Desert & Delta Safaris awakens the legend of Tsodilo Hills :: Mmegi Online
Far on the western horizon, across the vast plains of Kalahari shrubland, a wintry morning mist merges with smoke from veld fires to produce a rosy hue that skirts isolated hills in the middle of nowhere. This is the bird’s eye view of the mystical hills of Tsodilo from the Okavango Delta enclave.
As we approach in a small helicopter, just at the right altitude, the soft morning light illuminates the top of Malé Hill, one of the highest points in Botswana at 1,400m above sea level. The ‘Child’, the small hill in the far north, is almost completely shrouded in mist while the dotted peaks of the Female Hill in the middle are barely visible. The panoramic spectacle resembles an old watercolor painting, a minimalist artwork or a surreal landscape artwork.
With all my many past visits to Tsodilo Hills, I have never seen it like this. And I conclude that a helicopter arrival at Tsodilo Hills is a sight to behold. This is the most amazing arrival on the hills. As the little flying machine makes its final approach, the incredible mysticism of “The Mountains of the Gods”, as the early inhabitants of the Kalahari refer to the hills of Tsodilo, strikes me. I could feel the chills. Goosebumps. Indeed, it must be the Tombstones of the Gods. Looking down on Male Hill from the southern end in the air, the grandeur of Tsodilo is revealed in the most fulfilling way, both physically and spiritually.
Tsodilo is the holiest site of the first peoples of the Kalahari. It is the temple of the San, the site of the beginning of sex and the oldest ritual site for hunting missions. Archaeologists say the hills have been inhabited for around 100,000 years, making it one of the oldest historic sites in the world. The hills are home to over 4,000 rock art paintings around 400 conveniently located sites.
Researchers say there could still be more undiscovered or vandalized paintings. The oldest rock art known to have been painted at Tsodilo is estimated to be over 10,000 years old. Researchers have argued that the oldest visible works are around 3,000 years old, but most date from 700 to 1100 AD.
There are red and white paintings and the former is older than the latter. Most are finger paints made from crushed hematite, charcoal and calcrete possibly mixed with animal fat, blood, egg white, honey, sap and urine .
Most recently, in 2006, a discovery by Associate Professor Sheila Coulson of the University of Oslo showed that modern humans, Homo sapiens, had been performing advanced rituals at Tsodilo White Rhino Cave for over 100 years. 70,000 years old. Until Coulson’s sensational discovery, scholars had largely argued that modern man’s first rituals took place just over 40,000 years ago in Europe. This is why Tsodilo is a revered sacred site.
And it’s for this undeniable mysticism that local tour operator, Desert & Delta Safaris, has invested in the area to add Tsodilo Hills to its portfolio.
Desert & Delta Safaris has acquired the Nxamaseri Island Lodge located along the Okavango Panhandle and intends to use the lodge to provide a missing piece of the cultural heritage tourism experience in Botswana.
Although the Tsodilo Hills were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, tourism in the area has not been satisfactory. One of the reasons Tsodilo has been left behind is that tourism operators have not taken the initiative to package it up and sell it to the main tourists who frequent Botswana. Most tourists only sold the amazing wildlife tourism product without any mention of culture and people.
This then caused only wildlife tourist spots like the Okavango Delta, Chobe and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to become hotspots for tourists.
Along with other successful lodges around the Okavango Delta, Chobe and Makgadikgadi Pans, Desert & Delta Safaris aims to awaken the great legend of Tsodilo, diversify their wildlife tourism offerings and, by extension, contribute to the sustainable development of the inhabitants of Tsodilo who hope to benefit from tourism in the region.
Part of the Tsodilo activity package that Desert & Delta Safaris hopes to make standard would be a helicopter ride up the hills from Nxamaseri Island Lodge. The incredible ride offers both scenic views of the Okavango River meandering and twisting before it forms the delta, as well as the spectacular arrival at the Sacred Mountains of the Gods, and I believe it will soon be a popular tourism activity in Botswana. .
*Thalefang Charles was a guest of Desert & Delta Safaris on his 40th birthday and stayed at Nxamaseri Island Lodge.