One of the most startling aspects of a safari in the Tuli Block is the magnificent trees which dwarf even elephants.
© Baobab tree near Mashatu Lodge. Tuli
The area known as the Tuli Block area is home to some of the most magnificent trees known to man. Some of the Baobab trees in Tuli are estimated to be several hundreds of years old. These ancient trees dominate the Tuli landscape, attracting birds, animals, insects and reptiles. Trees play a pivotal role in a majestic and unrivalled eco-system.
The Tuli game reserves are known to have some of the largest trees ever recorded. These trees are found at the confluence of the Sashe and Limpopo rivers. For visitors to the Tuli area, the trees provide shade during the height of summer - a precious resource for visitors unaccustomed to the immense summer heat.
The Nyala-berry tree is also known as the Mashatu Tree. It occurs along the alluvial soils of Tuli's watercourses, with specimens ranging from 300 to 600 years in age. These trees reach staggering heights
of up to 30 metres, with massive rounded canopies and thick trunks which create a home for an extensive eco-system of life.
One of these trees unique features is its root system which is exposed to a large extent above the ground, creating a unique visible root system for guests to admire. The trees density provides shade to wildlife
making it a place where visitors can explore with the high probability of seeing Impala, Kudu and even Baboon indulging in its branches. Among others, Squirrels, Dassies and Mongooses find places within its massive trunk and branches as do snakes and lizards.
The tree produces small pea-shaped white flowers
from September to December while its large fruit with fleshy pulp is produced throughout the year. The Elephants of Tuli are particularly partial to the leaves of the tree, and the fruit when it is ripe. The trees also provide home to termites in their mounds located at the base of the tree making this tree one of the extraordinary features of this majestic land.
The Baobab tree is simply known as 'the upside down tree' in Botswana and they are found largely on the alluvial floodplains and in the Mopane woodland areas of the reserve. The tree has a bizarre appearance
with its fleshy branches resembling a root system stretching out into the sky.
The famous enormous trunk can reach diameters of up to five meters making this tree a true feature of the landscape. The trunk itself has a soft and smooth spongy bark
and is often hollow where it stores water for long periods, attracting a variety of birds, reptiles and rodents. It is also a popular choice for bees who build hives in the folds and clefts of the trees branches.
The trees high water retention capability means that it is a popular water source for Bushmen and Elephant alike during the dry season. During the dry season the tree dries out and becomes smaller in size making age estimation particularly difficult.
Among other functions, the tree produces seeds which are a nutritious food source for herbivores
and provides spinach tasting leaves with medicinal purposes. This popular tree is essential in maintaining the eco-balance in the Tuli region, due to its many uses.
Due to its immense importance to the survival of both people and animals the tree is highly regarded not to mention the grandeur they add to the Tuli area.
The Mopane Tree
The Mopane tree is also known as the Butterfly tree
. It is the most dominant tree in the Tuli area. Its leaves are characteristically butterfly shaped. These start out bright green in colour but eventually turn into glorious shades of russet, brown. They have yellow-green flowers and a kidney shaped seed-pod that contains pith that looks like a brain.
The tree grows up to 18 metres in height, although trees remain stunted in less favourable conditions. The wood of these multi-stemmed trees tends to form holes attracting birds, squirrels and other rodents to nest within them. The characteristic hard wood, along with resinous leaves and seeds make this tree ideal for fuel due to its highly flammable nature.
It is a popular choice for building huts and fence posts as it is resistant to termites while the bark has various medicinal purposes
such as helping to combat diarrhoea and healing wounds. The tree is a vital herbivore food source, particularly enjoyed by Elephants and Eland, emphasising its importance in the Botswana eco-system.