Like every other Zimbabwean, Given Ngulube loves to call himself by his totem.
He refers to himself endearingly as “uMkhwebu, uJama, uMabuya”, a personification of the wit and sociability of a swine/pig.
His totem is a pig and it is for this reason that he does not eat pork.
A totem is an animal, plant or natural object serving among certain tribal or traditional peoples as the emblem of a clan.
Upholding such high totemic traditions tells that Given is proud of his Ndebele identity, culture and heritage.
As a proud native of Matobo, he says he chose to work in the hills because he adores the area.
“Matobo has a lot of hills and the views from the summit of the hills are breath-taking,” explains Given.
He is a shuttle driver @Matobohillslodge, the man you can count on to pick you up from Bulawayo City or even the airport and take you to Matobo National Park.
Given was born in Matobo, in the Dula area and attended Matopo Mission School, which is in the vicinity of Mzilikazi’s grave.
Mzilikazi Khumalo ( c. 1790 – 9 September 1868) was a king who founded the Matabele Kingdom now known as Matabeleland in Zimbabwe. His name means “the great road”.
Many consider Mzilikazi to be the greatest Southern African military leader after the Zulu king Shaka. In-fact, Mzilikazi was originally a lieutenant of Shaka but had a quarrel with him in 1823 and rebelled. Rather than face ritual execution, he fled northwards with his followers.
King Mzilikazi’s grave is on the site of his former royal town, Mhlahlandleia, according to the ZimFeildGuide.com. The memorial was unveiled by Sir Herbert Stanley, the Governor of Southern Rhodesia, on 17th June 1941.
The Inscription on Mzilikazi’s memorial reads: “Mzilikazi, son of Shobana, the Matabele hail you. The Mountain fell down on 5 September 1868. All nations acclaim the son of Shobana. Bayete.”
The memorial was built beneath the tree where Mzilikazi held court, met many of the early European travellers to this country and conducted the affairs of state. However, the Indaba tree died because people used to strip off its bark, which they believed had curative powers.
Given opines that Mzilikazi’s final resting place in the Matobo Hills is special, particularly to the Ndebele because “it’s important for people to know where their ancestors lie.”
For Given, it’s imperative for the local community to visit the memorial so that they appreciate the culture of their ancestors.
He adds that, “When travellers visit Matobo, they want to appreciate history of the Ndebele people, that’s where their legacy lives.”
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YES you read that right. There is a right and wrong way to be a wildlife tourist.
We all love animals. It is in our nature to care for animals.
We want to know more about them.
We even want to interact with them and that’s where our misguided love for wildlife becomes problematic and detremental to the animal.
Riding elephants, walking with lions and taking photos WITH wild animals sounds fun, but in reality, these are unnatural ways of interacting with wildlife.
The truth of the matter is that you need to be wide eyed and alert to unethical behaviour throughout the entire safari industry.
The problem with the so-called ‘intimate’ wildlife encounters.
The major problem with such kinds of ‘intimate’ wildlife encounters is that they sometimes rely heavily on breeding wild animals in captivity without a clear plan for release back into the wild.
At worst, they also rely on inhumane handling of wild animals under the guise of ‘training’ them and making ‘safe’ for human interaction.
How else would you train an elephant without separating it from its mother while it is young and instilling fear in it? How else would you make a lion safe to walk with, pose for a selfie with and touch without declawing, drugging it or simply keeping it in habituation.
Clearly, paying huge sums of money to interact with wild animals in this manner is the wrong way to be a wildlife tourist in our country and anywhere else in the world.
Instead, the right way to be a wildlife tourist is to ensure that your own interaction with wildlife is ethical. Here are three ways.
1. ENSURE that at all times, you are viewing wild animals engaging in natural behaviours in their natural environments.
In the same vein, if you want to see lions, go to Hwange National Park and observe them in the wilderness.
Who knows, you might see a lion hunting for its next meal and that will surely be a much more interesting encounter than taking a selfie with a lion in captivity.
2. LOOK out for red flags
At times, we view animals in places called Wildlife ‘Sanctuaries’ and ‘Orphanages’.
Whilst some of these places are doing a good job to conserve wildlife and protect it, some of them get sloppy and begin to exploit the animals they purport to save.
Your job as a wildlife tourist also is to scrutinise the welfare of wildlife kept in these places.
Question whether or not the environment is appropriate for the animals.Be sure to observe shelter, and check if there is ample space for the animals to live comfortably and rest.
