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Limpopo Region and Tuli Block


Seniortraveller

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Seniortraveller

This is where I start to regret ever having said I would write a trip report, but hopefully somebody out there will find something in it useful! I am still unable to add photos so apologies for that.

 

The planning for this trip began when I was browsing the internet looking for ideas for another adventure, and read about Wild At Tuli. A small camp with four tents in the Tuli Block, run by two exceptional ladies with an interest in conservation. From this seed grew a trip of almost three weeks.

 

Johannesburg Airport in late June and a frantic rush to connect with our flight to Polokwane, was the beginning. As first time visitors to South Africa, (and perhaps I am not as adventurous as I would like to think ) we decided not to self drive. Our first stop was Madi A Thavha Mountain Lodge, ten kms from Louis Trichardt/Makhado.Art, one of the owners, collected us from the airport and also took us to our next stop. This pattern was repeated throughout the trip, with each lodge/camp providing transport and unbelievably it all went without a hitch. (How did we ever plan and arrange trips before internet! )

 

After travelling for over twenty four hours, Madi A Thavha was just what we needed. Peaceful, surrounded by bush and the Soutpansberg, wonderful people and great accommodation. This is where I really wish I could add photos. Our accommodation, Limpopo House, was a wonderfully spacious two bed roomed bungalow with a large covered and furnished terrace. It is possible to self cater, but we took the easy option( three of us ) and were fully catered. The food was excellent.

 

This is Safaritalk, so I had better mention wildlife! There were apparently leopards in the hills, but we didn't see any. There were baboons around, but we didn't see any! We did hear them, and also saw evidence of their visit to the lemon tree that was feet away from our bungalow.

We went for several walks on the property hoping??? to see something, but I think we were probably relieved that the only sounds we heard were of animals of some description, moving away from us. We visited Hanglip Forest with a local bird watcher, but I am ashamed to admit I can only remember that we saw some sort of a Sunbird, Southern bou bou and Hadeda ibis. We did enjoy trying the fruit from a guava tree!

 

As a first time trip report writer, I now understand why they are usually produced in instalments! I feel as though I am writing far too much, will end this by just mentioning that we had a tour round part of the Venda region led by Musa,one of the staff who lives locally. We visited Elim town, local women's cooperatives, a pre school nursery, a wood sculptor/carver, a township with Mandela houses and rural villages. While driving through a very rural area we saw four teenage girls and an older woman, walking down the road. The girls wore only a short type of loincloth, and when Musa stopped the car and spoke to the woman, they lay on their side on the road. We were told that they were returning from initiation school and that they were showing Musa respect. We really felt that this tour gave us a LITTLE bit of insight,into the everyday lives of most people in this area.

 

This trip was a little bit of this and a little bit of that! Our next stop was Mopane Bush Lodge, near Mapungubwe. Wildlife, history and culture all in one.

Edited by Seniortraveller
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Tdgraves

You're doing well so far, don't panic, every tr is different. The setting of Madi a thava is fabulous isn't it? We are off to the tuli block next week, so I'm hoping you have good things to report!

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Atravelynn

"Musa stopped the car and spoke to the woman, they lay on their side on the road. We were told that they were returning from initiation school and that they were showing Musa respect."

Quite interesting.

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Sangeeta

Did you take photos, @@Seniortraveller? Many people here would be happy to give you hand on how to embed them into your report. I used to be all words too until I realized that much less writing was required if you posted pictures too :P

 

But enjoyed the read nonetheless so please do keep going.

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michael-ibk

Glad you made true on your promise (about writing a report), always interesting to hear about the lesser-visited regions.

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Seniortraveller

Thanks for the responses. When the word 'initiation' was mentioned to us, I was concerned. Before the trip, I read about initiation schools for boys in the area. Circumcision is part of this and I read that there had been fatalities. Musa assured me that for girls, initiation was different. I researched this a bit later and thankfully, what he told me was right.

