Up again very early and all looking forward to what this day would hold for hold us and after witnessing a spectacular sunrise we all knew that we were in for a great day.  Our drive this morning took us south for some kilometres through ever changing scenery, one moment you are on a rise looking out over a huge wide plain with antelope and giraffe grazing and next you are in a river bed lined with trees including the beautiful Mashatu tree for which this reserve is named.  As you leave the river bed you find you are in an area thick with Mopane trees and you end up ducking left and right as Graphite manoeuvres the open vehicle around the trees so as to avoid being hit by one of the branches.  

Graphite took us into an open area and after sometime searching he was able to point out a male cheetah lying under the tree getting some shade.  He was a beautiful cat and we were informed that he had been around for many years and that he was one of three males that stayed together but he was the only one that anyone had seen for a long time so it was thought that the other two were probably dead.  The cheetah was not going anywhere in a hurry and we stayed with him for some time, all of us absolutely enthralled. 

Our next stop was breakfast up on a rise with the open plains below us and as we were packing up we saw elephants in the distance but in the foreground was something none of us were expecting.  A group of people on bicycles, guide in the front with a rifle over his shoulder and fellow tourists out for a game ride, only difference was they had to do all the riding.  Graphite told us that there is both a bicycle and horse back safaris that are run out of Mashatu Game Lodge and that they are very popular.  Not sure I would want to be on either of these safaris, I like the security of the vehicle around me, even though it is open topped. 

From our vantage point we saw elephants moving across the plain towards the river and we were off to investigate.  It was a large herd with lots of small ones including a very small baby which Graphite estimated was about 4 weeks old.  The mother stopped just in front of us and the little one started to feed from her, it was a great moment for all of us. 

Our next sighting was the male lion, resting under a large tree on a dry river bed close to where we had been watching the elephants.  This male is a very large black maned lion and is head of a small pride which includes two females and five cubs all under one year old.  The male was on his own but Graphite was certain the rest of the pride would be close by and he was right of course.  The pride was further down the river bed all of them resting in the shade.  Lions are very lazy creatures and it is rare that you see them doing anything other than resting or sleeping and today was no different.  However, after a time a noice or movement seemed to disturb all of them and they stood up, crossed the river bed onto the other bank and disappeared into thick bush.  We then saw the horseback safari crossing the riverbed way off in the distance and were told that the lions do not like the horses and go to ground when they are around.  We had now been out for many hours so it was time to head back to the lodge for a late lunch.  

During the late afternoon we had a visitor at the lodge, the large bull elephant that Graphite had told us about and he had come to see us.  You really have no sense of the size of these magnificent creatures until you are standing next to them and that we all did.  The elephant was on one side of the window ripping out plants from around the garden and we were about three feet away on the other side of the window.  This elephant was enormous and I for one was glad that there was a wall between the two of us.  This was the African bush up very close indeed.

Sunset saw us standing on an open plane, gin and tonic in one hand and camera in the other trying to capture that special moment.

Later that night after dinner and as we were sitting around the open fire our friend the elephant returned but this time he want around the back of the building outside the fence and slowly munched his way through most of the foliage on the trees over the next few hours.  Even when we could not see him due to the darkness you could hear him breaking of branches and pushing aside bushes.  

Today was exceptional and I know I will go to sleep dreaming of what a magnificent day I have had.  

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