland, wildebeest, impala, warthog, aardwolf, african wild cat, honey badger and many bird species.

Why a Specialist Photo Safari?

The wildlife photography safarisorganized by Apex Shark Expeditions are developed by professional wildlife photographers with specific photo opportunities and goals in mind. Our aim is to guide guests through all aspects of wildlife photography in order to deliver awesome photos.

These unique African photo safaris are guided by a professional photographer at safari locations chosen for their ability to deliver world class viewing and photographic opportunities. The number of guests is limited to 6 so every person has space for their equipment and for arranging themselves in the vehicle. The guide ensures the vehicle is positioned for the best photographic opportunity and lighting.

Your Guide

Grant Atkinson grew up in the former Transkei, along South Africa’s eastern coastline in a place known as the Wild Coast. There he developed a keen interest in the birds, fish and marine mammals of that region.

He spent twelve years in northern Botswana working for Wilderness Safaris as a field guide. During his time in Botswana, he assisted in monitoring lion populations, and also sought to raise public awareness of the African wild dog and its conservation status.

photo safari

He is deeply interested in all wildlife and wild places. He has visited the Galapagos, India and Alaska and has a broad knowledge base when it comes to wildlife and African wildlife photography.

On safari he is especially interested in animal behaviour and interpretation. As a photographic guide he is able to translate his understanding and anticipation of wild animal behaviour into photographic opportunities.

He is a regular contributor to a number of magazines including Africa Geographic, Africa Birds and Birding and PIX magazine of both images and text. Today he leads photographic safaris all over Africa.

wildlife photography safari

The location - Mashatu - Botswana. Land of Giants

Mashatu Game Reserve is a wholly preserved and untainted wilderness in eastern Botswana, at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers.

Mashatu, ‘Land of Giants’ takes its name from the locally-sacrosanct Mashatu tree and the giants that roam the terrain. As one of the largest private game reserve in southern Africa, Mashatu is, at 25 000 ha (75 000 acres), a fitting setting for the world’s largest land mammal (the elephant) - with the largest herds on privately owned land on earth.

This extraordinary place possesses an ecological diversity uncommon in other reserves.

The region where Mashatu camp is located is not nearly as well-known as the northern parts of the country. The landscape is scenically dominated by the gorges and shallow river valleys that cut through the reserve. These river valley and dry riverbeds are lined with ribbons of forest, with the mashatu tree itself being most imposing. Away from the rivers, floodplains and sandstone outcrops make up a mosaic of habitats that stretch away into the far distance.

african photo safari

Elephants thrive in this habitat, and the herds are particularly relaxed and approachable. Amongst the plant-eating animals, giraffe, eland, wildebeest, impala and warthogs are all common at Mashatu. Leopards, lions, spotted hyaena, black-backed jackals and cheetah may also be seen in the area, as well as aardwolf, African wild cat and honey badger. There are many bird species that are resident in the reserve. Some of the more colourful species that can be seen include white-fronted bee-eater and lilac-breasted roller. Birds of prey are well represented. In the summer months the number of bird species and the quantities swell with an influx of migrants from further north. Over 350 species have been recorded in the reserve.

Why photography at Mashatu?

  • A healthy assemblage of carnivores, and most are accustomed to the game drive vehicles, making for good viewing opportunities.
  • Very relaxed elephant herds, that are typically very approachable, and will tolerate the presence of game drive vehicles.
  • Excellent birdlife for the bird photographers.
  • Open landscape with a variety of backgrounds that makes for rewarding wildlife photography.

The ability to go off-road if necessary.

Daily Itinerary

During out time at Mashatu , we will concentrate on game-drives as our main means of viewing and photographing the wildlife on show. As Mashatu is a private game reserve, we are able to go off-road when the need arises. This may occur when we are following a special animal like lion or leopard, or if we are positioning our vehicle for a particular photographic opportunity.

Our drives typically leave camp before sunrise, and return in the late morning, depending on what we may be seeing. If something exceptional is happening, we may choose to stay out to watch.

At camp there is a hide overlooking a waterhole that one can choose to spend time in. It is a good place for birds as well as mammals looking to get a drink during the hottest time of day.

The camp facilities also include a pool where guests can cool off during the midday and a library. There is also abundant birdlife within the camp.