 

I did take some photos and would love to be able to post them, but my skills are so limited that I really would need more help than could be given online. I have just bought a new camera and hope to enrol on a digital photography course, prior to my next trip which is Botswana in December, using the Kwando Five River offer. So watch this space!

 

Now realise that I need to condense things a little, so will try! Mapungubwe, south of the borders of Botswana and Zimbabwe. Visits to the Unesco World Heritage site of Mapungubwe Hill and to Kaoxa's Shelter, a 25 metre area of rock paintings, were certainly worthwhile. In Mapungubwe National Park we did not see a huge amount of wildlife, but this may have been because of the limited time we had there and the time of day we visited. We did see ( sorry for the list) ; elephant, impala, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, zebra and warthog, but not in great numbers. A wonderful view of klipspringer, standing on a rock in the fading light at sunset, was a first for me. There were birds that I cannot remember, but we did see a kori bustard, verraux eagle, african fish eagle, lots of hornbills . A resident shikra sparrowhawk having a bath, entertained us for quite some time as we sat at the small waterhole beside the lodge. I have a list of most of the birds we saw on this trip, 60 plus, but now realise the importance of keeping a detailed trip report!

 

Next stop was Wild at Tuli, via Platjan border crossing. We often saw baboons alongside the road leading from/to Musina, they were there for the oranges that fell from lorries using that road. Small balls of cotton had also fallen from lorries and we were told the baboons liked these because of the seeds in them. The road to Platjan was at times potholed and for a long stretch very corrugated. It was worth it, we had a special treat waiting for us at the other side!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Seniortraveller

Driving along the sandy road towards the entrance to Wild at Tuli, we came across a beautiful young female leopard. We were able to watch her for about 15 minutes as she moved around in the grass beside the road. This is where I really, really, wish I could insert photos! During our five night stay at this camp we were to see two more leopards, but this was the best sighting.

 

Our island camp was ahead and the bush was replaced by larger trees growing on the banks of the Limpopo river. One of the trees was a Nyala? From the deck in front of our tent we were able to watch a group of impala and a lone duiker, as they came every morning to feed on the fallen berries. The view of the camp, four tents and a central building on a small island, was unbelievably beautiful. The only sounds were those of nature and we were the only guests. At night paraffin lamps provided our lighting and the staff, who were excellent, left the island. This, and the open bathrooms, was challenging for us. There was a radio to use in emergencies, thankfully not needed!

 

During our days here we did a mixture of game drives and walks. There were not huge numbers of game, but we appreciated all that we saw and became quite used to having it to ourselves. Lots of impala, elephants and smaller numbers of waterbuck, zebra, kudu, steenbok, klipspringer, warthog, scrub hare, dassies and slender mongoose. Apart from our first leopard, our most enjoyable sighting was probably a group of kudu seen while walking. We were able to observe them for some time, before they became aware of us. Fresh lion tracks (3 lions) were found while we were there. Apparently lions had been heard at night, but none had been seen for about 15 months. Hyena were in the area but we did not see any, we did see several crocodiles and a water monitor on the river bank. There are no buffalo or rhino in the area. Hippo tracks were found the day we left, but there were no suitable pools near the camp when we were there.

 

Baboons and vervet monkeys could regularly be seen from our own deck. The monkeys could also be viewed while using the bathroom, as a popular tree hung over our tent! Birds were prolific and easy to spot from the deck. Too many to just list, but I particularly enjoyed close views of a Hammerkop, Black headed oriole and a lilac breasted roller struggling to eat a centipede. Our first live kill! I took a scope with me and this was where we really appreciated it.

 

After 5 nights we returned to Mopane Bush Lodge for 2 nights before heading for Sausage Tree Camp, Balule. In retrospect this is the only part of the trip that I would consider changing. Especially as we were not self driving, accommodation possibilities were limited. This would have been an opportunity to stay in a different area en route to Balule.

To reach Balule we were transferred to Polokwane where we had lunch, before meeting the guide who drove us to Sausage Tree. For anybody considering a trip and not self driving, I cannot fault the transfer service provided by all our lodges/camps.

