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Tuli / Pafuri / Timbavati may 2012


Bushfire
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Hi All,

I've finally found the time to start writing the trip report of our wonderfull safari in may 2012, hope you'll enjoy reading it the following time !
Our journey focussed on the little visited Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana, Northern Kruger (Pafuri, Makuleke Concession) and the more popular Timbavati Game Reserve.

Having followed a similar travel-scheme on our safari in 2010 and not wanting to repeat ourselves, only wanting the reall safari stuff / genuine experience, and a (for safari standards) limited budget, the challenge was quite big!

Have I succeeded ? I think so !

Some highlights:
- watching from the flank of a gorge numerous (3 or 4) herds of elephants passing 30 feet/10m in front of you
- eye-to-eye with quite an agitated herd of buffalo
- dead/"exploded" baobab
- incredible ecological diversity of Pafuri: it's all about the trees here !
- warmth and hospitality of the staff of Tuli Safari Lodge
- following leopard mom for a few days and the privilege of being the first humans it's cub sees
- leopards, leopards, leopards... did i mention we saw lots of leopards
- lion stalking buffalo, mating lions, ....
- seeing a super harvest moon rise between two baobab
- witnessing and angry and noizy gang of baboons on a cliffwall

More the following days !!!

Edited by Game Warden
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Great start, Bushfire! Your choice of locations is very interesting - would love to also hear how you planned this itinerary and if these places met, underperformed or exceeded your expectations. Though I think I can guess at your answer from the intro above :) Looking forward to more.

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I also look forward to hearing all about it. Sounds like a great honeymoon - congratulations on that.

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Part 0: Preparing our trip

 

But first of all a picture:

 

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I started preparing for the trip somewhere in summer 2011, first question which had to be answered was: where could we go to?

 

We practically looked at every country in the world as a possible destination but we couldn't resist the call of mama Africa.When we think of all the times we shared our memories of earlier safari’s with friends and family we just had to go back !

 

Harder to figure out was which destination in Africa. If budget was not an issue, we probably would have picked a 14 day trip to the inner Okavango Delta in combination which a romantic seldom visited beach destination probably an island off the coast of northern Mozambique…

 

Having determined that, we looked for a destination that fulfills the following:

- a safari of course :-)

- quite low budget for safari standards <200 dollar pppn on average.

- duration:+- 14 days

- we only looked at fully catered, fully guided options

- we wanted a combination of nice rooms (big comfortable bed with mozzienet, bathtub, … ) and more basic tented accomodation. Some are put of by sleeping in walled rooms as you loose a bit the feeling of being out in the wild, but we don’t minding it some days are spend this way.

- we definitely wanted part of the trip being a multiple day walking or canoe safari…after earlier walking safaris in the Kruger Park and Uganda/Rwanda. There is nothing that can beat experiencing Africa on foot.

- we wanted to experience different eco-systems, from hot and dusty to lush and green

- we didn’t want to give in on the quality of the experience

 

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I looked at almost every safari destination in Africa: from the more classic destinations as Kenya, Tanzania to Zimbabwe and even Senegal, Gambia,…

One of the hardest things to fit in, and probably the most determining factor for this trip was the availability of a multiple day walking safari in a prime wildlife area. Since we were only two, the cost of a mobile walking safari, personally guided for just the two of us was in most cases way to high. It was, in my opinion, quite astonishing how little scheduled, reasonably priced multiple day walking safari’s are available. There were a few options nevertheless, but availability was often a problem. They needed to be booked faaaaaaaaaar in advance.

 

Anyway, taking all things into consideration we ended up with more or less the same itinerary as our earlier trip in 2010: Tuli, Northern Kruger (Pafuri) and Timbavati.

The 3 areas are quite different eco-system wise, they are easy to reach and combined and accommodation options were, although not always plentifull, within our budget.

It was a bit of a risk to revisit the area as we didn’t wanted to repeat ourselves but I was quite convinced I could build in enough new things/variation.

 

I made my own itinerary, using the web (this forum in particular) and experiences from earlier trips as a guideline. A tour operator was used for the bookings of Pafuri, Shindzela and Simbavati. I chose a rental car with a broker based in Germany for transfers between lodges to cut down costs and I waited for good deals on aeroplane tickets which cost me about 600 euro pp for a direct flight from Brussels to Jo’Burg using SN Brussels airlines.

