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.
The Northern Tuli Game Reserve (NTGR) comprises 71,000 hectares of remarkably diverse habitat, straddling the Shashe, Motloutse and Limpopo Rivers. These rivers serve as natural boundaries with Zimbabwe and South Africa. They include 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 incredible sight. All major predators, including lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena, are present, and the birdlife is prolific.
The NTGR is adjacent to a larger eastern Botswana area called the Tuli Block. The ten kilometres wide Northern Tuli Game Reserve is a strip of land that reaches 180 kilometres south to Martin's Drift, including 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 a critical historical perspective on 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.
Artefacts from the Mapungubwe Kingdom (1220-1290AD), a precursor to the Great Zimbabwe civilisation, reveal the sophistication of its people's technology and society 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 be one of the largest wildlife conservation areas in Southern Africa.
Activity highlights in Northern Tuli Game Reserve include the following:
- Game drives
- Horseback riding
- Bicycle safaris
- Community visits
Mapungubwe was a prosperous Iron Age metropolis situated on the Limpopo River banks that thrived nearly a thousand years ago, ruled by a king of the Leopard Kopje people, with extensive trade networks reaching 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 superior craftsmanship and quality. One of the most famous pieces unearthed by archaeologists is a superbly crafted golden rhino. Other works 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, and over 400 species of birds.
Local village tours often become a highlight of a trip to Tuli. A morning outing to the quaint village of Motlhabaneng makes a delightful outing. Consisting of a visit to the kgotla for a chat with the village chief or headman, and then calling it the local primary school where children can don traditional clothing to demonstrate the local dance. These activities can then be followed by witnessing basket-makers practising their skilled craft so that guests can interact with villagers and learn something of their traditional lifeways and watch hand-woven baskets in the making.
Ancient rock paintings almost certainly created by Southern Africa's original inhabitants, the San, can also be seen at the outskirts of Motlhabaneng. The images depict people, animals, hunting scenes and mythological creatures, part of the San's complex cosmology and belief system.
This unique natural phenomenon in the Tuli Block is a 30-metre-high basalt dyke once formed a steep-sided natural dam wall across the Motloutse River.
This ten-metre-high ancient dyke once held back a great lake, with waterfalls spilling over the Wall. Evidence of this great lake is the numerous semi-precious stones (e.g. quartz and agate) found along the Motloutse River bed.
Tall fever trees line the natural beach, making for a shady picnic site. Visitors can only access Solomon's Wall with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.