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a rich & colourful patchwork of a diverse whole

Botswana, 18 Days, Cultural Academics

Botswana, 18 Days, Cultural Academics

$ 2495 / per person
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Rock Art, Iron Age & Stone Age sites


18 days / 17 nights
Pricing starting @ USD 2495 per person sharing

Valid August – December 2024


To view our full collection of Cultural Academic Tours, click here


To view our full collection of Cultural Academic Tours, click here


The Batswana are descended mainly from Bantu-speaking tribes who migrated southward into Botswana as recently as 1500 years ago.  In stark contrast, the San and Khoi People have lived in this region, mainly in the Okavango-Makgadikgadi area, for more than 20 000 years.  Perhaps to their detriment, the migration of African tribes, as well as the influx of the Boer and Europeans, especially the British, somewhat displaced the indigenous hunter-gatherer Bushman Tribes.  Today there are still around 35,000 of these people in more secluded areas, many of whom fight a daily struggle to live with, and preserve, their old customs and traditions.


Now a multi-ethic nation, Botswana is one of Africa’s richest, most colourful and diverse countries, with every one of its cultures contributing its own heritage of domestic life, folklore, music, song & dance.  In addition, the strong desire of the San and Khoi Communities to retain their heritage has ensured that, even though Botswana continues to evolve as a modern hub, it remains deep rooted in its core traditional values.


Around the world, Botswana is best known for its priceless natural heritage – its semi-arid landscapes of the Kalahari Desert as well as its network of waterways of the Okavango Delta.  But very little is known, or documented, of its physical heritage sites, substantiated by the fact that it currently boasts only one official UNESCO World Heritage Sitethe sacred hills of Tsodilo in the north western region of the country.


The Tsodilo Hills are the sacred grounds of the first inhabitants of Botswana, the Bushmen.  Referred to as the ”Louvre of the Desert”, the Tsodilo Hills boast one of the highest concentrations of rock paintings in the world.  In an area of approximately 10 square kilometres, for example, there are over 4,500 paintings – not well dated unfortunately.  But with this being said – some of the art work may be really old and others perhaps more modern.  Further afield one can find pockets of archaeological evidence and art, made by these indigenous people, that dates back to the Stone Age.


In addition to enjoying the richness of rock paintings in the Tsodilo Hills area, for the more intuitive visitor or student of culture and heritage, it is an old-time place of spirituality, a place that still has the power of attraction for the more modern-day tribal inhabitants of Botswana.


So we know that we will immerse ourselves in a rich heritage of art-works, artefacts, nature, spirituality of old and new, as well as oral heritage.  The communities of Botswana consider poetry to be a premier cultural art, which makes for wonderful social interaction, if enticed to share.  And when it comes to the preservation of their oral heritage, Botswana’s cultural and heritage fore-runners may be one ahead of the rest.  The craft of folklore has been transcribed and recorded, thereby ensuring that it is not lost over the generations, but also meaning that it is more accessible to those who wish to study yet another facet of local heritage.


Your travels through Botswana are going to reveal a true to Africa experience, you will enjoy mostly the artworks of the San and Khoi, with scattered Iron and Stone Age sites, an abundance of local fauna and flora and perhaps most uniquely an opportunity to interact with the people known as Africa’s oldest residents.  But, amongst all of this, also keep an eye out for the Baobab Tree!  One of the country’s most iconic symbols – under which local matters were discussed and rulings handed down by village elders for centuries. The massive trees are still the centre of rural life for many Batswana.  The Baobab is like no other, it stands firm and un-weathered by its surroundings.



  • 17 Nights’ accommodation, sharing 2, 4 or 6 persons per unit.
  • Daily breakfasts or breakfast packs.
  • Daily lunches or lunch packs and dinners.
  • Coach or overland vehicles for all scheduled travel and transfers.
  • All entrances to museums, monuments, cultural and heritage sites as included in the programme.
  • Specialist guides & tours leaders.
  • Recreational and safari activities as indicated in the itinerary.