 

So at the end I came up with the following itinerary:

Day 1: evening flight leaving from Brussels

Day2: arrive in Jo’Burg in the morning – transfer to Pont Drift Border Post and a transfer night at Mopane Bush Lodge

Day3-8 (5nights): Tuli Adventure Trail

Day 8-11 (3 nights): Pafuri Walking Trail

Day 9-12 (2 nights): Shindzela Tented Camp (Timbavati)

Day 12-16: (4 nights): Simbavati River Lodge

Day 16: transfer from Simbavati to Jo’Burg to catch our evening flight to Brussels which arrives the following morning.

 

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In Tuli we looked at several accommodation options, but we ended up with Tuli Safari Lodge once again (also stayed here in 2010) and their 5 day program “Tuli Adventure Trail”.

If availability wasn’t an issue we probably would have picked Mashatu Tented Camp this time, as an alternative. Mashutu is the more known lodge in the area, operate on a bigger area and had a really good special running, furthermore they offer some pretty neat extra activities and have these special photographic hides which just seem awesome.

Tuli walking trails was another option which we looked in, but communication was a bit slow and we didn’t want to wait as this would jeopardize other accommodation options

 

We chose Pafuri because of the 3 night Pafuri Walking Trail. Also northern Kruger, was once again little visited and little known. Furthermore I knew, from my earlier days when working/studying in the Kruger park that Northern Kruger had an astonishing variation in eco-systems and was so much different from the busier parts of southern Kruger. I always wanted to visit the area and Northern Kruger was high on my list. Since Northern Kruger is known for being wild and rugged with a superb eco-system diversity and not so much for it’s game quantity, visiting the area on foot and the Pafuri Walking Trail seemed the way to go. Does that mean we did not see much game? Absolutely not ! But more on that later.

 

We chose Timbavati as it has a very good reputation on quantity and quality of sightings: big cat’s in particular were the most interesting here for us. Other private reserves around Kruger were also considered but Timbavati came up first over Sabi Game Reserve as it seemed to offer an equal quality safari experience at a smaller price in more down to earth accommodation.

We ended up with a combination of 2 nights Shindzela (budget friendly) and 4 nights Simbavati River Lodge (pricier, more luxurious but it seemed a nice way to end our honeymoon). We had not visited these private reserves before and were quite curious what it would be like…

 

 

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Edited by Bushfire
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Part 1: Jo’Burg – Mopane Bush Lodge

 

We catched our evening flight in Brussels, using SN Brussels operated by Lufthansa, we had to change planes in Frankfurt,where we boarded the new Airbus A 380. We landed in Jo’burg at 9 AM and total flight time was +- 13,5 hours. Flight was pleasant, leg room was good, deutsche grundlichkeit !

 

After landing in Jo’burg we picked up our little Nissan Micra from sixth car rental and left the airport at 10:15 to Mopane Bush Lodge for our first night.

Traffic was ok, but some parts were quite busy as it was the end of a long weekend and lot of South-African’s returned to Pretoria/ Jo’Burg. We did see quite a few pretty bad car accidents…We used The Ranch Gas Station, near Polokwane to get a quick lunch, our second stop was near Alldays to arrive finally at Mopane Bush Lodge at around 5:20 PM, after which we refreshed ourselves, had dinner at the boma and went to bed early.

The next morning, we slept late, took a quick shower and had breakfast to leave the lodge at around 11AM for our +- 1 hour drive to Pont Drift Border Post where we would be picked up by Tuli Safari Lodge for the first real big part of our trip.

 

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Something about Mopane Bush Lodge:

 

We chose this lodge because it was not to far off our route to Tuli and close to Pont Drift Border Post.

The lodge itself is quite small scale, it has 8 rondavel rooms. Our room had a nice indoor shower, two sinks, large Twin Bed, a private balcony overlooking the gentle undulating Mopane shrubland and an amazing outdoor shower.

 

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The lodge itself is situated in the Mapesu Private Nature Reserve, a 6000ha game farm and some big game is present (leopard and elephant to name the most important ones). It offers some activities on the private reserve itself.

