Botswana!

We had to say farewell to our friends at Naledi – it was bittersweet to say the least.  We were very excited to continue our expedition into Botswana but also very sad to leave our Naledi family.  Cameron and I miss you Kjell, Kim, Sidwell, Sam, Lucas and the rest of the staff! Sue, Stephanie, Casey, John, Leslie & Jack – we hope you’re still having a fantastic time at Naledi  – but how could you not? – and on the rest of your vacation!

The drive to Botswana should have taken about 5 hours with a short 7km drive from the border into Tuli Lodge … If we had been able to cross the Limpopo at Pont Drift.  The morning of the day we were to cross it, the Limopo ‘came down’ meaning that the formerly dry riverbed was now a flowing river as the water came down from somewhere upstream. So, we had to take the long way ’round via Platjan border crossing where there was a ‘bridge’.  Really it was a concrete lane that was barely 3 feet above the flowing river.  I’ll try to post pictures… It was a bit nerve wracking to cross since it was so narrow (one lane – no sides) but we did it and arrived into Botswana. Yay! After going through customs – a 15 minute or so job that was just checking our passports and paying the car toll – we were again on our way to Tuli Safari Lodge. The roads were quite something… Graded red dirt/ sand. We are in a 4×4 truck so no problems other than rattling our fillings loose.  Now and again we’d find a compacted track to drive in that was a little better.  We passed through a small village that looks similar to what one would probably expect an African village to look like.  Small thatched-roof houses, goats, farmers, etc.  To give you an idea of where we are and how remote this is, the directions instructed us to go past the graveyard on the left after the small village (which consisted of about 4 houses and small pastures) and at the next Y in the road, bear right and keep going until you see a sign.  But we made it and arrived at Tuli.  The Tuli Block – as this area is called – is characterized by large sandstone and basalt rock formations that jut violently out of the ground as though a giant carefully constructed rock towers all over the place.  The massive boulders are perched precariously on top of one another to make beautiful monument-like towers. Other rock formations are solid rock with red and brown striations where the basalt and sandstone are mixed. Quite striking really. We haven’t gotten many landscape photos yet because we arrived not long before dark on Friday and today – Saturday – its been raining on and off. On the 3 game drives we have been on so far we have seen a lot of plains game – giraffe, zebra, kudu, eland, impala, stembok, grey duiker, hyena, about 50 bird species, black backed jackal, bushbuck, waterbuck, wildebeest, tree squirrel, vervet monkeys, baboons… And that’s just been in a little over a day at Tuli. We are hoping for the rain to subside and allow all the animals to move around again and maybe get to find the cheetah and leopard.  Not holding my breath but boy it would be nice.

The lodge is set in this idyllic little grove between the sharp rock outcroppings.  It used to be someone’s family lodge and retreat and many years ago they planted exotic trees and bushes in addition to the massive native trees likely already here.  You enter between the huge rock walls into a lush little valley which backs to a river. I’ll try to capture the beauty in pictures but it may be the most peaceful place I’ve ever seen. Cameron and I sat on a bench at the back of the property today while it was drizzling and watched the tireless river flow by, the water birds look for food on the banks, the smaller birds calling from nearby trees…. I could have sat there in perfect peace for hours if not days.
Time for dinner at the boma – more soon…. And hopefully I can find the Internet connection.
Update: Wifi found!!
Leaving South Africa:

The ‘bridge’:
Entering Botswana:
Typical road to Tuli – with Warthogs grazing along the roadside:
Village of Motlhabaneng, Botswana:
Resident bushbuck at Tuli Safari Lodge:
Elands:
Black backed jackal:

Author: Keri Chmelik

I love to explore the world with my favorite person... and I'll probably take a few pictures along the way.

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