Botswana has over 2,500 such sites, of which more than 100 have been gazetted. The National Monuments and Relics Act of 2001 ensures that the sites are adequately protected. Most are free to visit and some have full time guides. Continuing the series of articles, MIKE and JEREMY BROOK* cover Lentswe-la -Baratani Hill, Segorong Gorge, Mogobane Mines and Mogobane Sanctuary, all within an hourâ€™s drive, south-west of Gaborone.
Lentswe la Baratani Hill
There are many legends surround Baratani, but the best known is about two young lovers who were denied permission to marry. Despondent, they tragically both flung themselves off the cliff to their deaths. Or, most likely, they may simply have eloped.
Another legend says that there is an enormous snake, possibly an African python, living in the hill which eats people. Historically, Batswana would neither climb the hill nor point at it.
Visitors wishing to climb Baratani should seek permission from the Otse chief or be accompanied by a guide from the National Museum.
Baratani Hill (the Hill of Lovers) is along the Gaborone-Lobatse road west of Otse village. The hill is about 42km from the capital Gaborone and 20km from Lobatse. It’s the most famous among the many of the Otse Hills. Legend has it that a long time ago two lovers climbed the hill and never came back. It is believed that, the two were denied the chance to be together by their parents, but their love was too strong to be separated.
They decided to go top of the hill and it is believed that they committed suicide, hence the name Baratani (Hill of Lovers). Since that fateful incident, some consider the hill out of bounds, and the belief held locally is that anyone who climbs the hill will never return. Several years back, a man is said to have climbed the hill, and came back to claim that he was permitted to return because he had communicated with the ancestors.
Another of the many stories about Baratani hill is that, sometimes at night, one may see the light of a fire at the top of the hill set by the two lovers who reside there to this day. At the Otse kgotla, the elders and the chief may be willing to narrate more of these stories and give you an account of the historical events of the area.
By about AD 600, Iron Age farmers had arrived in southeastern Botswana. Relics of settlements dating AD 605-647 have been unearthed at Lentswe La Baratani. There are many walled enclosures on Mogobane Hill, and a very large area of numerous relics and walled dwellings close to the summit of Mogobane Hill. It is difficult to identify each enclosure’s purpose, but one has numerous grinding stones and round rock pebbles (used as pestles and mortar) suggesting it was a food preparation area of the communal kitchen.
Close to Mogobane, and east of Lentswe-La- Baratani, is the Segorong Gorge, the highest in Botswana. It begins on the slopes of Otse Hill (the highest point in Botswana at 1,491 metres above sea level) and forms very scenic woodland with a small waterfall in the rainy season. A permanent spring emanates from the side of the gorge, just below a large cave which is used for spiritual gatherings. The fresh spring water is used by some who believe it has healing properties.
Other, smaller caves occur on the northern side of the gorge. Bird watching is also very good and its lower parts are used for spiritual purposes by religious groups who baptise, pray and perform rituals during the wet season.
A spectacular view of Mogobane sanctuary and the way out to Kanye is from a newly graded steep track which leads to one of several old, abandoned manganese mines along the Transvaal Super group rocks outcrop which form the Baratani and Otse Hills.
Manganese mining was first conducted in the Botswana Kalahari Manganese Field deposits in the pre-independence period, and specifically at Baratani from 1962 to 1964. Mining exploration companies have recently taken out new prospecting licences for Manganese in this area. The licences cover areas underlain by rocks of the Transvaal Super group in an extension of the Griqualand West basin in South Africa, known in Botswana as the Kanye basin. More than 50 percent of the world’s manganese resources are contained in this mineral district. It is essential to iron and steel production by virtue of its alloying, deoxidising, and sulfur-fixing properties. Manganese is also used in aluminum alloys, batteries, colourants and fertilisers.
Situated in the South – East District, about 50km south of Gaborone on the road to Lobatse, take the right turn to the Police Academy at the foot of Lentswe la Baratani Hill (Lovers’ Hill) and the sanctuary is on your left, six kilometres after the turn. The Mogobane irrigation scheme was developed in the colonial era and includes a dam, pipeline and 50 hectares (120acres) of irrigable fields. It was taken over by the district council in 1966 when the Sanctuary was founded. The Sanctuary covers just over a square kilometre; at an equidistance of 1.6 kilometres from the dam itself. There is a bird sanctuary bordering the dam to the west, with the goal of protecting birds that are not classified as game birds. The reservoir is home to a variety of bird life, with as many as 70 species being recorded at different times of the year including 11 species of herons and egrets, 14 species of ducks and geese and 24 species of waders.
In summer the shallows are used by waders, and black-headed and grey herons, cattle egret, reed cormorant and African spoonbill breed in the reed beds in the centre of the shallows when they are surrounded by water. Orange-breasted waxbill and fan-tailed cisticola are found in the reeds and grasses around the reservoir. Birdlife is most prolific when the dam is partially full.
The 2004/5 season produced a record of 1,703 bird sightings, with record numbers of red-knobbed coot (328) and southern pollard (384).
*Taken from a new book called, Wild About Botswana, to be released at Christmas
Mike and Jeremy Brook