The most appealing activities, according to me, were conducted in the Mapungubwe National Park, the park itself is mostly known for its cultural heritage sites and prolific birding. The lodge itself is only a short drive away from it’s entrance gate.Meals, hospitality and friendliness of staff was very good, nothing bad to say, although the lodge itself was a bit to “stiff” for us, but that’s just personal.

After all, we enjoyed our stay here, and we would not hesitate to visit again. This part of South Africa is little visited although it can be easily reached. With the Mapungubwe National Park, Kruger National Park nearby and the greater Tuli Area in Botswana nearby I’m quite convinced that it will appeal to a lot more people in the future!

 

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  • 1 month later...

I think someone needs to carry on with their trip report Bushfire...

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  • 4 weeks later...

I agree Game Warden, it has been to long !

Sometimes one has to slow down in life to go full throttle later on...

 

Am anxious to start writing again, so here we go :)

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Part 2: Tuli Safari Lodge

 

Finally ! The real safari begins !

 

Day 1

It was almost two years since the last time we’d seen Simon, our guide for the next 5 days, and it was so good to see him back! He picked us up at the Pont Drift Border Post (SA) where we left our car, and he guided us through customs.

The border itself is actually formed by the Limpopo, one of the bigger rivers in South Africa. The crossing can be done by 4wd in dry season but in wet season a cable car is often used. In both cases, the crossing of the Limpopo itself is quite fun. Somehow you just feel you’re entering Botswana. The moment you cross the river, you enter the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Tuli lodge itself is only a 10 min. drive from customs, and the drive is quite pleasant. But more on the lodge and it’s setting later on.

 

 

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Simon, our wonderful guide for our 5 night trip at Tuli Safari Lodge

 

 

 

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In dry season, the majestic Limpopo almost completely dries up, the river forms over some 300km

the border between South-Africa and Botswana

 

 

 

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A small glimpse of the Tuli scenery en route to Tuli Safari Lodge. Although early in dry season, water

was already in shortage for a lot of plants

 

 

Simon dropped us of at our tent , which was sandwiched between a massive sandstone ridge, with resident black eagles, klipspringers, … and a patch of riverine forest bordering the Limpopo.

The location itself on the border of the river attracts a lot of wildlife, in practice, wildlife roams free around the tents (as far as I know, only a small section of electric wire is present to discourage elephants from entering camp).We were offered the tent on the perimeter of the camp for most privacy. The tent had a private deck, ensuite bathroom (shower) with running hot water and electricity, so all comfort was present. They have one tent with beautiful river view (we stayed there last time) but the time we were there it was out of order because elephants played around with the water piping… .

 

 

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A glimpse of our canvas tent with stone walled bathroom

 

 

 

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Nokalodi Tented Camp, part of the Tuli Safari Lodge is sandwiched between the mighty Limpopo river

and a sandstone cliff where black eagles reign

 

 

 

Quickly after dropping us off, Simon brought us a "light" lunch (boy, how i miss those bacon and eggs :)) at a private table just for the two of us, after which we installed ourselves, took a quick shower and around 16:30 we started off on our first evening/night drive ! We were joined by a young couple from Sweden, who ended up joining us for the next 5 days for most activities. In fact they were the only people around, joining us on our trips, so all the sightings we've had were quite private.

Among the things we've seen were large spotted genet, impala,... but the most memorable sightings were:

 

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African Rock Python on the perimeter of the lodge ground with a full belly of (probably) a rock dassie

 

 

 

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Giraffe are plentiful at Tuli Safari Lodge, it seems as the resident predator don't know how to hunt them

 

 

 

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Simon acted as driver and tracker during most drives

 

 

But the highlight of our first game drive was at the end of the drive when Simon decided to pass by a bushbuck kill, made by a leopard, within the perimeter of the lodge gardens.

At first no leopard was present but we decided to wait for a couple of minutes. And soon enough, as if scheduled, this beautiful young female leopard popped up. She was very shy but wasn’t bothered by us at all. So we sat there quietly for about 10-15 minutes and enjoyed this stunning view. Unfortunately for us as soon as the sound of a second vehicle came through, it fled.

