Tuli Block

Tuli Block

Things to do - general

The Tuli Block is a narrow fringe of land at Botswana’s eastern border wedged between Zimbabwe in the north and east and South Africa in the south. It consists mainly of privately owned game farms offering safari tourism. The eastern section up to and including Redshield has been declared a game reserve, known as the Northern Tuli Game Reserve.

Tuli is renowned for its geographical features — Solomon’s Wall by the Motloutse River at the southwestern corner of the Tuli Block, as well as for its location near 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 all the major cities in Botswana.

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.

Straddling the Shashe, Motloutse and Limpopo Rivers, which serve as natural boundaries with Zimbabwe and South Africa, the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (NTGR) comprises 71,000 hectares of remarkably diverse habitat, including 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 awesome sight. All major predators, including lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena, are present, and the birdlife is prolific.

The NTGR is adjacent to a larger area of eastern Botswana called the Tuli Block. This is a ten kilometre wide strip of land running approximately Northern Tuli Game Reserve 180 kilometres south to Martin’s Drift that holds 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 an important historical perspective to 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.

Artifacts from the Mapungubwe Kingdom (1220-1290AD), a precursor to the Great Zimbabwe civilisation, reveal the sophistication of the technology and society of its people, 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 will be one of the largest wildlife conservation areas in Southern Africa.

Country Botswana

Sports & nature

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 awesome sight. All major predators, including lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena, are present, and the birdlife is prolific.Sports and nature image

Culture and history info

Britain declared a protectorate over Bechuanaland in 1885. A decade later Chief Khama III ceded the area to the British South Africa Company. The object was to make the thin strip of rocky terrain a buffer against incursions by the South African Boer farmers. It was also on the direct route to Rhodesia where Cecil Rhodes intended to build his railway from the Cape to Cairo. Rhodes soon discovered that the terrain across several rivers, gorges and rocky outcrops was totally unsuitable for building a railway so he shifted the line to today's route, which runs almost parallel but across the flat plains further to the west. The BSAC built Fort Tuli to protect its land and cattle, but otherwise found little economic use for the Tuli block. Hopes of finding gold in the area were quickly dashed. So a decade later the company sold off its land to private commercial farmers. They too soon found that the rugged, rocky terrain, with its rivers prone to flash floods, was unsuitable for anything but sparse livestock farming. After the World War the farmers realised that more money could be made from the growing tourism market than direct farming. The Tuli block is an area of outstanding natural beauty with majestic rocks, strange vegetation, abundant wildlife, a profusion of birds and a rich archaeological heritage. This led the landowners to convert almost the whole strip into private game farms and reserves where tourists could be given exclusive holidays. Today the general public can only really access the Tuli block through the safari companies and these established farms and reserves. Otherwise private visitors are restricted to the main road running the length of the block. The North East Tuli Game Reserve, on the confluence of the Limpopo and the Shashe rivers, is the collective name for several privately owned game reserves including the Mashatu and Tuli Game Reserves, covering all the land north of the Motloutse River. The whole area consisting of game reserves, hunting and conservation concessions covers up to 300,000 ha and is the largest privately owned game conservation area in Southern Africa. Mashatu Game Lodge has the largest elephant population on private land. Boer War Phalapye had received news on October 16, 1899 that the Waterberg commando, under Assistant Commandant-General Frederick A. Grobler, was assembling on the eastern side of the Limpopo at Seleka's (opposite Ngwapa), near the drift later marked on South African maps as Groblersbrug. The next day Khama ordered out the Maolola (or Mafhiri) regiment, under his brother Kebailele, to guard the Mahalapye railway bridge. On the 20th and 21st came more definite intelligence that Grobler's force intended to attack Phalapye by way of redoubts at Ngwapa hill, Sefhare hill, and Ratholo at the foot of the Tswapong hills. Khama immediately sent a regiment of 400 men to fortify Ngwapa, the key natural fortress of the area. Thirty-six hours later, 100 Rhodesian white militia with a 7-pounder gun arrived at Palapye Road station. 80 of them repaired to Phalapye town, where the substantial church building was converted into a fortress inside a double-ring of stone walls, stocked with a month's provisions for the white population. On October 22, Khama received an ultimatum from Frederick Grobler, couched in respectful terms, informing him of the South African Republic's intention to invade. Grobler warned Khama to remain neutral. Khama replied the next day: 'If you enter with armed men into my country, and among my cattle-posts, I shall fight you.' He added that white people were under his protection, not vice versa. Grobler made no immediate advance. He fretted over the failure of the northward thrust of the Marico and Rustenburg forces up the railway towards Mahalapye. Characteristically impatient, he withdrew with 400 men in a feint to the south and re-appeared in the north at Rhodes' Drift, near Tuli, to reinforce the Soutpansberg commando of Commandant van Rensburg - against the British Rhodesian forces of Colonel Plumer. Grobler's request to invade Rhodesia with van Rensburg was turned down by Pretoria. So, on or about November 5, Grobler came once again to camp at Seleka's village, with reinforcements from the Soutpansberg commando. There were now reportedly at Seleka's 637 Boers with 97 waggons and 4 field-pieces, together with about 750 armed African auxiliaries. Khama dispatched another regiment of 370 men to Ngwapa hill, a natural fortress that stood high above the valley - making a total of 700 defenders there. On Tuesday, November 7, 1899, the combined Transvaal forces crossed the Limpopo and fired four shells at Ngwapa. They then doubled back across the river and began to build an earth-walled fort. There were no casualties on either side in the skirmish. Satisfied with this display of force, the concentration of Boer forces at Seleka's then dispersed north and south along the Bechuanaland front. The Soutspansberg commando, with Waterberg assistance, made attacks across the Limpopo on Plumer's forces at Rhodes Drift on November 16–18. But Grobler and van Rensburg had dissipated and lost the military initiative.Culture and history image

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