Boasting a number of glorious climbing and hiking options, the most prominent being the ‘Lovers’ Hill,’ (‘Lentswe la Baratani’),Otse is a quaint but stunning village about 40 kilometres from Gaborone.
‘Lovers’ Hill,’ (‘Lentswe la Baratani’), carries a Shakespearean-esque legend about two young lovers who were refused permission to marry. Despondent, they both flung themselves off the cliff to their deaths. The hill is regarded as sacred; and historically Batswana would neither climb the hill, nor point to it.
Just after Baratani Hill, still on the main road, and before the turnoff to the village, are a cheese factory (locally made) and adjoining café, and Botlhale Jwa Phala, a paper factory that produces invitation cards, photo albums, bags, book-markers and fuel briquettes from discarded paper. Broken bits of tiles are used to make photo and mirror frames, lampshades and furniture decoration.
Browsing is encouraged, and purchases can be made directly from the factory. Turning left at the Otse signpost, and driving through the village, one crosses a pretty river valley where cattle and goats are usually grazing. The Mannyelanong Game Reserve is visible from here, and provides a dramatic backdrop to the landscape.
The reserve was established in 1985 on Balete Tribal Land for the protection of the Cape vultures that nest at its south end. The four-square kilometre area encompasses a single, red sandstone hill. Visitors can climb the hill, but the south end is fenced, and cannot be entered, to prevent disturbance to the vultures at their nesting sites. Entrance to the reserve is through the Department of Wildlife and National Parks offices in Otse, and is free.
The Cape Vulture is an endangered species and fully protected under the laws of Botswana. Cape vultures have nested in Mannyelanong for hundreds of years, but in the last 30 years or so their numbers have diminished considerably. With human expansion, the vultures’ food has become scarcer, with the result that chicks suffer from calcium deficiency due to lack of bone in their diet. Since the establishment of the reserve, vulture populations there have stabilised.