 

 

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This young female leopard on a bushbuck kill was the icing on the cake at the end of our first game drive

 

 

 

 

Day 2

The second day we took off at 06h00 for a long scenic walk which brought us some extraordinary vistas on top of the sandstone koppies which dominate the landscape adjacent to the Limpopo.

 

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Walking up the sandstone ridges bordering the Limpopo can be quite strenuous...

 

 

 

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A stretch of riverine forrest accompanies the Limpopo in the hot and dusty Northern Tuli Game Reserve

 

 

 

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Walking up a sandstone koppie near the De Beers lookout

 

 

 

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The view on top of the koppie, the green in the background gives away the location of the Limpopo

 

 

 

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Sun bleached bones are the only testimonial of the great number of killings in this place...

 

 

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Walking back to Nokalodi Tented Camp , a giant baobab greets us

 

 

Returning to camp this colossal baobab welcomes us back.

Pretty special for the time of year was the presence of 1 single flower, we saw another one in bloom at Pafuri (once again with one flower).

 

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In the evening we had an early dinner around 6 PM after which we departed on the night drive. This time we were accompanied by Boitumela, the tracker for our game drive.The “usual” nocturnal animals were seen on most evening/night drives, I didn’t note all of them (spring hare, large spotted genet, , … night jar).

A first stop was made at Cat Canyon, this is also the home of the resident hyena clan. In the past we had some wonderfull sightings of them, and also this time Tuli Safari Lodge Delivered!

 

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After the 20+ minute sighting Simon and Boitumela scanned the northern region of the reserve.

Not long after starting the drive, Boitumelo picked up a track of a mysterious"Something" I knew that the "Something" had to be good (they preferred not telling us until they were

sure they could track this "something" for us). Hyena, leopard, lion, cheetah and wild dog are on the list of Tuli Safari Lodge, but sightings of the latter 3 are quite rare.

After 10 to 15 minutes of scanning, the tension in our vehicle was rising and resulted in a beautiful sighting of this male and female lion.

 

At first they were both lying roughly 50m from each other but after a few minutes...

 

 

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What a treat !

 

It was the first real good sighting of lion for Griet and I and the first time for the two of us that we actually saw them mating.

Moreover it was the first time that we'd seen them in Tuli ! The male one was wearing a collar.

We tracked them for about 15 to 20 minutes but after they crossed a spruit, a dry river bed which formed the border with Mashatu we had to let them go.

Edited by Bushfire
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Day3

 

We started the day at 6:30 for a long drive through the Mashatu Game Reserve to the confluence of the Shashe and the Limpopo. The point where Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa meet each other.

The drive itself was quite long and bumpy but pleasant as it showed us some variation in the landscapes and flora of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. We drove eastwards and drove past the border post, Limpopo valley airfield. We saw some game during the drive, but there weren’t that much possibilities to get propper photographs. Also, the road through Mashatu can only be used for other lodges as a transit road where no off-roading is allowed, authorization from Mashatu in advance Among the things we’ve seen were: African harrier hawk, Gymnogene, ellies, wildebeest, ostrich, kori Bustard, red crested korhaan, some huge crocs and... cattle near the confluence.

 

Anyway, we enjoyed the drive itself and the view at the confluence was beautiful. It would have been nice if we could have explored the area a bit more on foot.

 

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View from the Botswana side of the Limpopo river at the confluence of the Shashe and the Limpop River. The other side of the Limpopo is South Africa, and at this

point the Mapungubwe national park.

One thing which I absolutely enjoy being on safari are the trees. In this picture the baobab and fever tree stand out.

 

 

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Lot's of leopard track were present at the site

 

 

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Quite skittish...

 

 

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Ostrich

 

 

We arrived back at camp at around noon. After brunch we forced ourselves to get some sleep. The night wasn’t going to bring us much more sleep cause there was something special on the menu for us: a sleepover for the two of us at one of the hides in the reserve !

 

Throughout the reserve there are several hides. One of them overlooks a small lake, marsh area near to the main lodge, another one in the western part of the reserve and one hide on a raised wooden deck overlooking a watering hole in the middle of the reserve. The neat thing about the latter one is that it’s being used for sleepovers, and there is an adjacent boma for bush braais. The sleepover hide itself is fenced off by wooden poles, on the ground floor you have a toilet and washing area, a first open-air raised wooden deck can be entered from here and the hide itself can be reached from here with a steep iron ladder. There is room enough for 2 mattresses, and if you’re not that fussy about space, you can probably put in 4.