It is important to note that Safari Odyssey is not an accredited academic institution, however we do collaborate with, and enjoy the endorsements of, professional and accredited institutions.  The primary role of Safari Odyssey and it’s representatives is to provide complete logistical support for a proposed field school or, if need be, to manage the entire programme, including all logistics, study contents and the execution thereof if the study group does not have representation of its own.  The framework may be designed as cultural field schools, visual or physical research programmes, in a single or over multiple destinations and including the entire academic programme or parts thereof depending on whether the group will be accompanied by their own “in-house” teacher or not.  Safari Odyssey is able to source the relevant academic content as well as local field-specialists and leaders, all of whom are professionally trained or employed.  The aim of our Cultural Academics and Field School Programmes is to provide access to South and southern African cultural sites and resources, without intervention, but under qualified supervision within the rules set out in our National Heritage Act, “Act 25 of 1999” as well as the academic requirements of the participating teaching institution.  This product enables either the “student” or “tourist” to, at first hand, experience the specific cultural and historical event/s that is of interest to him or her.  Our products are open to tailor-making ie. the course content, academic leaders and presenters, route structure, field of study or interest, location and services can be adjusted and collectively decided upon.

Tour Plan


Day 1: Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS)

Group participants will be met upon arrival at the OR Tambo International Airport and transferred to your Sandton-based hotel.  After a quick refresher the group will meet at a private venue within the hotel for purposes of familiarization around the 11 day /10 night tour programme.  Following the briefing enjoy lunch at the hotel and then depart on your first outing into the bustling and ever-changing city of Johannesburg.  Your afternoon will be spent  on a tour of ancient African history, starting with a visit to the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), Archaeological Department.  Enjoy a presentation by a WITS researcher and enjoy an insight into the Evolutionary Studies Institute, the Rock Art Research Institute and finally a tour through the WITS Origins Centre.  Time permitting, the group can participate in an ochre painting experience.  Enjoy your first evening at a culturally modern restaurant and indulge in your first taste of African cuisine and music.

Days 2 & 3: Johannesburg to the Waterberg, Limpopo

Early morning breakfast, followed by a road transfer to the Waterberg, in the Limpopo River Valley.  This part of the country-side holds within it an incredibly rich Northern Sotho heritage and an impressive collection of arts and artifacts.  Your destination is the Goudrivier Game Lodge where the next two days will be spent investigating the rock art sites of Goudrivier - one of the few “congregation” sites in Southern Africa that is smaller but on the same scale as Twyfelfontein (Namibia) and Tsodilo Hills (Botswana).   In addition to its celebrated hunter-gatherer rock art made by the San (or Bushmen), southern Africa has a number of later rock art traditions made by Bantu-speaking farmers. The most extensive of these traditions in terms of area covered and number of sites is the rock art of the Northern Sotho. This art is found spread across the greater part of northern South Africa.   Northern Sotho rock art is easily distinguished from San rock art both by its colour and by its form. It is predominantly executed in white and was applied thickly onto the rock by finger (in contrast to the polychrome brushwork paintings of the San. The choice of white as the dominant colour is characteristic of rock art traditions belonging to Bantu-speaking agriculturists). Reflecting this, these arts have become colloquially known as the 'late whites'.   The afternoons allow for sundowner game drives in the scenically beautiful environment of the Waterberg mountains, with a prolific amount of fauna, wildlife and birds.  Enjoy a bush braai (barbeque) for dinner at days end.

