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Northern Tuli Game Reserve
Spectacular landscapes, rich and varied wildlife, and a host of historical, cultural and natural history attractions define this unique and very striking corner of northeastern Botswana.
Straddling the Shashe, Motloutse and Limpopo Rivers, which serve as natural boundaries with Zimbabwe and South Africa, the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (NTGR) comprises 71,000 hectares of remarkably diverse habitat, including mophane bushland, riverine woodland, and marshland, punctuated by towering sandstone cliffs, basalt formations and unusually shaped kopjes – making for truly breathtaking scenery.
One of the largest privately owned game reserves in Southern Africa and incorporating three major private concessions (Tuli Safari Lodge, Nitani Private Game Reserve, and Mashatu Game Reserve), the NTGR is home to 48 species of mammals and over 350 species of birds, with an estimated 20 000 animals residing in the reserve.
Most naturally occurring wildlife species are present, including elephant, kudu, zebra, impala, duiker, wildebeest, waterbuck, steenbok, and warthog. Large herds of eland – often not seen elsewhere in Botswana – are present, and these are indeed an awesome sight. All major predators, including lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena, are present, and the birdlife is prolific.
The NTGR is adjacent to a larger area of eastern Botswana called the Tuli Block. This is a ten kilometre wide strip of land running approximately Northern Tuli Game Reserve 180 kilometres south to Martin’s Drift that holds a string of commercial agricultural and game farms, several of which also offer tourist facilities.
Travellers keen for a more active safari experience will delight in all there is on offer. You can hike the reserve, bike the reserve, horse-ride the reserve, and even hot air balloon the reserve! At Mashatu Game Reserve, guests can accompany elephant or predator researchers, to gain first-hand insights into the behaviour, feeding habits, territories, demography, and social structure of these animals, as well as critical wildlife conservation issues. A similar experience awaits guests at Nitani – as they come to understand the complexities of a long-term hyena research project.
Molema Bush Camp, a community based tourism project managed and operated by Tuli Safari Lodge, is an ideal way to take part in a tourism concept that is rapidly gaining momentum in Africa. Local communities become active partners in tourism projects, from which they can more readily see clear-cut financial and social benefits.
Molema is a joint venture between three local villages: Motlhabaneng, Lentswe le Moriti and Mathathane and two tour operators: Tuli Safari Lodge and Talana Farms.
Archaeological sites provide an important historical perspective to the region. Iron Age sites demonstrate the formidable skills in pottery, mining, and smelting of the Zhizo, Leopard’s Kopje and Mapungubwe peoples, who practised agriculture and animal husbandry in the area.
Artifacts from the Mapungubwe Kingdom (1220-1290AD), a precursor to the Great Zimbabwe civilisation, reveal the sophistication of the technology and society of its people, and their extensive trade networks.
The NTGR will form the heart of the proposed Shashe/Limpopo Trans- Frontier Conservation Area (TFCA), its signatories – Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa – agreeing to cooperate to conserve and manage shared natural resources. Rich in biodiversity, the proposed TFCA will cover approximately 4,872 square kilometres and will be one of the largest wildlife conservation areas in Southern Africa.
Mapungubwe was a prosperous Iron Age metropolis situated on the banks of the Limpopo River that thrived nearly a thousand years ago. It was ruled by a king of the Leopard Kopje people, and its extensive trade networks reached as far as Egypt, India and China.
The kingdom’s capital was situated at the 300 metre long Mapungubwe Hill, which today is only accessible through two very steep and narrow paths that twist their way to the top.
The civilisation of Mapungubwe was highly developed; its unique arts were of a superior craftsmanship and quality. One of the most famous pieces unearthed by archaeologists is a superbly crafted golden rhino. Other pieces include beautiful pottery and jewellery.
Mophane woodlands, riverine forests and sandstone formations create a breathtaking backdrop for Mapungubwe Hill. The area is rich in wildlife, including white rhino, elephant, giraffe, gemsbok, eland, lion, leopard and hyenas, as well as over 400 species of birds.
Local village tours often become a highlight of a trip to Tuli. A delightful morning’s outing to the quaint village of Motlhabaneng consists of a visit to the kgotla for a chat with the village chief or headman, a visit to the local primary school where children don traditional clothing and dance, and a visit to a basket-maker’s home where guests interact with villagers, learn something of their traditional way of life and watch hand-woven baskets in the making.
Ancient rock paintings, almost certainly done by Southern Africa’s original inhabitants, the San, can also be seen at the outskirts of Motlhabaneng. The paintings depict people, animals, hunting scenes and mythological creatures, part of the San’s complex cosmology and belief system.
This rather amazing natural phenomenon, situated in the Tuli Block, is a 30 metre high basalt dyke that once formed a steep-sided natural dam wall across the Motloutse River.
A full ten metres wide, this ancient dyke once held back a great lake, with waterfalls spilling over the dyke. Evidence of this great lake are the numerous semi-precious stones (e.g. quartz and agate) found along the Motloutse riverbed.
Tall fever trees line the natural beach, making for a shady picnic site. Solomon’s Wall can only be reached with a four-wheel drive vehicle.