 

We left Nokalodi tented camp at around 04:30 PM for a short 1h sundowner walk to the hide. Our luggage was brought over and our bed’s were already made when we arrive. The staff from the lodge made us this lovely braai just for the two of us and Simon! Dining under the stars

 

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Tuli, Land of the Giants. This baobab stands out from up from the rocky surface and, together with the moon,

forms a beacon in the landscape for our walk to the hide.

 

 

 

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View from the boma towards the raised wooden hide. Like it?

 

 

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View from the inside of the hide

 

 

 

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View toward the watering hole. This photo is from our trip in october 2010, just to get you an idea.

 

 

After dinner, we installed ourselves in the hide with some drinks and a little snack and carefully scanned the area overlooking the watering hole.

Me and Griet, took shifts during the first half of the night, waking each other up when something happened.

 

You never know when or what will come by, and sometimes you might see nothing, but we had several good sightings during the night. Impala, black backed jackal, eland were seen throughout the night.

Hyena activity was quite high, we saw several of them wandering around the hide: one came down to drink, several just passed by. With the smell of meat of our braai still in the air, it was probably impossible for the hyena’s to resist visiting us. Climbing down the ladder at night for a quick bathroom stop made this quite an adventure…

Photo-possibilities were daunting and I did not got all that much good photographs.

tip: this time our quite light strong bino (8x42) came in pretty handy. There was enough ambient light so we could use them at night and still get a pretty good sight of the animals which came down to drink.

For me personally such an experience is a must have on a safari, food for the soul, but not for the faint hearted: the peace, tranquility and the privateness of the experience, the glimmering stars, never knowing when or what will pop up are breath taking…

 

 

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Black Backed Jackal were one of the visitors of night

 

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The ever cautious impala

 

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This Hyena came down to drink, only shortly after using the pond as a loo...

Not my cup of tea "wink"

Edited by Bushfire
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Ruben is back!

 

Loving the report. Tuli looks great. I'm quite ashamed Tuli is still on my list. I really should go there asap.

 

More please!

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Wonderful pictures Bushfire! What a gem of a report!

 

Thank you thank you !

It takes quite some time to get it all written down but I'm enjoying it !

 

Ruben is back! Loving the report. Tuli looks great. I'm quite ashamed Tuli is still on my list. I really should go there asap. More please!

 

Tuli is really, really great, you should go there Jochen, I think you'll enjoy it.

At this moment the area is still relative quiet, but I expect it will gain in popularity fast

 

Following part can be expected friday or saturday !

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Grsat start! How did you spot animals from the hide in the dark? Was the waterhole floodlit or did you have torches?

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Nice mix of walking and other activities! Those bleached bones, what were they?

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This is really interesting. A little bit different (for me) but very interesting, especially the hide. I love all the wider angle and night-time photos - very well done and I really feel I'm there with you. You show us a very beautiful place.

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Nice mix of walking and other activities! Those bleached bones, what were they?

 

They were from eland if I remember correctly, probably taken by hyena as the reserve is mostly hyena territory.

 

Grsat start! How did you spot animals from the hide in the dark? Was the waterhole floodlit or did you have torches?

 

Waterhole wasn't floodlit but we had a spotlight attached to a car battery, the same type as being used on game drives.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Day 4

 

We were picked up from our hide for a game drive back to camp. So we thought…

In reality the staff of Tuli Lodge planned brunch at wonderfull scenic spot in the reserve.

 

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Staff at Tuli Lodge always make sure that no dinner, brunch or breakfast is the same, Brunch at breakfast hill: honest food, lovely vistas, friendly people: what more do you want?

 

 

After brunch, we drove back to camp, this time Tuli main lodge was the base for the last two nights at the northern Tuli Game Reserve.

We were offered an upgrade of our room and stayed in the 5-ele (star) Warthog room.

Room is actually an understatement, “villa” is more appropriate for my standards, and although luxury was not high on our list, we enjoyed every second of it !

 

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Thank you for the bottle of bubbles !

View from the sitting area towards our bed, entrance to the bathroom with bathtub and shower on the left.