Day 4: The Waterberg to Serowe, Botswana

Departing out the Waterberg this morning you will travel in a northerly direction toward Serowe, Botswana.  En-route is a magnificent series of topographical, archaeological and historical features.  You will spend your day scouting all three, including the Tswapong & Toutswemogala Hills as well as the Old Palapye Ruins.The group will overnight at the Palapye Camping Site.   The Tswapong Hills are about 15km wide and rise 400m above their surroundings. The rocks of Tswapong Hills were formed 1800 million years ago within a major sedimentary basin. The western edge of the hill range presents the magnificent remains of the Historic Ngwato capital with the famous church built under the leadership of Khama III in 1892. The area has evidence of multiple phases of human occupation from early Stone Age to the 19th century AD and is also famous for its vast archaeological material including rock paintings, iron smelting sites and cultural practices particularly the intangible heritage of Moremi village.   Old Palapye is an important multicultural historical site containing artifacts from the Middle Stone Age, the Late Stone Age, the Early Iron Age, and in contemporary times, the 19th century capital of the Bangwato (led by Khama III), who occupied the area from 1889-1902.  Stone walls, middens, the stone remains of rondavels, rock paintings, and the remains of a prison, market centre and historic graves (both Europeans’ and Batswana’s) can all be seen at Old Palapye. The most outstanding structure is the remains of the London Missionary Society Church, which was built between 1891 and 1894. The front and back of the burnt-brick structure still stand, giving some idea of the huge effort that would have gone into its construction.   Toutswemogala is an elongated flat-topped hill rising about 50 meters above the surrounding flat mopane veld. It is an Iron Age settlement, which has been occupied on two different occasions. The radio-carbon dates for this settlement range from 7th to late 19th century AD indicating occupation of more than one thousand years. The remaining features of Toutswe settlement include house-floors, large heaps of vitrified cow-dung and burial sites while the outstanding structure is the stone wall.

Days 5, 6 & 7: Serowe to Kubu Island, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana

Early morning departure from Serowe travelling north to Kubu Island (Ga'nnyo), a dry granite rock island located in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan area of Botswana.  One would want to capture and experience every phase of the day while in this exquisite environment - each bringing with it a unique life form.  It may be natural lighting, the smell in the air, morning creatures, evening flowers perhaps going to sleep while morning flowers are opening up.  It may also include different creatures venturing out onto the pans to catch the early morning dew and fresh grazing!   The entire Kubu Island is a national monument, boasting rich archaeological and cultural significance.  There is evidence of prehistoric human activity, perhaps Homo Habilis – as spearheads and other artifacts have been found along the shore of the island.  In addition, the island is considered a sacred site, where ceremonies (dating back a 1000 years) still take place amongst the indigenous people of the area. Those men who are older than 16, come here to make contact with God, here they may sing a special song for rain and leave offerings.   As visitors to this area you will be fortunate enough to experience it all in one day.  This beauty of your stark surrounds, is a fortunate added extra for you to appreciate while at the same time processing the historical development and environmental value of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.   The pans are the salty remains of ancient Lake Makgadikgadi. Scientists estimate that the inland sea once spanned anywhere from 80,000 to 275,000 square kilometers, one of the largest inland seas on earth and now also one of the largest salt pans on earth. The Okavango, Zambezi, and Cuando rivers likely emptied into this lake until tectonic shifts changed the elevation of the landscape and a changing climate dried up the rains.  For much of the year, the salt pans glimmer in white, parched by the sun and the salt and allowing little more than algae to grow. But during the rainy season (roughly November to March), the area can be transformed into a crucial wetland, creating short-lived but abundant grasslands. The event draws migrating wildebeest and zebras, as well as the predators that hunt them. The waters fill with ducks, geese, pelicans, and flamingos.   Africa’s most famous explorer, Dr. David Livingstone, crossed these pans in the 19th century, guided by a massive baobab, Chapman’s Tree – believed to be 3 000 to 4 000 years old, and the only landmark for hundreds of miles around.  Humans have inhabited areas of the pans since the Stone age, and have adapted to geographical and climatic changes as they have occurred. Archaeological sites on the pans are rich with Early Man’s tools, and the bones of the fish and animals he ate.   Probably the most out there experience of your trip is going to be the overnight camping experience in the Kubu Island surrounds, Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.  It will be an environment never experienced before, new to every one of your senses – you need to open up and absorb it all!