During the midday periods when guests are in camp, your guide Grant will be available at all times to assist with camera techniques, or image processing on computer. As the group sizes are limited to only six participants, Grant will be able to give individual attention to all guests with regard to photographic instruction.

In the mid-afternoon guests will head out again on another game drive, returning sometime after sunset, the timing will depend on what viewing we are enjoying.

Evenings are typically spent in camp, enjoying dinner and catching up on the day’s events.

One of the benefits of spending 5 days in one area is that it allows us time to really explore our surroundings. It will also give us opportunity to spend more time viewing or photographing interesting events that may be taking place during out stay. We also spend less time on transfers and more time watching wildlife this way.

It is possible at Mashatu to arrange walking safaris, dependent on local conditions and safety precautions. There is also the possibility of making use of some special photographic hides in the area, but this is an extra cost and is also dependent upon bookings and local conditions.

african wildlife photography


Mashatu Tented Camp is a rustic yet comfortable tented camp that blends inconspicuously into its environment.


8 completely private comfortable tents are tucked under the branches of enormous trees, accessible via meandering pathways. The tents are themselves spacious and comfortable (enabling adults to stand upright). Each unit is mounted on a concrete platform, and has its own private outdoor en-suite facilities (including toilet and shower). Have you ever showered under the stars?

There are electricity outlets in each tent supplying power 24 hours a day suitable for charging electrical appliances.

Meal times are enjoyed in the tented dining area or in the boma. A plunge pool provides a refreshing place to cool off whilst in camp.

One may also choose to spend time in the hide which overlooks a waterhole and is situated right on the edge of camp.



  • Shared accommodation in tents with en-suite bathroom.
  • All meals and snacks
  • Specialist Photographic guide
  • Game drives in open 4-wheel drive safari vehicles conducted by experienced rangers and trackers
  • Nature walks
  • Transfers to and from the Limpopo Valley Airfield and the Pont Drift Border Post at scheduled times


  • Flights and/or road transfer
  • Bar purchases
  • Telecommunication costs
  • Laundry
  • Airport transfers to and from the Limpopo Valley Airfield and the Pont Drift Border Post outside of specified times
  • Any applicable airport taxes, visa, entrance fees, adventure activities
  • Cable car transfers across the Limpopo River if required.


Getting there

All flights depart from Johannesburg. There are no direct flights from Johannesburg to Mashatu. You will need to fly via SAA Airlink to Polokwane in South Africa (1 hour approx.) Thereafter there is a two and a half hour road transfer from Polokwane to Mashatu.

ZAR 2700.00 per person one way (we can book this for you)

Booking Information

A 50% non-refundable deposit is due on booking. Balance 120 days before start date.

Enquire Now

Optional Add-On

Marine and Land based – Western Cape, South Africa

Photographic opportunities include:
Great white shark, brydes, humpback and southern right whales, cape fur seal, african penguins, common, bottlenose and dusky dolphins, cape comorants, bank comorants and cape gannets.

6 November
Arrive Cape Town International Airport
Transfer to Grosvenor Guest house, based in Simon’s Town, this 3 star self-catering guest house is a mere 6 minute walk from the launch site.

13h00 – 13h45 Lunch in Simon’s Town


Boulders Beach Penguin Colony & Cape Point trip

Depart for Boulders Beach Penguin Colony 10 minutes from Simon’s Town. This is home to 3000 African penguins, so called for their hilarious braying. See these delightful creatures up close and personal in their own inhabitant. Thereafter your transfer will take you through the meandering mountains of the Cape with possible sightings of the resident baboons.

Arrive at Cape Point to witness the majestic meeting of the two oceans. Breathe in the cleanest air and see the cleanest ocean. The area is of rich cultural and historical significance and includes monuments to early explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Bartholomeu Dias.
Transfer to the Grosvenor

7 November

Marine Big 5 Seafari

South Africa is well-known for its Big Five sightings of lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo.

A lesser-known fact is that it is also home to the Marine Big Five - Common Dolphin, Cape Fur seal, African penguin, Great White shark and the Southern Right whale – all of which can be seen in False Bay.

Straddling the Atlantic and Indian oceans, False Bay, Cape Town is the ideal base to explore the oceans and its rich and diverse marine wildlife.