 

 

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The lodge gardens are always full of life: especially the sandstone ridge en route to the star gazing deck is full of lizards.

 

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This rock dassie (or is it a tree dassie ? ) keeps a close eye on me.

 

 

 

Something about Tuli Safari Lodge itself

 

As I’ve read, Tuli Lodge is the (or one of the) oldest operating lodges in Botswana.

The Tuli private reserve (+- 10.000ha), as Mashatu, is part of the bigger Norther Tuli Game Reserve (78.0000 ha) but there are no fences between the reserves. There are ideas/intentions for the realization the Greater Mapungubwe Trans Fronteri Conservation Area free of fences between South-Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, but as in other place, the numerous land owners, private and public, don’t make it easy to realize it. Maybe if the region will pick up more tourists, things will be more easy to change.

 

Tuli is scenically wonderfull, dominant basalt formations, sandstone hills and ridges, a network of riverbeds (mostly dry) and riverine forest, open grasslands and marshes. It is called the land of giants: huge vistas and big skies, enormous baobab and Mashatu trees, giants elands, kori bustard, the largest herd of elephants on private land, …

Also for birders, it is heaven. Its’s recognized as an Important Bird Area with over 350 bird species.

 

The lodge itself is nestled at the southern border of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve.

The community based project of Tuli Lodge, almost (?) all staff are local people, actually hosts three camps.You have the main lodge which has 8 rooms, a boma, a beautiful bar under a majestic Nyala Berry tree, swimming pool, a big garden where one can easily spend half a day exploring. The lodge itself is fenced but warthog, impala and bushbuck are easily seen on the lawn and ellie and leopard sometimes are seen in/around camp. For safety reasons, we were always guided back to our room at night.

Nokoladi Tented Camp (4 tents) is about a 10 min drive away from the main lodge.

And finally you have Mosethla Bush camp which is more focused on the self catering, self drive tourists and is located much further away from the lodge.

 

The location of the main lodge and the tents is quite on the perimeter of the reserve, next to the border, so this may act as a disadvantage in terms of game viewing, but the year round availability of water brought by the Limpopo and the actractivity, makes up for this.

 

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Baobab at sunrise.

 

In the afternoon we did a community visit to the nearby village of Maphopheng and Lentswe Le Moriti. We visited al Lala palm distillery and a social project where women of the village made all kinds of nice bags and … from Lala palms. We stopped for sundowners on a sandstone koppie near the village of Lentswe Le Moriti. Returning to the lodge on our way back we saw our first white tailed mongoose.

 

In the evening, when having pre-dinner drinks at the bar, we were offered a lovely performance of the Tuli Choir. If you want to hear some songs of them: search for Tuli Choir on iTunes !

We loved the little table decorations !

 

 

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A huge Nyala Berry tree forms the center of the bar at Tuli Safari Lodge.

Edited by Bushfire
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Bushfire:

“…an equal quality safari experience at a smaller price in more down to earth accommodation”

 

This could be my safari mantra as I always seem to be fighting my two nemesis’ (time and money) when planning our trips! Looks like you had some great sightings on the night drives and in the hide in Botswana. I really enjoyed the baobabs shots too!

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I'll follow in PT123's footsteps and quote you too: ...honest food, lovely vistas, friendly people: what more do you want?

 

Nothing really ... it all sounds wonderful, nicely paced and those vistas really are beautiful.

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Day 5

 

Two gamedrives were on schedule today. It was pretty quiet, but we did have some nice sightings of elephant and black backed jackal. Furthermore, in the morning we drove through some thick bushes near the lodge, on the edge of the Limpopo, looking for leopard. Tracks were all around and they told us that he investigated the area thoroughly. Because tracks were crossing, we didn’t succeed in finding the leopard. Just when we gave up tracking this porcupine showed up. Skittish as it was, it sprinted to the first dense bush with it’s four short legs. Once again, the first sighting of a porcupine for us!

 

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Can’t get enough of those Baobabs

 

 

The first good sighting that day was a breeding herd of elephants. With thick mopane shrubbery between us and the elephants, it was quite an effort to reach them, but it was worth it. They were on the move but now and then stopped to feed, which gave some nice opportunities for photography. Especially the young ones were fun to look at, They were still learning how to use their trunks, and what’s good to eat.

