I left the UK straight after the Silverstone MotoGP in June and after a nice flight (including Dubai to Joburg on a lush A380) I stayed overnight in the Dove’s Nest motel – as usual.
Next day I got the Gautrain down to Park station and after a bit of a headache, managed to get on the bus up to Polokwane., where I was picked up by Annelien and Ruby and transported up to Pont Drift border post. A short drive later and I was back ‘home’
First jobs were a tractor carb rebuild and repair the electric fence around Annalien’s lawn – destroyed by Springhares )
The first highlight of this trip for me – apart from seeing my Tuli family – was a 3m rock python we found on our way to party at Mohave camp. It was very chilled at the side of the road and stayed for photos and tea (prolly) though it did get a bit excited when I picked up its tail to see if it was male or female! lol
It seemed a bit strange being back in the bush and meeting Josh and his girlfriend Tash, who were now the student coordinator(s) ..Josh grew up in Tuli (Craig – his dad- sold the business to Stuart!) but I soon got acclimatised -after having our semi-resident 5 lions in camp twice in a week! A week later we had the first of our annual school groups: Cowan House from KZN
We had a great week and the kids really seemed to enjoy themselves (as did Pam their organiser and nurse) – we’d seen the lions during a ‘call-up’, a great daytime sighting of a female cheetah and had a sleepout at Bedrock.
As is becoming the norm nowadays, I had my birthday in Tuli – we had a good old evening around the campfire with lashings of Hunters cider and LMP (lemon meringue pie) The next morning I ended up driving to our leopard cage to check if we’d caught anything: I was SO ill with hangov…..bad tummy from a bad pie, or summat. I couldnt even SPEAK to the students. As we arrived at the cage we found a female leopard in the cage! ..We were after a male, so had to release this one (no mean feat, with a very angry leopard and a very hungover Chuggy!!!
After that I had a couple of weeks with both students AND guests (one of the students being a complete pain and only wanting to take photographs, whilst the french family were absolutely lovely! We had some great sightings, which sadly included a young ellie which we saw on a consecutive days – separated from its mother and herd ..it died from dehydration in front of us We also had our lions making an Eland calf kill and returning to the carcass the next night, where we also found a leopard skulking around the bush …the leopard tried to leave without being seen by Mabella (dining on the eland) but it ran straight into Sebatana behind us, and had a quick but VERY loud fight, before disappearing off into the bush!
Once the Clifton school group arrived, I shared the Trails camp with ‘Uncle Mikey’ and we had a great time showing the kids around and teaching them a bit about the animals and the bush. We also had Gabby at our camp, which meant the food organised/supplied by Annelien and granny was always well cooked and served ….and the camp was run perfectly (including warm water in our handwashes outside the tents every morning!!!)
As soon as the schools left, Tucker arrived for a 10 day holiday! …great to see him out there and to see wot I get up to
We spent some time in Mohave camp with the students, some time in small tents out in the bush (Bedrock area) on our own and a night or 2 in semi-luxury at Serolo camp
sadly we didnt get to see the lions – despite trailing their fresh tracks over Eagle Rock and having a mad dash to catch up with the students who HAD seen all 5 lions
still, there were plenty of ellies around and we got to see Lobatse (cheetah) and her cub nice and close. Sadly we also got to see one of our female leopards very close-up: she had been killed by a male leopard She was buried after taking the usual carcass measurements)
We had a nightmare of a sleepout too – we pitched up at Leopard koppie and set fire, ate some nice food and just bedded down, when a gale force sandstorm blew up …..it was terrible, with the fire being almost blown out, gale force winds, sand everywhere in our sleeping bags etc.
We managed to get thru the night – but only just!
One of the highlights of Tuckers trip was deffo the Pels Fishing Owl we saw in trees at Pels Pools (strangely enough )
More great students came and went …we had a lot of fun (pertickly with the TUSK group: Erin, Zoe, Petra & Roman) and Josh and Tash had to leave(Tash cos she’s heavily pregnant now and Josh cos he upset the govt. peeps by working without permit!) Jordan (Josh’ mate) replaced him – we had a lorra laffs going out on drives and walks together – nice guy (for a South African
For a period of time we also had a clan of spotties (hyaena) move into a rocky home near Elephant neck. We regularly walked in there and got within a metre! there were 4 pups – 2 of approx 3 weeks and 2 of approx 7 weeks. Fabulous to get so close to them and see cubbens so small
As planned Stuart, Annelien and kids together with me and the legend that is Johannes, drove up to Nata to meet Chris and Jackie with their daughter Christelle and 2 other vehicles with families (Petrius and co. and Albi & co.) We stayed in Nata for one night, then drove across to Planet Baobab, Nxai pans to Baines Baobabs, then on to Audi camp in Maun for out next night.
The Okavango delta was next – entering the South Gate and making our way past 1st and 2nd Bridges to stay at 3rd bridge for a night – where a spotty joined us for our braai! (literally appearing in the ring of faces, mush to the surprise of those either side of it!! lol
Following day it was North to Savuti and into Linyanti camp – though we were quite late due to Chris’ car having fuelling problems. We also had a fabulous view of Wild Dogs whilst Albi got his car stuck in sand
Linyanti is a great area – plenty of ellies, hippo, buffs, etc. and lots of water!
Next up is Chobe and into Kasane, staying at the Toro camp. Nice place to stay right beside the river. We also had a river (booze) cruise (my first proper drinking session on Southern Comfort!)
Next we split up with the other 3 cars staying whilst they stayed and Tigerfished in the Zambezi, the Tuli family crossed into Zimbabwe to check out the delights of Vic Falls. 2 minor altercations with the wonderful zim police force later (fined for various road offences and Stuart lucky not to get arrested for aggression against them!) we set up home in a nice and cheap lodge. We shopped, drank coffee (repeatedly) had lunch at the Vic Falls hotel and watched peeps jump off the bridge in a variety of ways (usually tethered to the bridge by some means)
Back to Kasane for the night then an early rise and set off to Elephant Sands – Ive stayed here before and its fabulous for ellie watching – we set up camp and immediately were passed by a troop of ellies (all male) We had a few beers that night and then the next morning JUST missed the Wild dog pack coming to drink at the waterhole …a few beers during the day and a saunter around in the Beast (VX Landcruiser) and then back to base to watch a constant stream of ellies at the hole, and then a wild dog pack! ..I got fairly close to them as they approached which was pretty special B| The rest of our stay was full of ellies and Wild dogs and leopard tracks in the morning! I love this place
After our 3rd night here, we left and headed back thru Francistown back home
Back at the ranch, we had plenty sightings of cheetah, lion and ellies…..and a fabulous almost hour long viewing of an Aardwolf!
I had a day in South Africa at Mapungubwe for the Children in the Wilderness camp. and then lots of student walks and drives (and parties) lots of car maintenance and a prolonged stay at the House whilst Stuart was away.
Another fabulous, wonderful amazing Tuli break.