This guest blog was written by James Bainbridge from Safaribookings.com
Botswana’s Northern Tuli Game Reserve is a stalwart of the safari circuit, known for its famous elephant herds, distinctive landscapes and big cats. Spend a few days among its baobabs and rocky outcrops to learn why it’s also known as “The Land of Giants”.
- Encounter abundant wildlife
Northern Tuli Game Reserve’s 72,000 hectares are teeming with an incredible 20,000 animals, including three of the Big Five (lion, leopard and elephant), 48 large mammal species and over 350 bird species. Albeit impressive, these stats don’t do justice to the magical experience of spotting a pack of African wild dogs on the hunt, or encountering an aardwolf, aardvark or leopard on a night drive. Tuli is famous for its elephants, with the largest population on privately owned land in Africa.
- View elephants large and small
Northern Tuli Game Reserve is that rare place where you can see both elephants and elephant shrews at the same time from the same spot. The cute little shrew-like creatures, their long noses resembling elephants’ trunks, are actually more closely related to Nellie than to shrews proper. Also known as sengis or jumping shrews, they have learnt to forage for crumbs at viewpoints in the reserve. You’ll have to be quick with your camera though, as they are one of the fastest small mammals, reaching over 25kph.
Continuing the elephantine theme, you might also spot rock and yellow-spotted dassies. These marmot-like creatures, alternatively known as hyraxes, also count elephants as their closest relations. Tidbits like this come up regularly at Tuli!
- Explore “The Land of Giants”
Northern Tuli Game Reserve is also known as “The Land of Giants” because everything here is, well, big. There are herds of elephants, Africa’s largest land mammal, and plains game including elands, the continent’s largest antelope. There’s also breeding grounds for ostriches, the world’s largest bird, and kori bustards, Africa’s heaviest flying bird; plus towering baobab and nyala berry (aka mashatu) trees; and of course Tuli’s big skies and epic history.
- Enjoy the year-round scenery
Northern Tuli’s famous landscape is quite unlike the rest of Kalahari-dominated Botswana, featuring baobab-studded plains, rocky kopjes, riverine forests and open grasslands. The rock formations, more reminiscent of Namibia, will keep both photographers and geologists happy. What’s more, the reserve’s location in a semi-arid zone makes it a year-round location for wildlife watching in classic African landscapes. Compared with other parts of Botswana, there’s less difference between the dry and wet seasons; indeed, the wet or ‘green’ season (roughly November to March) can be a winner here, as the bush blooms with wildflowers.
- Experience a guided walk
Escape the safari vehicle and have a thrilling experience of the African bush – on foot. Lodges in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve offer guided bush walks, which give you a fresh appreciation of small details and engaging all your senses while exploring areas beyond vehicle tracks. You might stop to study a termite mound or gnarled baobab, learn about plants’ medicinal uses and guess an animal from its spoor (tracks) – then follow that trail for the exciting prospect of spotting a wild animal in its realm. Trying the local sport of impala-dung spitting is entirely optional J
- Cross the Limpopo by cable car
Rudyard Kipling’s ‘great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees, wriggles along the border between Botswana and South Africa. You can cross it at Pont Drift, which links Northern Tuli Game Reserve and nearby South Africa’s Mapungubwe National Park, in a cable car resembling an oversized birdcage. It’s also possible to drive across the dry riverbed when the river is not flowing (roughly June to November). The crossing enables a border-hopping safari combining Northern Tuli, Mapungubwe and South Africa’s Kruger National Park or Madikwe Game Reserve. Northern Tuli’s Tuli Safari Lodge has also teamed up with the Pearls of Limpopo, a network of likeminded lodges in South Africa’s Limpopo province and northern Kruger National Park.
- Discover the area’s historical and cultural significance
Northern Tuli Game Reserve is not just any old patch of bush: remains of 1000-year-old settlements scatter the area, including the Motloutse Ruins, a stone village near the 30m-high basalt dyke known as Solomon’s Wall. These relics relate to Southern Africa’s two greatest ancient civilizations, which grew around the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers at nearby Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe. These historical and cultural links are part of the motivation behind the proposed Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area, which will cover 6000km² of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, including Northern Tuli. At other points in history, San people left rock paintings in the reserve, and coloniser Cecil Rhodes dreamt of running his Cape-to-Cairo railway through this strategic border area.
- Luxuriate in sumptuous lodges
Visiting Northern Tuli doesn’t mean roughing it in the bush, with luxurious lodges offering elegant accommodation such as Tuli Safaris Lodge’s tented and classic suites. Wrap-around decks lead to open-plan interiors, mixing creature comforts fit for a hotel room with maximum exposure to the bush. Offering a stylish contemporary take on the classic African experience, days here begin with a dawn coffee followed by a wildlife drive (or walk) and brunch. High tea punctuates the languorous afternoon before it’s time for another safari.
- Chill out and reflect
Between the dawn and dusk game drives or walks, relaxing at the Northern Tuli Game Reserve’s lodges offers an opportunity to reflect on your experiences. You can lounge on the deck of your suite or soak in the freestanding bathtub, listening to the sounds of the bush, or wander through the garden to the swimming pool or viewing platform. Dining under the stars reconnects you with nature, as well as with the important people in your life.
- Support local communities
In addition to supporting local communities through employment and trade, Tuli lodges offer meaningful village visits which help to fund community projects. Seeing traditional basket weaving in action or tasting lala palm wine is a fun and educational cultural experience.