At one time, the littlest one was trying to grab a small mopane shoot from the ground.

All the others looked over it, but with the ellie being so tiny I can imagine the small shoot seemed well worth it. At first he tried to grab it with its trunk but after more then a minute when he still was struggling to grab it, it kneeled down and chew on the bark.

 

 

With the Northern Tuli Game Reserve hoasting the biggest herd of elephants on private land, and most animals being used to humans, for me elephants were a main reason to visit the reserve.

 

 

 

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Family Supper

 

 

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This little one was quite persisting, I think he or she really likes bark

 

 

 

 

The second sighting were 4 black backed jackals, on the open plains of the north-western side of the reserve I think. Couldn’t figure out what was the connection between them, didn’t really thought about it at the time. Later on, we saw this nice interaction between two other jackals, one of them was marking his territory, on the dead branch.

After returning to the lodge, for our last supper at Tuli, the staff of Tuli set up this lovely decorated table just for the two of us! Thank you Tuli Lodge !

 

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Black backed jackal prefer the open plains at the reserve.

These 3 (see them?) were nicely lined up, at one point there there were even 4

 

 

 

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Nose to Nose

After marking its territory in the dead branch these two, literally kicked up the dust in a nose-to-nose standoff

 

 

Finally, something about Tuli Staff

The people working at the lodge are wonderful, you feel that the atmosphere between staff is good, and most, not to say all staff enjoy working there, although I realize life for them is quite hard.

They always try to surprise guests with something special: dinner at the boma near the hide, bush brunch on breakfast hill, setting up table for dinner at different places in the lodge garden…

As a guest staying at Tuli Lodge you feel a genuine warmth and hospitality coming from the staff. No question remained unanswered en no effort was to much.

The staff definitely deserves a thank you !

 

Conclusion: did we made a good choice in choosing Tuli Lodge?

Although in terms of number of sightings, the lodge can’t really compete with, for example, our stay at Timbavati (which will follow later on), the variation in activities, the friendliness of the staff, the small scale and down-to-earth mentality, the privateness of the sightings/low volume tourism make Tuli Lodge an absolute winner. So, looking back at it, we made a good choice in choosing Tuli.

We will return !

 

 

Next part: Pafuri Walking Trail

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Next part: Pafuri Walking Trail

 

Looking forward to this. Always wanted to visit Crooks Corner since I bought a copy of "Kruger. Portrait of a National Park" in Skukuza shop, many years ago...

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Bushfire:

“…an equal quality safari experience at a smaller price in more down to earth accommodation”

This could be my safari mantra as I always seem to be fighting my two nemesis’ (time and money) when planning our trips! Looks like you had some great sightings on the night drives and in the hide in Botswana. I really enjoyed the baobabs shots too!

 

We did have some great sighting, elephant-wise, it was more quiet then the time befor, but that probably had to do with may is still quit early in dry season. If you look at the game statistics, listed on the mashatu website, you notice that may is actually (one of the) less attractive months to visit the reserve for cats for example.

 

The baobabs, I know !

I absolutely love them.

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Next part: Pafuri Walking Trail

 

Looking forward to this. Always wanted to visit Crooks Corner since I bought a copy of "Kruger. Portrait of a National Park" in Skukuza shop, many years ago...

Looking forward writing it down :)

But I must disappoint you, we haven't visited Crooks Corner...

The good thing is: we saw plenty of other stuff !

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  • 4 weeks later...

The start of the Pafuri Walking Trail

 

I’ve always wanted to visit northern part of the Kruger National Park. Back in the days of my masters, I learnt a lot about the ecology of the Kruger National Park. And although a lot has already been forgotten, one thing I do remember vividly was immense biodiversity of this remote corner of the Kruger National Park.

Indeed, in comparison with the rest of Kruger, the northern part of Kruger National Park is not so much know for it’s large concentration of game (although this did not showed to us during our stay), but more so because of the large diversity in plant and birdlife. With, to name a few, massive Ebony, Nyala Berry and Baobab trees and the intriguing Wooden Banana Tree, Toad tree and Yellow Fever Tree, no visitor remains untouched by their beauty and diversity.

