Botswana is renowned for its unique and achingly beautiful wilderness areas but in a league of their own for sheer mystique and wonder are the Tsodilo Hills, a sacred place to the first inhabitants of Botswana.
The Tsodilo Hills are situated in the heart of the Great Central Plateau of Southern Africa in Botswana, which is a very flat country in the African context. Here the sandy depths of the Kalahari Desert
ensure views to the distant horizons, so it is no surprise that the presence of hills in this vast flat region elicits great interest - and so they have drawn people from the time of the area's earliest inhabitants.
Botswana's only World Heritage Site to date, the Tsodilo Hills inspire awe by the mere mention of the name. But what is so special about the place aside from some spectacular rock art?
A great journey in itself
Years ago getting to the Tsodilo Hills was a great journey, through thick sand on barely discernible tracks - a journey that would take the whole day, depending on where the starting point was. The Hills, which can be seen from up to 100 km's away
, would tease the senses, never seeming to get any closer during the slow progress of the journey.
Today however, there is a well-kept dirt road that leads from the now-tarred Okavango Panhandle road, cutting the travelling time down to around and hour from the main highway. Despite this, the sense of expectation during the journey is high
and nothing can beat the feeling of awe when finally seeing the Tsodilo Hills up close for the first time.
Still a sense of place
The Hills have been fenced in now and an entry gate is manned by Botswana Parks personnel in line with its Heritage Site status. Camping near the Hills is still allowed, but in a more controlled environment than in the past.
There are a number of signs to indicate the advance of modernisation in the area but the sense of presence that Tsodilo Hills possesses
is still very strong, with the four hills still exuding a strong sense of mystique. There are many frequent visitors who say that the Hills are losing their soul with each new development in the area, but as with all things on earth time moves on.
Tsodilo Hills - a personal note
Development is a non-stoppable force, and many sacred sites are destroyed in the name of development, but after a recent visit to the Tsodilo Hills it was obvious that there are many places that will be protected through time, if not by us then by the sheer power of their presence - and such a place is Tsodilo Hills.
The feeling of being somewhere special still echoes strongly in Tsodilo Hills, the light still enhances the senses
, and there is still a feeling bordering on spirituality about the whole area. Tsodilo Hills remains one of the most sacred places on earth - the Hills of the Gods.By Leigh Kemp