Tuli and Botswana Overall

Tuli (September 27 - October 1, 2016)

Living life on the edge, thinking you will die every day? Well, that was my Tuli Block experience, out in the wild doing safaris, surrounded by nature and indigenous animals. This area isn’t very touristy yet, so animals aren’t used to humans. We rarely encountered other people ourselves. That’s a bonus compared to some other safari hotspots where you’ll see another 50 jeeps packed with tourists every day.

For those of you who read my Kanye (Botswana) post, then you know I stayed with a friend. Lucky us, we could tag along on a group trip they were already planning to Tuli and could save money in that way. We rented a combi (small bus) and a private driver to take us to the site since regular bus services don’t exist on that route. At the site, we had separate huts to sleep in with en-suite bathroom and a kitchen and a common area to share. We had to purchase all our groceries ahead of time because there aren’t any stores nearby.

Before we even arrived at the site we saw a giraffe, a couple zebras, and impalas (giraffes are rare in this area, so we lucked out). This got us in the adventure mood and on lookout for other animals. Around our huts, baboons always monkeyed around.

Sitting on a hill enjoying the view. Photo credit to Joni.

Sitting on a hill enjoying the view. Photo credit to Joni.

The first night we grilled meat over a fire. After dinner, my travel buddy and I stepped away from the campsite fire to gaze at the stars before being driven to our hut that was located a 3-minute walk away from the others. At night, the distance isn’t safe on foot because of the animals. Right when the driver turned on the car, the headlights shun on this huge hyena! Wow, we were few yards away from this beast that can chomp through metal. Humans could have been on its dinner menu. What I learned later is that hyenas usually don’t hunt themselves, but wait for the leftovers of the hunting animals. That’s why they eat lots of bones. The grilling meat must have attracted them, but still scared the heck out of me and got me frightened for the rest of the stay. I don’t know much about these safari animals and it was too late for me to research because we had no internet out there. For your own comfort, I’d recommend prior research. We did get to hear many facts from our safari guide during our stay.

The first safari was bright and early in the morning. We got to see parades of elephants. Funny how easy they blend in with the scenery regardless to their size even if someone else points them out. The elephants south of Africa are aggressive. Hence, we could never get very close without an elephant warning us that if we come any further, it will run us over. Wasn’t much of a problem until we returned to camp. Elephants had found their way to our camp and even with warning not to leave the kitchen, a guy in our group couldn’t resist to step out and look. Not long after I heard a ruckus and felt the ground shake, and the guy came back in the kitchen to me praying that the sound will stop and that the kitchen won’t go bye-bye with us inside. I got to live another day, just to be charged at by a leopard the following day.

The leopard just chilling. Photo credit to Joni. (Lost all my pictures when my camera broke.)

The leopard just chilling. Photo credit to Joni. (Lost all my pictures when my camera broke.)

Leopards are one of the rare animals to encounter during a safari. During our second safari, we crossed path with another tour group, which had spotted the leopard and informed us of its location. It took a few minutes before we laid our eyes on that beautiful creature. The guide warned us not to stand up in the jeep because then the cat will feel threatened and attack. With the warning in mind, he drove us only a few yards away from the leopard to get a good view. The same guy, who almost got me trampled by an elephant, was sitting on the vehicle side furthest away from the animal and wanted to get a good picture. So, he stood up! Not long and the animal came charging down the hill. I was sitting the closest to the animal and thought I was a goner. The guide’s gun was still in the case. There is no way he can get the animal before it can get me, which the guide confessed himself later. He started driving off instead. Thank goodness the leopard wasn’t interested in pursuit. I’m getting real angry at this guy now. He could have gotten a picture from anybody later, but instead is risking lives. Don’t go on a safari with a person only absorbed with his own agenda. He also stood up when we saw lions, but at least they were sleeping couldn’t have cared less due to being tired of hunting the day before.

Besides the animals already mentioned, we saw bunch more. To list a few: eland, warthogs, wildebeest, meercats, jackal, crocodiles, springhare, rock dassie, klipspringer, dik-dik, and guinea fowls. We even entered the hyena den where I spotted a baby hyena along with the adults. We also climbed this hill for a fantastic overlook of the area (which even had a cave painting). There was an eagle soaring around us. Pretty epic.

Leopard starting to charge at us.

Leopard starting to charge at us.

The bush dinner was less epic. On our last day, we attended an overpriced bush dinner. I didn’t know what to expect. The décor was romantic, having candles all around us. The local food was average. But without entertainment or providing more interesting information, the dinner was essentially eating and leaving. Not worth the price we paid.

Something else I didn’t appreciate was the way we discovered a small bat: under the mosquito net of my bed. The bat sound woke me up and I turned on the light. Right next to me was this flying mouse. I initially wasn’t alarmed and calmly shooed it out, but then I was reminded that bats often carry rabies and I haven’t gotten the shot. So now knowing that this bat was in our hut, it probably could find its way back inside the bed net, and that I potentially could catch this virus. This thought got me scared and kept me awake for the remainder of the night. Foaming from the mouth has never been a fashion trend.

At this point I had enough of my safari adventure and was looking forward to drive away from all these animals I don’t understand. I’m super happy I have gotten to experience such an adventure and would recommend going at least once. If you go, just be sure you are with people that will follow the guide’s directions, except if you want to end up as lunch. I developed an even higher respect for these animals and have stories I won’t forget for the rest of my life.

Cost breakdown of Tuli (4 days with total cost of $231.81. Average daily cost is $57.95.)

  • Accommodation: $126.99 (4 nights)
  • Transportation: $29.23 (private combi)
  • Food: $30.69
    • Meals: $7.30 (1 meal)
    • Groceries: $23.39
  • Miscellaneous: $44.90
    • Safaris: $18.71 (3 safaris)
    • Bush Dinner: $26.19

Botswana Overall

Didn't expect this bird in my hostel courtyard on my first day in Gaborone.

Didn't expect this bird in my hostel courtyard on my first day in Gaborone.

Botswana is still quite untouched in terms of tourism. Per Lonely Planet though, this country is the spot to travel to in 2016. From a safari stand point I could see how a jeep tour through the landscape to observe animals would be much better without viewing bunch of other photo-snapping tourists. This kind of remote experience is probably more awe striking and exciting.

Besides safaris, I would recommend to skip any other part of the country. Though mostly safe, the country doesn’t have much else to offer and needs to work on their social norms (check out my ‘Kanye’ post if you don’t know why I’m criticizing the social norms). In addition, accommodations are disgustingly expensive in comparison to other countries I’ve been to. If you plan to visit Botswana, I’d recommend to do your safari and to get out right after.

Random facts I’ve encountered:

  • “Little house” and “side dish” means to have another partner outside of a relationship
  • Commenting on smell of the food when cooking is rude, even if intended as a compliment
  • You won’t see a stray dog, but often hear them barking at night
  • Due to heat, locals might walk around their property only wrapped in a towel