For birders, the Böhm's and Mottled Spinetails, Racket-tailed Roller and Southern Hyliota together with Pel's Fishing-Owl, Black-throated Wattle-Eye, Yellow White-Eye and Tropical Boubou are high on the list.

 

Because this part of the trip for me was all about being out in the bush; touching, smelling, hearing and experiencing nature from the frontline, a walking safari was the way to go.

The Pafuri Walking Trail offered by Wilderness Safaris was about the only option.

The drive from Tuli to Pafuri is quite easy, leaving Pont drift border post it’s basically, left-right-left-left and then you’re at Pafuri camp J. I don’t recall exactly but I think it was about a 3 to 4 hour drive. So if you leave in the morning, you got plenty of time to reach Pafuri in time.

Also, it’s within a day’s drive from Jo’burg and the most parts of Kruger or the private reserves around it. But if you don’t like driving yourselves, transfers by car or plane from Jo’burg can be arranged.

Ourselves, we squeezed in a short game drive in the morning at Tuli, and after settling the bill, picking up our lunch boxes, saying goodbye to the staff and inflating a tire of our little Nissan (thanks Moses ! ) we head out to Pafuri!

We were sad to leave but were looking forward to the next stage.

 

Arriving at Pafuri Camp at noon, we were welcomed by someone from the lodge, our bags were brought over to the lodge and we were offered some sandwiches and drinks, which gave us the possibility to shortly soak up the beautiful setting of the lodge on the banks of the perennial Luvuvhu river. Once the news got around “the honeymooners have arrived !”, our trail-guides Brian and Megan welcomed us, and together with the other 6 participants the briefing of the trail began. Although I don’t remember all things, my assumptions about the region were confirmed by Brian.

After repacking we head out from Pafuri Camp towards the tented camp near the Luvuvhu river which would act as our base for the next 3 nights.

 

We left Pafuri Camp on foot around 2 o’clock while the heat was still quite strong, Brian and Megan in front with the rest of us in line after them.

They led us through the flat open grounds near Pafuri camp, crossed the landing strip and gradually ventured through the riverine forest and the open floodplain of the Luvuvhu river. Leaving the lodge behind us, the red clayey dust of dried up Luvuvhu sediment settled on our legs and the addictive feeling of being out in the bush set in.

 

We stood still in the shade of a massive Nyala Berry tree, to big to capture on photograph and do honour to it in the same time. Already we were quite impressed by the large amount of small game, Impala but most memorable Nyala. A noisy gang of baboons on a sandstone cliff greeted the new trailists.

We took time to watch the private show they set up for us, and although I don’t recall exactly what the trouble was all about, I think it had something to do with the high testosterone level and the short temper of one of the sub-adults, and the high ambition and inexperience of one of the youngsters.

The sound is still buzzing in my head!

 

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This one was the loudest...

 

We ventured into a lush green gorge known as the Hutwini gorge (more on that later on) and stood still on the Luvuvhu floodplain to soak up sun going down.

The floodplain itself was astonishing, slightly undulating with , large trees acting as an umbrella for the animals underneath and swampy dried up remnants of Luvuvhu tributaries. Although haven’t visited yet, the setting made me think of what the Zambezi floodplain and Mana Pools must look like.

 

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Sundowners at the Luvuvhu Floodplain

 

The camp itself was only a small distance away, tucked away underneath enormous trees.

A few dome tents, 2 bucket showers and a larger logistic tent were set up in a circle, a fire place and a wooden table in the middle of it formed the base from which we would explore the area on foot the following days.

 

By now, the darkness of the night and the light of the glimmering stars made their entrance.

And after freshening up and a lovely dinner, we couldn’t resist take the 4wd and go for a night drive.

The Pel’s Fishing Owl, which occurs in this part of Kruger, was one of the birds I hoped to see, but for this night it decided to keep hidden.

A White Tailed Mongoose an two sub-adult elephants playing in the river, not so far away from a carcass of one of it’s relatives, made a up for it.

But the top of the bill was the observation of a super harvest moonrise between twin Baobabs.

 

It was a promisings start of the trail !

 

 

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The Silhouet of Twin Baobabs, softly drawn by the fragile light of a Super Harvest Moonrise at Pafuri

Edited by Bushfire
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