Tuli Experience

In 2015 Sinead Wannenburg took on a biking trip with fellow colleagues, a trip that initiated many more cycling trips and adventures! We look back at the article that described her truly African mountain biking experience in the heart of Botswana.

Get me away from my desk in concrete Jo'burg and return me to the endless landscapes with rugged elephant trails in the land of the giants, rich with natural treasures. What an exhilarating experience this was. Being a 24 year old leaving South African soil for the first time in my life, I was eager to get that untouched passport stamped. But even more excited to cross the Mighty Limpopo river, which was dry during our visit, and get my bum on my 26er's saddle and ride on trails most people will never ride, a thrilling opportunity and privilege not to be taken for granted. Africa's finest was awaiting. Welcome to Tuli.
If you have never been to a game reserve in Africa or just simply looking to visit somewhere new, Tuli will guarantee you the experience of a lifetime. After a six hour trip from Johannesburg we arrived at the Pont Drift border post. The first layer of dust had already settled - Tuli means "dust" in Setswana - and we were immediately welcomed by friendly faces. Bikes and luggage were loaded and in no time we were off on the open Land Cruiser with our game driver Buti. With his rich knowledge of the bush we had an insightful game drive before heading to Santhata camp, an early taste of the Tuli experience to come in the weekend ahead. The main reason for the visit was to cycle Tuli, what else!

There is a quote by Jim Burlant - "Cycling is just like church, many attend but few understand" Tuli made me realise and appreciate why I actually ride - being left speechless after a ride - that awesome feeling of having your mind blown by a single bike ride in Africa!

The riding fun starts off with Moosa, Tuli's own pro bush mountainbiker, who gave us a brief introduction to what can be expected on the ride as well as a few rules and hand signals to follow. This is not your regular Saturday morning training ride, when he signals turn back and pedal you turn back and pedal! Riding through endless landscapes in silence on natural made elephant trails and on NO trails at all, navigating your way through the thorn bushes, tall grass and rocks with Moosa our skillful guide with a riffle on his back, leading the way and keeping us safe. We were entertained with Moosa showing off his impressive bike skills and a few encounters with animals. The terrain served for a few of us buying land in Tuli and others just having a quick flirt with the thick sand we so often got stuck in.....especially me and my 26er....just looking onto Hannes and his fatbike's back wheel as he rolls over sand and rocks as if it is nothing. There's no manicured trails, no rushing to get back to go do your morning shopping, no Strava sections you have to compete for, here you ride and admire the freedom you can only experience in the African bush and where time is no factor.
This was my revelation and understanding of riding a bike - no racing pressure, no riding for time. Six hours out on the bike doing only 40 km, stopping to take in the experience and witnessing the animals in their natural habitat.....riding right amongst them!

To ride here is such a thrilling privilege. This was definitely a new look on mountain biking. With the first day's riding excitement still fresh in our minds and the dust still on our unique Tuli cycling jerseys, we had a quick lunch and were off again on another adventure. A game drive was arranged for us with a stop on a hill to witness the sunset as it is intended to be in the African bush, breathtakingly beautiful. We were then treated to a night game drive, after heading back to camp where we were spoiled with food fit for an African king! The staff were incredible when it came to food, a true feast of braaivleis, pap and sous, variety of breads and salads, fresh coffee and breakfast served on the edge of the Limpopo and don't forget the desert! Malva pudding, pancakes and cream.....your taste buds will long back to the Tuli kitchens.
Our last stay on the trip was at the Pride Rock camp where we got introduced to a whole different landscape compared to the Santhata camp where it was flat and endless bush , Pride Rock was surrounded by the warm colours of the sandstone formations. Here the riding terrain was spectacular, riding on the sandstone which looks like it was casted there by man. Reaching heights that gave us a birds eye view overlooking Africa's finest landscape.

This unique and unforgettable  experience was made possible by friendly staff, a wide variety of wildlife and stunning accommodation. Our expectations were surpassed by a simple bike ride in Tuli. Thank you Tuli Game Reserve.

Top 10 Reasons why cycling in Tuli should be on your "Must ride there NOW!" list:

  1. Refreshing African bush and clean air
  2. Along the flowing elephant track you will see eland, zebras, blue wildebeest, impala, giraffe, elephants, warthogs and many more
  3. Riding through riverbanks, Leadwood forest
  4. Have a 360 view of the area you cycle in when standing on a high point
  5. The flowing elephant track is an experience out of this world and there is plenty to choose from
  6. Lunch after your ride with elephant taking a bath in the Limpopo River
  7. Colossal Baobab trees and breath-taking Sandstone Mountains
  8. Riding from Pride Rock Camp up to a hill and watching the sunset then all the way downhill back to camp where dinner is waiting
  9. The thrill and adrenaline of not knowing where you are riding to.
  10. Sharing the Tuli experience with your family and friends amongst Africa's finest

Tuli cycling terrain

  • The Cycle Tuli Tours is rideable for all, the whole family can join in the fun experience no matter the fitness level. Riding through the bush is slow-going and therefor you set the pace and the guide who leads the group will maintain it to ensure everyone has a pleasant and enjoyable ride.
  • The likelihood of animal sightings during your ride will require you to sit and admire the moment, or have to wait a few minutes for the elephants to clear, or to turn back an ride towards safer grounds.
  • The climbing - flat landscape ensuring for limited meters of acsent
  • The technical side of Tuli - with the combination of thick sand and loose rocks there will be areas that test your technical ability, but this is not a race, get off and push through it and enjoy the scenery around you while doing so!
  • Jeep track, elephant trails and the trails less ridden....yes, no trails at all.
  • Lots of thorns!
  • Sandstone formations

A Tuli bush ride check list

  • Your partner in dirt and pain - bike. As we witnessed first hand during our trip.....a Fatbike works best in this terrain
  • No helmet no ride
  • Shoe covers that comes up to your socks - there's nothing more annoying than having thorns stuck to your socks
  • Good quality tires with loads of slime in it
  • Enough water bottles / camelback to take along for a long ride out
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses - very dusty

Not there to cycle? Tuli caters for you too! Here's what you can do at Tuli that does not include two wheels

  • Take up the glamorous opportunity of enjoying a dinner out in the bush.
  • Visit one of the local rural villages
  • Experience Botswana’s Tuli in a whole different way with a Safari walk
  • Visit Trans Frontier Conservation Area where the mighty Shashe and Limpopo Rivers meet
  • History and rock art tours
  • Day and night game drives



Similar Posts