Situated east of Palapye, the imposing Tswapong Hills rise almost four hundred metres above the surrounding plains. These one-billion year-old titans extend 60 kms west of the village of Moremi, and measure a full 20 kms in breadth. Comprised of sandstone, ironstone and quartzite, which give them their characteristic rich hues, Tswapong holds numerous fascinating, and very beautiful, archaeological, historical and natural history sites.
Some of the earliest traces of Bantu speaking people in Southern Africa have been found in the gorges at Tswapong, and many are littered with fragments of beautifully decorated pottery dating back to the first millennium. Collapsed and buried iron smelters give evidence of the iron smelting that took place in the gorges; and red ochre paintings can be seen under rocky overhangs.
Big game used to occupy this area, but now the hills are home to such mammals as rock dassies, baboons, brown hyena and leopard. Over 350 species of birds have been recorded in the area, including the endangered Cape Vulture, the Black Eagle, the Black Stork and the beautiful Meyer’s Parrot, as well as over a hundred butterfly species.
One of the biggest draws is the lush, wet vegetation and a series of waterfalls – uncharacteristic of Botswana’s generally dry, waterless terrain.
The hills absorb water from deep aquifers in the ground and accumulated rain from above, releasing it in natural fresh springs scattered throughout the hills, which in turn form brooks and – with greater accumulations of water – waterfalls that collect in beautiful lagoons.
Situated deep within the hills, which can only be reached by a rather vigorous climb, Moremi Gorge is the source of three permanent waterfalls. The first two are smaller, but fan out into large waterholes, whilst the uppermost falls is a full ten-metres high, giving rise to arresting scenes of clear water cascading over rocky outcrops, then collecting in a deeply hidden, lushly vegetated, fern-fringed lagoon.
The Moremi Gorge is a designated National Monument and is managed by the Department of National Museum, Monuments and Art Gallery. The Moremi Mannonye Conservation Trust, through the support of the Botswana Tourism Organisation, involves local residents in developing the area for non-consumptive eco-tourism. The area is of great religious and spiritual importance to the community.
Before venturing into the hills, you should, as a matter of courtesy, request permission from the local headman. A National Museum guide is available at Moremi village.
Tswapong is an ideal weekend getaway for residents of and visitors to Gaborone or Francistown. It doesn’t require a four-wheel drive vehicle, and camping is allowed near the site, though at present visitors must come fully self-contained. Plans are underway to develop camping and ablution blocks, trail signage and wooden elevated pathways.