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From Desert to Delta: Tsodilo Hills & Okavango

Rising like giant waves from a flat ocean of Kalahari sand, Botswana’s Tsodilo Hills are more than just a geological oddity. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, this is a place of deep spiritual and cultural significance for the indigenous San (Bushman) people and they have left behind a great treasure. Not gold or silver, but art.

There are so many rock paintings at the Tsodilo Hills (over 4 500) that the site has earned the title of “The Louvre of the Desert”. Reflecting the passage of time from the Stone Age to the 19th Century, the paintings are an astonishing insight into not just cultural but environmental changes over the last 100 000 years. You’ll see local desert wildlife depicted on the rock faces – giraffe, lion and eland – but also creatures that are no longer there – rhinos – as well as paintings that will surprise you: whales and penguins. Human figures are shown too – sometimes riding horses – and archaeological digs have found evidence of iron-smelting, jewellery making and pottery.

Rock paintings Tsodilo Hills.

Local guides lead you around the best sites at Tsodilo & interpret the paintings for you.

There are four hills. According to local history, the largest is the male, the second largest the female and they have a child, the smallest hill; the fourth hill, set a little further away, is the male’s first wife. These hills house the spirits of the dead, and special significance is placed on the female hill: it is here that the San gods reside in deep caves, and it was from the top of the female hill that humans and their livestock were first created.

It’s no wonder you feel a curious atmosphere at the Tsodilo Hills!

Tsodilo is an open, sunny landscape and although the walking is easy, the paintings are scattered over many different sites and you’ll need a registered guide to show you around. There is a San village at the site but no lodge accommodation in the immediate area though several safari camps are located reasonably close by. These camps offer an opportunity to visit the Tsodilo Hills and they are no ordinary camps: another Tsodilo surprise is the realisation that another World Heritage Site lies over the horizon. The famous Okavango Delta is much closer than you think and you can easily combine all the wildlife and beauty of the delta with the cultural experience of the hills.

Guided walks at Tsodilo Hills

You’ll be on foot at Tsodilo as well as in the Okavango Delta – the best way to appreciate the details.

And if you are looking for an Okavango Delta camp with easy access to the Tsodilo Hills, then look no further than Nxamaseri Island Lodge. Set on an island in the ‘Panhandle’ region of the delta and just an hour’s drive from the hills, this long-established lodge is surrounded by permanent water and offers a complete study in contrast to the dry savannah of Tsodilo.

The Okavango’s location in Botswana puts it at the heart of a classic safari itinerary. The delta is a destination usually combined with Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park, giving travellers a taste of Botswana’s most famous wildlife hotspots. For ease, we’ve set up an excellent value-for-money package itinerary for you, including these three wonderful reserves.

Permanent water at Nxamaseri Island Lodge in Okavango

Set on permanent water means Nxamaseri specialises in the water-based experience of the Okavango Delta.

Nxamaseri Island Lodge takes advantage of its location to deliver a classic ‘water-based’ safari: you’ll explore by motor boat as well as by traditional canoe – the mokoro – while in the hands of expert local guides. The birdlife is amazing and includes many big names such as Pel’s fishing owl, African skimmer and slaty egret. And if you are an angler, then you’ve just arrived at the Okavango Delta’s best fly-fishing camp.

Sunset boma at Nxamaseri Island Lodge

An Okavango view greets visitors as the sun begins to set – time to sit down with a drink & discuss the day’s adventures.

Set under big riverside trees, there are canvas and thatch chalets at Nxamaseri, each with their own bathroom and there’s even a family room; the lodge accepts children of all ages though we’d recommend it for families with older children. Raised wooden walkways link each chalet to the main camp with water running beneath the walkways during the flood season.

Comfortable suite at Nxamaseri Island Lodge

Nxamaseri’s suites are comfortable & spacious without being over-the-top & you’ll love the view from your private deck.

The Tsodilo Hills can be visited at any time of year and so can the Okavango Delta though if you are hoping to do some wildlife viewing, it’s best to plan your safari between June and October – the dry season. Also include on your itinerary a ‘land-based’ camp in the Okavango where safari drives are offered. If you have an eye on the fishing, then visit between April and August for bream fishing at Nxamaseri but from late August to early November for Tiger Fish as they follow the annual catfish run.

Phenomenal birding at Nxamaseri Island lodge

The African fish-eagle is commonly seen at Nxamaseri but you’ll have to wait until August/September for the lovely Southern carmine bee-eater.

We’ve set up a special package itinerary for you combining Tsodilo Hills with the Chobe and Moremi National Parks.
To learn more, please follow the link.

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Gwen (AU)
Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

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Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

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Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

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Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

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Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

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