Day 8: Kubu Island to Maun

By now you are starting to settle into the African way, distances travelled, bush, dust, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, nature, culture and wildlife unique to Botswana only!.  Once in Maun, you will probably want to rest for a moment to catch your breath.  Extract from UNESCO World Heritage Site Listing re The Okavango Delta:  This delta in north-west Botswana comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the River Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronized their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods. It is an exceptional example of the interaction between climatic, hydrological and biological processes. The Okavango Delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion.

Days 9, 10, 11 & 12: Maun to Tsodilo Hills (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

No need to rush into the start of the day as this is slow days travel, between Maun and Tsodilo Hills, heading West toward the Namibian border.  After breakfast, make sure you have your travel comforts with you, settle into the overland vehicle and enjoy the passing scenery as we head deeper into a more secluded part of Botswana – you may literally feel as though you are heading on a road less travelled. . . . . .  Pending arrival time, you would definitely want to stretch your legs, so a short walk may put you in the right frame of mind in preparation for your next two days, in this – one of Africa’s premier Bushman rock art sites - Tsodilo Hills.  Tsodilo is now a national monument and Botswana's first World Heritage Site. Tsodilo Hills consist of a high-rise quartzite outcrop in the otherwise flat surrounding Kalahari sand-veld.  Amongst the remains of the village, archaeological evidence including pottery, stone tools and simple jewellery indicates that various groups used the hills as a trading and resting post.  In addition to these artefacts, and amongst the hills near Shakawe, over 4 000 individual paintings, at almost 400 sites, including images of humans, wild & domestic animals, various geometric patterns and shapes exist.  The local! Kung people call the hills respectively the Male, Female and Child.  Presently, the only people living beneath the shadows of the three hills are a small extended family of Kung and a group of Hambukushu, who see Tsodilo as a sacred site.  Your day does not end with just its rich heritage – its immense natural beauty, with the trees, birds and incredible vistas will be enjoyed as part of an early morning and late afternoon sunset game drive or guided walk.   Your accommodation will be rather special too – true safari style camping and cooking will complement your most remote yet African location.  Extract from UNESCO World Heritage Site Listing re Tsodilo: With one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world, Tsodilo has been called the ''Louvre of the Desert''. Over 4,500 paintings are preserved in an area of only 10 km2 of the Kalahari Desert. The archaeological record of the area gives a chronological account of human activities and environmental changes over at least 100,000 years. Local communities in this hostile environment respect Tsodilo as a place of worship frequented by ancestral spirits.

Day 13: Tsodilo Hills to Ghanzi

The first Khoi-Khoi / Nama herders arrived in Southern Africa at the end of the Later Stone Age (LSA) approximately 2000 years ago, bringing with them domesticated animals, pottery, metals and a system of hierarchical chieftainship, and they found the San roaming the then much wetter plains of southern Africa. New resources became available to the San through contact with these herders, changing their material culture to use stone tool and later metal technologies.  Archaeological evidence of the existence of the Khoi-Khoi (or Khoekoen) in Ghanzi was found at Dqãe Qare farm, namely a piece of thin-walled pottery, but several excavations in Botswana provided evidence, such as Kuke, Tsodilo, Toteng etc.  Early occupation of various groups of the Ghanzi calcrete ridge has been recorded, but according to the San themselves other people who resided there could only do it for short periods.  Until the 19th Century, Ghanzi was primarily inhabited by the San, who had some interactions with surrounding areas. In 1894, under the Bechuanaland Protectorate Government, white settlers were allocated farm land and many San were displaced with some of them becoming low-paid farm workers.  Now, in small, dispersed congregations, the San still seek to maintain their cultural and economic autonomy in order to empower their marginalized populations, preserve their cultural heritage, and conserve the environment.  Under recent government-led development programs and nature conservation policies, it has become more difficult for the San to continue their hunting-gathering lifestyle which in turn continues to drive them to find new sources of cash income. One such “source” or initiative is the development of Bushman Tourism in the Ghanzi area, offering locally made arts and crafts, bushman walks, sharing their survival skills, song and dance with visitors.  Our visit to Ghanzi is not a tourism activity, instead you will be afforded the opportunity, in the company of a select group of willing participants, to gain in-sight into their grass-root origins within the greater Kalahari environment, followed by their ongoing, mostly involuntary, migration out of their natural homesteads and seemingly imminent integration into modern day life.  Enjoy an overnight and culinary experience at the Dqãe Qare San Lodge, one of the primary San Community initiatives of the Ghanzi area.

