Botswana is a land of contrasts with endless savannahs and dry sand plains in the Kalahari Desert. North you will find vast wetlands with beautiful national parks such as Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.
Less familiar perhaps is the Tuli Block also known as Africa’s best kept secret. The Tuli Block, in the south-eastern corner of Botswana, borders on South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Limpopo River separates South Africa and Botswana. The Tuli Block covers 350 km, but is in some places as narrow as 10 km. The entire area covers 300,000 hectares and has an impressive list of sights: the baobab and leatherwood trees which are everywhere in the Tuli Block as well as the biggest privately-owned concentration of elephants in the Mashatu Game Reserve.
A land of its own
The Tuli Block is a diverse area; from the flat plains in the north to the rocky hills in the south. Tuli is so different from the rest of Botswana that it is tempting to think you are in another country. The area is the biggest private game reserve in southern Africa.
The Tuli Block, which is along the beautiful Limpopo River, has been a reserve since the sixties. The privately owned farms and lodges are surrounded by amazing wildlife and stunning nature. “Tuli” is Tswana and means dust, with good reason. A distinctive feature of the area is the long endless red roads along the Limpopo River. After rainfall you can almost taste the dust in your mouth.
The Limpopo River
The Limpopo River flows after the rainy season (November until January) and during the dry season it consists of large scattered lakes. The area surrounding the river is always lush and green; many animals come here to eat. Crocodiles are often spotted along the water’s edge and in the water waiting for the antelopes. You might be fortunate to see hippopotamuses basking in river at times.
Along the amazing rivers you gain an insight into the wildlife of Africa. Bees, birds, insects fight over pollen. Kudus, impalas, waterbucks, steenbucks etc. come to the water to cool off in the baking sun. Further down the Limpopo River you can expect to see elephants crossing to get to Zimbabwe or South Africa. Wild leopards and cheetahs inhabit the area and are occasionally seen by tourists. In certain private reserves it is possible to see the Big Five (leopards, lions, buffalos, rhinoceros and elephants).
The Tuli Block is also home to many wild birds; 354 different species has been observed including the kori bustard and the ostrich. 48 different species of mammals and about 1000 elephants also inhabit the area. Great herds of antelopes, giraffes and a significant number of felines (lions, leopards and cheetahs) roam the Tuli Block.
Plants and trees in Tuli
The flora and fauna in the area is unique. The great baobab, leatherwood and mashatu trees grow along the Limpopo River. Just like the leatherwood trees, the big baobab trees can be as old as 4,000 years.
Shashi/Limpopo Tranfrontier Conservation Area
So far the area has mostly been visited by local tourists from Botswana and South Africa. However, support from the Ministry of Tourism has resulted in a higher number of foreign tourists. This has resulted in future plans of creating a 5,000 km3 national park in the area. The national park, which will be known as the Shashi/Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, will be located in the north eastern corner of Botswana.
The project is a collaboration between Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana and the area straddles the international borders of these countries. The park will be the second peace park in Africa succeeding the success of the first; the “The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park” in South Africa and Botswana. The contract commits the three countries to share, protect and manage the park in order to create excellent conditions for the wildlife. The government hopes to strengthen the local conditions and involve the local communities surrounding the park. The park will have several entrances in each country.
Sights in the Tuli Block
Lotsane Safaris arrange guided trips around the stunning Tuli area. In the following is a list of the more exceptional sights:
In Lekopole Hills you will find stunning views and 20,000 year old cave paintings. A must if you are interested in the historical evolution of the southern Africa.
This 30 m tall natural basalt dyke used to be a natural dam in the Motlouse River. During the rainy season you will often find small waterfalls. The first diamonds were found further up the river: this discovery caused the future wealth of Botswana.
Not far from Solomon’s Wall is another historical monument; Rhodes Baobab. Cecil John Rhodes engraved his name on this tree more than a century ago.
The history of the Tuli Block
The Tuli Block is an exciting historical area. Findings indicate that people have been living in the area for about 50000 years. Many of these findings can be seen at the different museums in the region. Traces of old ruins are everywhere in the area including at Lotsane. Scientists are currently determining the age of the findings.
The Stone Age/the Iron Age
Scientists have found cave paintings more than 20,000 year old. More than likely the paintings were painted by San, a nomadic hunting tribe. Over a certain period of time the San people moved further west because of the colonist’s interest in the area. These colonists introduced the Iron Age to Africa.
Many different tribes immigrated to the area from the north and the south of Africa. The tribes focused on cattle farming and pottery. Indications of a hunter-gatherer society are common for the findings from this period. Experts have found graves in the area in the form of pottery from China, Egypt and India. Other cultures visited the Tuli Block during this early period.
In more modern times especially the strife over the area between Cecil John Rhodes, Khama and Paul Kruger has left a lasting imprint on the history of the Tuli Block. All three men had different interests in the area and each tried to acquire as much land as possible.