Day 1, Tubu Tree
After arrival, as mentioned earlier, we had a brief orientation to the camp and then left on our first game drive. While at Tubu we rode with a fun couple from Connecticut so there were only four passengers in the vehicle Our driver, Seretse, was a fairly serious but friendly and extremely knowledgeable man. Game sightings that afternoon included giraffe (beside the landing strip!), zebra, warthog and impala. Our first sightings were thrilling, especially for Sue. After our return, people asked me to name my favorite part of the trip and I have concluded that it was the look on her face and tears of joy each time we saw a new animal.
We probably saw more impala the entire week than any other animal. Seretse explained that they are easily identified by the black double arch on their hindquarters. The markings look something like an “M” so they are called the McDonald’s of Africa: they are everywhere and they are tasty!
The skies on Day 1 were partly cloudy so the sunset was especially beautiful.
Tubu Tree (like Savuti but unlike Mombo) allows game drives after dark. Our first dinner in camp, being on a Monday, was around the campfire (bush TV, they called it) in a small clearing adjacent to camp. We were served a traditional meal: pounded roast beef, polenta, vegetables, and bread with honey, all eaten with our “natural knife and fork” i.e. our fingers. For this ceremonial meal, one of the male guests was selected to play the chief, and all the men were served first, by their women. Interesting, to say the least, to have Sue bring my meal to me and kneel down to hand it to me. Never seen that before, and most certainly never will again! After some wine and stories we were escorted to our tent.
We slept soundly in an extremely comfortable bed.
During the night the clouds cleared (I could tell by the bright moonlight in my eyes). I had hoped to stargaze as I had never seen the constellations in the Southern Hemisphere but the bed was so warm and the air was so cold… Day 2, Tubu Tree
Tuesday morning I heard distant human noises by 5:30 and shortly thereafter we were officially roused to get to breakfast by 6:30. Our first drive of the day left at 7:10. Early in the drive we saw our first elephant, a solo, but it wasn’t long before we came across a large group of 12 or more: at least one bull, several cows and younger animals of various ages. A herd of elephants is also appropriately called a “parade”, and that’s what they usually did, slowly marching along, stripping leaves off the trees. At one point the largest male walked slowly past us, staring at us with one eye, just checking us out, I guess. The intelligence of these animals is so evident when you watch them for a while. It was just a bit scary to know that, had he so chosen, he could have overturned our vehicle and trampled us without breaking a sweat.
I have never been much of a birder. Sure, at one time I cataloged the different species I could see from my deck back in North Carolina, but after I counted about 8, I was done. Borrrring. Much to my surprise I found myself fascinated by African birds. The numbers, the variety, the colors… Astounding. It certainly helped that each of the drivers knew so much detail about them, and could spot a new one from a great distance. I spent a lot of time with my long lens trying to get great photos of the most colorful ones. Malachite Kingfisher African Fish Eagle Lilac Breasted Roller Saddle Billed Stork
The plan for the afternoon was a short drive to a boat station, for a powerboat ride in the deeper waters of the Delta. The 30 minute ride turned into over an hour because we came across a large group of giraffes. We stopped so Seretse could describe the social structure of the herd and point out the differences between males and females.
The boat ride itself was disappointing. Some birds, a few hippos, lots of insects, and a chilly wind after the sun set. The ride back to camp was more interesting, as Seretse used a handheld red spotlight to illuminate more impala, lechwe, tsessebe, monkeys, and baboons. We even came across two young male giraffes, fighting: an incredible sight, two enormous animals standing side-by-side, swinging their long necks at each other. We could clearly hear the impacts.
Besides being able to see and hear animals at a distance, our drivers were excellent trackers. They could pick out the prints of a large cat, etc. in the sand of the trail. I did learn to recognize elephant footprints, but that’s really about it.
On the way back to camp Seretse noticed the tracks of a pair of hyena and we followed the trail, driving faster in the dark than I would have felt comfortable doing, but hey, what could go wrong, speeding along at night in the African wilderness? We were still a mile or so from camp (I would guess) when we saw lights, and perhaps a fire, in a clearing. Seretse led us to believe there were people there illegally. perhaps poachers, and told us we needed to check them out. Really?? When we got closer we recognized the Tubu Tree staff. They had set up a “bush dinner”: chairs around a fire, a single long dining table to serve a dinner of chicken, potatoes, vegetables, pears with wine reduction sauce, and a full bar. Spectacular! By this time other guests had developed a taste for Amarula and when the supply ran out I overheard one of the staff being sent back to camp for more. Another example of the lengths they would go to, to keep their guests happy. Finally, as we sat down for dinner, we watched the two hyenas skirt around the edge of the temporary camp. Day 3, Tubu Tree
After another delicious breakfast we were driven to another part of the Delta for a mokoro trip. As had happened the day before, we were sidetracked by animal sightings. Seretse heard on his radio that a leopard had been sighted nearby.
We joined up with fellow guests and the two vehicles parked and watched the gorgeous creature walk nonchalantly through a clump of trees and bushes. She clearly knew we were there, she just didn’t seem to care. We followed briefly until we realized she was stalking an impala and a kudu; we chose to leave to allow her to hunt. There is a strict policy of not interfering with the activity of the animals.
On to the mokoro: a very shallow canoe-type boat propelled by a man standing at the back, pushing us through the shallow water with a long pole.
He made it look easy but I am sure it is not. Our poler, named Sam, explained that this method of transportation, while traditional, is still used in some areas. Seems it’s more practical than a Land Rover at times of high water.
The mokoro ride itself was very interesting, gliding at water level among the papyrus and water lilies. Not many large animals (luckily!) but many birds and some tiny colorful frogs.
[/img]Angolan Tree Frog
We stopped for tea on a small spot of dry land, a termite mound to be precise. In the distance we could see numerous elephants walking to the water’s edge.
It was a very pleasant way to spend a few hours. The drive back to camp was interrupted for a short time as we watched a family of warthogs rooting in the grass.
More elephants, zebra, impala, etc. Yes, it got to the point that we didn’t even bother to stop for “just” zebra.
After lunch and a nap, we wondered what adventure Seretse had planned for the afternoon. We left camp at 2:00 and after a short drive arrived at “the hide”, a platform built in a tree, overlooking the water. Apparently guests can, with advance notice, spend a night out there, to get a closer look at nocturnal activities. On this day, though, it was a spot for afternoon tea: egg rolls, wings, drinks such as daiquiris and mudslides and, of course, Amarula.
I had a pleasant chat with Seretse, trying to learn a few words in Setswana, the local tongue. I had hoped to learn a few basics in advance but correct pronunciation is hard to master without a native speaker’s help.
The return drive was highlighted by a sighting of a beautiful leopard. He sat atop a termite mound and gazed hungrily at the impala on the other side of the water.
I say “he” because Seretse recognized him and knew his approximate age; the guides seem to keep close track of the rarer animals. After 30 minutes or so we left the leopard to his dreams of dinner.
Closer to camp we had the only vehicle trouble we experienced. After a short stop to watch some giraffes, the battery seemed to be dead. Seretse called on the radio for help and a second vehicle arrived in a few minutes. The drivers must have landmarks and reference points to use but it all looked the same to me. We passed the airstrip and found two hyenas stretched out on the smooth, warm sand. Dinner, drinks at the bar and it was the end of another incredible day.