Friday, November 13, 2009

Kwa-Tuli Island Camp

Next we headed south and east to an area known as the Tuli Block, which is along the Limpopo River and borders South Africa. This is one of the few areas in Botswana where private land ownership is allowed. The land was originally used for farms. Many of these have now been converted to game reserves. We spent three nights at one of these, Kwa-Tuli Island Camp. This is a small reserve, only about 1000 acres, but is not fenced so the animals can move freely.

The camp is located on an island in the Limpopo River, about 9k from the main road, and is reached by a rather wobbly swing bridge. Each tent has a great outdoor bathroom attached. The communal area (kitchen/dining/lounge) is located in a grand thatch and stucco building with great views over the river. We spent lots of time there relaxing and watching the local impala, kudu, baboons, etc.

The dry season still had a very tight grip on the area. The river had been reduced to a group of disconnected waterholes. There was not a blade of grass to be seen and the animals looked very hungry indeed. The elephants were having their way with the trees, adding to the destructed look.

In spite of this there were plenty of animals around. Each day Jerrry, our host/driver/guide took us out on game drives or walks. We saw many impala, kudu, and elephants. We also saw waterbuck, bushbuck, steenbok, zebra, and wildebeest. We even saw some animals that we had not encountered before - kipslinger antelope, eland, rock hyrax, Bat-Eared Fox, python, and African Wild Cat. We looked long and hard for the local Leopard, but they kept well hidden, showing us only their tracks.

Each night elephants came to the camp to drink from the waterhole and assault the local trees. The first night I was awoken with a start to the sound of a tree being snapped off and pushed over very close to the tent - I almost expected the tree to come right in! Luckily it did not, though the elephants continued to snap off large branches for quite some time. Then the lion started roaring, so there was no sleep for awhile.

We enjoyed exploring the rocky landscape, which was quite different than anywhere else we had been in Botswana. In the late afternoon and evening thunder clouds would build, but little rain resulted. One night we were treated to the most intense lightning storm I could ever recall seeing. There was so much light you could have easily gone for a walk in the bush.

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