Holidays to Tsodilo Hills, Botswana
There are a few very special places left on Earth where time seems to have stood still for centuries – mysterious, isolated lands almost untouched by human progress. The Tsodilo Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in a remote corner of north-west Botswana, are one such place. Looming dramatically above the bush-covered Kalahari desert, the four hills are one of the most historically important rock art sites in the world, adorned with over 3,500 rock paintings. A 'Louvre of the desert filled with treasure' in the words of Laurens van der Post, who wrote memorably about them in his 1958 book 'The Lost World of the Kalahari'.
Archaeologists say these hills have been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, making this one of the world’s oldest historical sites. But nobody knows for sure. It all adds to the deep sense of mystery and foreboding as you drive the 40 long kilometres from the village of Shakawe on a rough dirt road. The local San people believe Tsodilo is the cradle of all life and a resting place for the spirits of the dead. And as a bushman guide leads you carefully along the trails to see the hundreds of revered paintings, you can’t fail to be overawed by the site’s unique spiritual significance.
The paintings, some of which have been dated back to around 800 AD, depict both human beings and animals - and it’s thought that some could be as much as 20,000 years old. Look out for the zebra – this iconic image has been adopted as the logo of Botswana National Museum and Monuments. There's something timeless and deeply moving about these ancient depictions of man and beast.
There are no official campsites in the area, but there are a few accommodation options available. Make sure to bring enough food and drinks for your entire stay as there are very little to no facilities available. There isn’t much game in this barren waterless landscape – leopard tracks do appear from time to time in the hills, but the predators stay hidden from sight. And as you prepare to spend a night near or on this magical terrain, remember that for the San bushmen, misfortune will follow if anyone hunts or causes death near the revered Tsodilo Hills.