Who doesn’t love a giraffe? These stately ungulates have long been the most extraordinary of species, all patchwork coats, elongated limbs, horn-like ossicones and super-stretched necks. So weird are the combined parts of a giraffe that the scientific name of the Northern giraffe is Giraffa camelopardalis – a moniker assigned to them by Karl Linneus – the Swedish naturalist inventor of modern taxonomy, who thought they must be some trendy new-fangled leopard-camel hybrid. Here at Natural Selection we have a seriously soft spot for the enormous ruminants and so we’re bringing them closer than ever to intrepid safari-goers.
Thamo Telele (formerly known as Royal Tree Lodge) is one of the newest destinations in the Natural Selection family, and the freshly refurbished lodge is home to some rather special characters. In fact, the very name Thamo Telele means ‘long neck’ in Setswana, and there are long necks aplenty here.
The reserve is home to a resident herd of 20 giraffe and you might be surprised by just how sociable these magnificent creatures are. Guests are able to get up close for a giraffe encounter in the morning and evening as they feed at the waterhole. Two of the giraffe that you’ll meet are actually named Thamo and Telele, and they’re so heart-stoppingly irresistible that we named the lodge after them (told you we had a soft spot for giraffe!)
Having introduced yourself to the mosaic residents, there are plenty more to meet, including zebra, oryx and the most extraordinary array of birds imaginable. The lodge’s riverside location makes it a haven for birdlife and more than 300 species have been recorded here, including little bee-eater, pied kingfisher, African barred owlet, Verreaux’s eagle-owl, and African fish eagle. If you’re taking your twitching seriously, you’ll need to tick quickly, because you can expect to see 50 to 70 species a day and the record is 130 species in a 24 hour period.
Before the resident giraffe renamed the lodge, it was known as Royal Tree Lodge, and the name isn’t the only thing that’s changed here. The lodge has had a complete refurbishment and now oozes safari soul with a definite stylistic leaning towards the lofty mammals outside. Expect exotic hues and giraffe references aplenty with a plethora of activities to enjoy within the 250 hectare private reserve, including horseback safaris, nature walks, bike rides, mokoro trips, and culture tours.
In fact, culture vultures will find themselves brilliantly well placed at Thamo Telele, since we’re only a short distance from the safari village of Maun. You’ll find more donkeys here than you can shake a carrot at, but this is also a melting pot of culture and community. This dusty and delightful place looks easily big enough to be a town, and has a bustling excitement to it being the gateway to the Okavango Delta, but were it to officially become a town the livestock would have to be kept under closer control, so the donkeys roam and a village it remains!
We offer the culture tour alongside Safari Destinations, and it’s a great way to see more of the Delta than just the wildlife it’s so famous for. The tour employs local hosts who act as cultural ambassadors for their home – who better to show you around than someone who’s lived in Maun all their life? Guests will meet Edna, a local restaurateur and author who’ll share her Setswana culture through cuisine and entertainment; local basket weaver Mma Kushunya, a custodian of the Hambukushu culture who’s teaching young women around Botswana to weave baskets themselves; street artist Prince; beadworker Dudu and street vendors Mma Modise and Mma Tafa. Spending time with these local crafters and entrepreneurs is both insightful and inspiring.
Whether you’re spending time at Thamo Telele at the beginning or end of your safari, you’ll soon find out that there’s much much more to Maun and her wonderful people, and once you’ve met the giraffes here, you’ll never want to leave (don’t worry, you can always extend your stay).
Thanks to Safari Destinations for the use of their Maun tour photos.
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