Day 14 & 15: Camping with the Re-Settled San People at New Xade

The purpose of our visit to New Xade (a Bushmen Relocation Settlement) is to spend some time interacting with these most Authentic People of Botswana.  It will be an opportunity to show an interest in this community and allow them a platform upon which to share their social & cultural heritage.  In addition, as a group, we will prepare a community day to the benefit of the People of New Xade.   In 1997, 1739 San (Bushmen) and other residents of the CKGR (including the Bakgalagadi) were relocated from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve by the Botswana government as part of the largest resettlement program ever undertaken in the country. 1239 of these relocated to Kg’oesakene (New Xade) and 500 to Kaudwane, outside the southern border of the CKGR in the Kwaneng district. The former settlement, intended to be named Kg'oesakene, meaning “looking for life”, by the residents, has come to be known by its administrative name, New Xade. A further resettlement of Central Kalahari residents took place in 2002. The government justified the relocation in order to conserve natural resources, provide services such as healthcare and education in a more practical manner, and to promote community development amongst the San.   New Xade is located about 100 km from Ghanzi, the district capital, and 70 km from Xade, the former settlement in the CKGR for most of the residents. Although the residents were compensated for material possessions such as their huts, livestock and any other infrastructure they left behind, former Xade residents received no monetary remuneration or entitlement to the land they left behind. They did, however, receive plots in the newly created New Xade.

Day 16 – New Xade to Jwaneng, Botswana

This is a transfer day only as the distance in order to break the journey between Jwaneng Botswana to Khaditshwene, Zeerust!

Day 17 – Jwaneng, Botswana to Khaditshwene, Zeerust

Todays travels mark the near end of your research tour of Botswana.  This last stop, unknown to most, is where you are going to enjoy true domesticated Afrikaans South African hospitality.  The location is a private farm belonging to a husband & wife.  He lives for the land and she brings the hospitality to it.   You will visit to Khaditshwene in the afternoon – this is around a four hour walk and a stiff climb up the mountain!!You will be entertained from your moment of arrival and when the sun goes down – the night is going to last forever – local food – braai, bredie, potjie brood, a local beverage of sorts, bonfires and many local stories to be shared – this is South Africa as only few who are visiting will ever experience!   But back to Kaditshwene! This large Iron Age settlement near Zeerust is historically considered to be the capital of the Bahurutse nation and one of the largest Batswana settlements in Southern Africa. Occupied between the 1600s and 1800s, the large number of preserved furnaces is evidence of a thriving metal working industry based on complex indigenous technologies of mining and smelting iron and copper. Trade in the resulting worked metal and successful farming generated substantial wealth for the Bahurutse.   The population of Khaditshwene was estimated to have been between 16 000 and 20 000 in the early 1800s (by Campbell a London Missionary Society minister that visited the site in 1813), equal to, if not larger, than the population of Cape Town at the time. This large population is evident from both the extensive settlement remains and historical accounts by early missionaries in the area.  Sophisticated indigenous building techniques are also evident through the ruins of the stone walls and circular dwellings. These techniques appear similar to techniques still used today in nearby villages and indicate the ongoing transmission of the construction technique which underpins the historical achievements of the Bahurutse.   We will camp on the farm for the evening.

Day 18 – Zeerust to Johannesburg

Enjoy your last morning around a smouldering barbeque fire to enjoy a camping breakfast. Once packed the group will depart by road back to Johannesburg for your onward flight back home!

Tour Location

Experience the stunning beauty, the unimaginable vastness, the isolation and worldliness


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