08h30 - Meet on the Simon’s Town Pier. Safety briefing. Board our 36ft catamaran vessel as we navigate False Bay starting with Boulders Penguin Colony, this time from a different view.

Boulders Beach is home to 3,000 African Penguins and we pass by this colony en route to Seal Island often encountering hunting parties of penguins out on feeding sorties.

Seal Island is Africa’s largest island bound seal Colony and is home to an incredible 65 000 Cape Fur Seals as well as Cape Cormorants, Bank Cormorants and a wide variety of seabirds. We pass within 20 meters of this incredible spectacle.

Great White Sharks move inshore from September to March – we will search the inshore areas in the hope of locating and interacting with these Apex Predators and smaller species of sharks. This part of the tour is purely for viewing the sharks from the boat and sightings vary daily.

Southern Right Whale Season is from August to November: - Up to 3,500 Southern Right whales mate and give birth along the South African coast. Bryde's whales can be seen year round and Humpback whales may also occasionally be seen.

Common Dolphins pods feeding on bait fish delight the ocean lover and are regularly encountered especially in the early part of each season. Occasionally Bottlenose and dusky dolphins are also seen.

Roman Rock Lighthouse is the first fully automated lighthouse

St James –famous for the Herbert Baker designed houses

Kalk Bay is a traditional fishing village which still retains much of its original character. The town was first inhabited in the seventeenth century by shipwrecked seamen and deserters.

The fishing harbour offers fresh fish that can be purchased from the boats as they come in with the days catch.

Historical Sites:
Simon's Town Naval Base, Boulders Penguin Colony, Ex Whaling Station, Seal Island, Roman Light House, Muizenberg Beach, Cecil John Rhodes Cottage, Sir Herbert Baker designed Houses in St James and Kalk Bay fishing Harbor.

Your trip will also include educational wildlife commentary on the area including historical comment on Simon's Town, Boulders, Muizenberg, St James and Kalk Bay.

Like any Safari, wildlife cannot be guaranteed but every effort will be made to show as much
marine wildlife as possible by utilising our 20 years of operating experience on an almost daily basis in False Bay.

All marine wildlife will be approached according to the legal distance as required by Marine Living Resources Law

Overnight at Grosvenor Guest Lodge

8 November

Weather dependant – Marine Big 5 Seafari or Great White Sharks in Gansbaai
Gansbaai is only 2 hours from Cape Town. Dyer Island and Shark Alley in Gansbaai has become known as one of only two unique areas in the world, where the chances to view the great white shark is exceptionally high. This area focuses on cage diving and it is unlikely to see the breaching behaviour here.

A colony of approximately 40000 Cape Fur Seals inhabits the smaller Island (Geyser Rock). Other wildlife species such as Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, African Penguins, whales and dolphins are also likely to be sighted.

A securely designed steel cage, which floats on the surface, with divers no more than 1m below the surface will accommodate those photographers wanting underwater shots.

All dives are breath-hold which is comfortable and safe. No experience required!

White sharks are indeed surface feeders, providing brilliant surface viewing and photographic opportunities from the shark-viewing deck of the boat. The shark handlers are trained to bring the sharks close to the side of the boat. So, for those not wanting to get in the cage, you will still get to see photograph this amazing animal up close and personal.


8.30 am Meeting (depending on tide and weather conditions- exact time will be confirmed with you the day beforehand)
8.45 am Breakfast and an informative talk on the sharks and area
9.30 am Launch
3 to 4 hours at sea based on shark activity and sea conditions
1.00 pm Tea/coffee

Trip includes:
- Breakfast
- All dive gear (mask. wetsuit, weight-belt)
- Snacks and soft drinks on board
- Towels
- Waterproof/windproof jackets

Saxon Lodge either early morning or after Big 5 Marine Seafari

Based in Gansbaai, Saxon Lodge is positioned above the Old Harbour. It offers an on-site pub and restaurant, communal lounge, splash pool and free wi-fi.


9 November

Great White Shark morning trip as per the above itinerary

Transfer to airport or Cape Town for own arrangements.


Transfers as per the schedule
Bed and Breakfast
Land based half day tour
3 marine based activities
Snacks and refreshments on board the vessel


Lunch and dinner

Please note: We need a minimum of 4 guests for this trip to go ahead.