 

Travelling to Balule involved about six hours driving and the further south we travelled the more traffic and people we saw.

Walking up the steps at Sausage Tree and through onto a deck overlooking the bush, was just wonderful!

This was a small camp with five tents and we were aware that the traversing area, which adjoins Kruger, was smaller than we had just experienced. This did not mean however, that we were not to experience some special moments!

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Seniortraveller

Pushing myself to finish this today and then my conscience is clear. If I have not learnt how to include photos by December I think I will give trip report writing a miss!

 

Arriving in Balule after a reasonably long day we were happy just to relax, but.... lions were in the area! A short time later, having seen elephants and buffalo en route, we were looking at one very relaxed lion lying on his back in the grass. His distended stomach was obvious to all and nearby a dead impala was under a bush. Dessert! The light was fading and it was a short sighting, but during our stay here we were to see two lioness and several year old cubs.

 

The following day it was just me, driver/guide Liam and tracker Themba as I experienced the most memorable encounter with an animal that I have ever had. We came across a bachelor group of elephants, led by a 36 year old one with very large tusks, that they call Ezulwini. They were very relaxed in our presence and came very close to the vehicle. We had this sighting to ourselves but the guides kept in contact with each other, so some were shared with other vehicles.

 

After a day visiting The Kruger, where, because it was cool and overcast, we saw around one hundred hippos in different groups lying on the banks of the Olifants river, it was time for our last day. The morning drive was enjoyable, but uneventful. Dinner that night however saw us arriving late, buzzing with excitement. Amongst other things, we saw leopard, lions and two honey badgers. The honey badgers was a first for me. It was just unfortunate that the light was quite poor by this time.

 

We had time for one last morning drive, before heading to the airport. Tracks from two black rhino had been seen and they tried hard to find them, but without success. We were however lucky to see a Sharpes Grysbok, a number of giraffe, two trumpeter hornbills and a Verraux's ? Giant eagle owl. The owl flew from the tree and was mobbed by two brown snake eagles. It was only then that we realised the owl was holding a small animal, which it then dropped.

 

Morning coffee was taken at the top of a hill, where we could enjoy views of the bush all around us. A lovely end to an excellent trip.

 

Apologies for some of these ramblings, it got to the stage where I just wanted to get this finished! Travelling to Africa is not inexpensive and I am conscious that costs are rarely mentioned on this site. I feel however that there may be others like myself, who like to have some idea of costs. This trip of almost three weeks came in around £3,000 for everything, including tips and all flights.

Edited by Seniortraveller
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michael-ibk

Thanks for your report, Seniortraveller, definitely sounds like you had a great time. I agree that it often would be interesting knowing the costs, but I understand why most feel uncomfortable sharing these publicly - I do myself. In most cases at least prices for the camps used can be found pretty easily on the web anyhow.

 

Kwando in December? Lucky you! :)

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Seniortraveller

Thanks Michael. We had a wonderful time, but I really think that a few photos and less words, would have helped others to visualize that. North and south of the Limpopo, the scenery alone was beautiful. I kept a list of the wildlife and birds we saw, thirty animals, including reptiles, and sixty plus birds. It would have taken a book to detail all that!

On a brighter note, I have been practising with my new camera and looking forward to ten nights between Kwara, Lagoon and Lebala, in December. We will be happy whatever we see, but I will be ecstatic if I see wild dog and cheetah!

I reread your recent trip report yesterday, really appreciated the detail of the camps that you included. The photographs were superb, cannot wait to see it 'for real'.

Edited by Seniortraveller
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Sangeeta

Many if us read this and enjoyed it very much, regardless of the missing photos!

 

It really isn't hard to embed the photos and videos. You've just got to jump off the deep end once - lots of us waiting to catch you as you hit the water, so really no worries at all!

 

Best of luck at Kwando!

Edited by Sangeeta
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@@Seniortraveller This sounds like a wonderful trip. Two honey badgers? That's rather excellent!

