The Tuli Block in Botswana
The Tuli Block is a long, thin fringe of land demarcating Botswana’s southeastern border. The Tuli consists mainly of privately owned game farms, offering spectacular safari tourism. The eastern section up to and including Redshield has been declared a game reserve, known as the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Tuli has a fascinating frontier history and is renowned for its curious geographical features — Solomon’s Wall and the Tswapong and Lepokole hills where the ancestors of the San people left traces of their rock paintings. The Tuli is readily accessible by road from South Africa and the all major cities in Botswana
The Tuli reaches from the Northeast corner of Botswana, where the Shashe and the Limpopo Rivers meet, down to the Notwane River north of Olifants Drift in the South West. The entire conservancy area, including the adjacent safari area bordering the Tuli Circle, comprises about 800,000 hectares. The Tuli Block is quite different from anywhere else in Botswana. It is referred to as the Hardveld because of the rocky outcrops and the abundance of stones and pebbles of all shapes and sizes. The red sand of the Tuli area is an unforgettable trait, as well as the massive trees that occur along the banks of the Limpopo.
Much of the area is unfenced allowing the animals to roam freely between the Motloutse and Limpopo rivers. The vegetation is spectacular, the scenery diverse. Gigantic Nyala trees and the yellow barked fever trees grow along the riverbanks. Gaunt sesame trees take root in rocky outcrops. Animals flourish in the wild terrain.
Wildebeest, kudu, eland, impala and waterbuck migrate through the area. Lions (some of them black maned), leopard and cheetah follow the game and mingle with the large herds of elephants. Bird life proliferates in the diverse environment. Tuli is one of the best places in southern Africa for ornithologists. Over 350 species of birds have been identified in the area, including rock thrushes, boulder chats, shrikes and cormorants. Different kinds of kingfishers dart into the streams and rivers, while waders stand in the shallows.
In other parts of Botswana night drives are not permitted, but here, on private land, game drives are arranged where visitors can see the elusive nocturnal creatures that are seldom seen by day, like the leopard, caracul, aardwolf and aardvark. By day experienced trackers and spotters take visitors into the bush by four-wheel-drive or on foot, while mountain biking over organised tracks has become increasingly popular.
Solomon’s Wall is one of the most fascinating and dramatic geographical features. The sheer basalt cliffs, 30 metres high, once formed a natural dam across the Motloutse river. A huge lake filled up behind it, with a waterfall spilling over the dyke during the rains, leaving rich mineral deposits of quartz, agate and other semi-precious stones. It was in the sands higher up the Motloutse river that the first alluvial diamonds were found in Botswana, giving a hint of the wealth that was to come.
At Molalatu, just north of the Tuli Block, the descendants of the original inhabitants still live. The villagers belonging to the Zionist Christian Church community have devised an ingenious method of protecting their livestock against the wildlife in the area. They breed ‘goat dogs’. When the puppies are small they foster them out to lactating goats that treat them as their own children. The puppies grow up thinking of themselves as goats while preserving all their canine instincts. As they get older they accompany the goatherds into the bush, guarding them against predators. Though no match for larger wild animals their reactions create an element of surprise and often scare off potential attackers. Anyway the villagers consider them an effective deterrent and they charge visitors a small fee to see the ‘goat dogs’.
The Tuli area is also famous for its Tswapong and Lepokole hills. Tswapong is more accessible to the east of Palapye. Over the ages deep gorges have been carved into the ancient granite rocks by the seasonal rivers and springs. Waterfalls, rock pools and the exotic surrounding vegetation is unique in Botswana. A pile of granite blocks forms the Lepokole hills north of Bobonong. The last of the San in eastern Botswana lived in the hills and left more of their rock paintings in the caves and rocks. Stone Age tools and ancient pottery scattered around the hills are evidence of even earlier occupation.