I agree that ele encounters are special and very memorable...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I see you enjoyed madi a thava!

 

We stayed there in (2010?) for one or two nights (Getting there (2010) was quite a challenge).

We stayed in a little tent we brought with us which we placed in the garden.I and I remember there was a huge thunder storm at night. As I was affraid the tent would be blown away, i jumped out of the tent in my undies in the middle of the night to tighten the security lines in the poring rain. At the same time my wife suffered from the worst Lariam night she ever had (no lariam for her anymore). We'll never forget it..

People were very friendly, food was very tasting but we didn't had the chance to go hiking in the Southpansberg, which is still on my list !!!!

 

grtz,

 

B

 

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Seniortraveller

Experiences that seem disastrous at the time, are usually those we remember most! Our stay at Madi A Thavha was memorable for very different reasons. It brings a smile to my face when I think of the wonderful setting, accommodation and friendly people.

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  • 6 months later...
Seniortraveller

Better late than never! A few photos to add to the trip report. Apologies for the less than perfect post. The final photo is the view from our accommodation and I haven't a clue how to get the guide to stand upright!

 

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Our accommodation at Madi A Thavha. The Limpopo House.

 

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View from Limpopo House.

 

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Our guide at Mapungubwe.

 

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The first of three leopards seen in the Tuli Block.

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Edited by Seniortraveller
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Kitsafari

@@Seniortraveller. Somehow I missed this little gem of a trip so I'm glad ypu succeeded in posting the pix and bumped up the TR!

 

Honey badgers! And two too. Lucky you. I'm still waiting to see one after 4 trips. That Tuli leopard is beautiful.

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Tom Kellie

post-49296-0-93104000-1427635653_thumb.jpg

 

~ Hello, @@Seniortraveller!

 

What a look! Nothing cute and cuddly about that face — all business.

The foliage around the leopard gives me a better sense of how richly colored its coat was.

Your leopard image stands out to me both for the eyes but also for such healthy fur. Beautiful!

To be close enough to make such an image must have been a thrill.

Thanks for uploading and sharing it.

Tom K.

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Enjoyed reading your report and seeing your pics. I have just recently done my first report and made a few mistakes, but everybody is forgiving here. I am sure you will have a great time at the Kwando camps, and look forward to your report.

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Seniortraveller

Thanks everyone.

I still have such happy memories of this trip and the time we spent with the first leopard was incredible. This was my fourth visit to Africa, but only the second sighting of a leopard.

We visited three Kwando camps in December and had a wonderful time, but I am afraid I chickened out of doing a report!

Next trip is in September, to Zimbabwe. This includes four nights in Gonarezhou with Ant Kaschula, so I really will try to do a trip report, with photos , after that.

 

Tried to put an appropriate emoticon after photos, but obviously haven't mastered that yet!

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wilddog

What dates will you be in Gonorezhou @@Seniortraveller ? Heading that way myself beginning of September.

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Seniortraveller

Four of us plus a guide from South Africa, Andrew Rae, will be there for four nights starting 11th September. Prior to this we will visit the Matopos area and Great Zimbabwe. This will be your second visit to Gonarezhou, I think? The trip reports from others have been inspiring.

This will be the first time I have been to Zimbabwe, had the experience of a bush camp and of being guided by someone of the calibre of Ant Kaschula. Roll on September!

Edited by Seniortraveller
Remove reference to Paolo.
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Seniortraveller

@@wilddog, will you be with Ant Kaschula before us? Enjoying reading about your stay at Laikipia, somewhere that is on my list!

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wilddog

We will be leaving the mobile camp at Save Runde junction on 12th September and heading for Mutare. Will be travelling with Doug Macdonald as usual.

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Seniortraveller

I should have remembered that you would be with Doug Macdonald, hope you have a wonderful time. If you see a group of four travellers, that includes two grey/white haired ladies, that will be us!

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wilddog

We may well be linking up with Ant at some point. will look out for you anyway :)

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