Also observe whether or not they have a secluded place to retreat from crowds.
Observe the appearance of the animals themselves. Are they injured? Are the animals being forced to perform for tourists like giving rides and posing with them.
Most importantly, ask when the animals will be released back into the wild and check if the sanctuary has released any in the past.
A lion cub which has been handled by hundreds of humans can almost never be successfully released into the wild according to Conservation Travel Africa, an organisation dedicated to bridging the gap between wildlife conservation and community development.
3. ACT responsibly
When viewing wildlife in their natural habitat or otherwise, you have to act responsibly so that you do not cause distress to the animals.
For instance, when on Safari, dress appropriately – in khakhis, dark greens and browns so that you blend in with natural environment.
Bheki Jiyane, a tour guide with a Safari operator in the Matopos National Park, advises wildlife tourists to “make very little noise and turn off camera flashes so that your presence is less distressing for the animals.”
Loud and unnatural noises distress wildlife.
PREPARE THE FAMILY for an awe-inspiring encounter, where visitors discover the ancient and modern history of Zimbabwe.
Nowhere else can you have a good time and yet still learn a thing or two in archaeology and even bio-diversity.
Located just outside of Bulawayo, south-west of Zimbabwe, the Matobo Hills will take you to a realm of memorable and educational experiences that allow you to see its rich natural diversity and culture that has been preserved for eternity.
1. Visit Rhodes Grave & Historical Sites
Stand in awe of a dramatic granite outcrop that provides a spectacular “view of the world,” as Cecil Rhodes, who is buried there, put it.
There are about 3 other sites; the Shangani Patrol Memorial , graves of Leander Starr Jameson and Allan Wilson and The M.O.T.H shrine, which are great starters of a discussion on Zimbabwe’s history for the whole family.
The burial of European Settlers at the summit of the Malindidzimu Hill is a great source of controversy in modern Zimbabwe as this is considered a sacred place by nationalists and indigenous groups. Malindidzimu, as local people called it, means Hill of The Benevolent Spirits.
2. See Rock Art and Bushmen Paintings
The paintings are evidence of evolving artistic styles and illustrate socio-religious beliefs dating back at least 13,000 years.
There are over 3,000 registered rock art sites, with the main periods of painting being between 320 and 500 C.E.
Combine this experience with a Culture trip to visit the present-day inhabitants of the Silozwe Valley.
The whole family will be dazzled by the modern-day tradition of painting the walls of mud huts. The villagers will be proud to give you a tour of their picturesque traditionally made homesteads.
3. Visit the Caves For A Lesson In Archaeology
If human history and prehistory fascinates you, then a visit to the many caves and crevices of the Matobo Hills will definitely be worth your while.
Excavations from the floors of Bambatha, Nswatugi and Pomongwe caves include; a human skeleton dating 42000 BC, Stone tools estimated to be about 20,000 years old, several hearths and bone fragments of game animals of various sizes.
These artefacts all reveal that the hills may have been inhabited by man for 100,000 years.
An iron age furnace along the route of Inanke cave is evidence of the arrival of the Bantu / Iron Age people in the area more than 2000 years ago.
4. Hike trails on the granite outcrops
Does the idea of an adventurous expedition with your loved ones spark your imagination? The Matobo Hills provides a myriad of opportunities to to get into nature on foot, amid some truly impressive scenery.
Walking through such an amazing theater of balancing rocks will definitely elicit inquiry into the formation of the landscape and consequently teach you the best geography lesson of your life.
Children and adults will be intrigued by this first hand experience of weathering and erosion that formed the kopjes and whale-backs that characterise the hills.
Doing something a little out of the ordinary , that requires some effort and forces you to explore in a more mindful way is a very rewarding way to travel.
5. Touch the wild.At least figuratively!
Literally attempting to ‘touch’ fauna and flora in the Matobo Hills may teach you the wrong lesson. It may be impossible, outright dangerous or may even get you arrested depending on the species.
You should indeed experience the rich bio-diversity of the area.
There are over 200 species of trees in the area, many types of rare endemic plants , wild herbs and over 100 grass species.
There’s a wide diversity of fauna too. 175 bird, 88 mammal, 39 snake and 16 fish species.
If you are curious about birds, mammals, arachnids (scorpions, spiders, mites), plants, reptiles and amphibians, insects and fungi, there is no better place to see and learn about them than in the Matobo Hills.
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Peppered with stunning caves, rock art, and sacred hills and shrines, the Matobo Hills represent a blending of traditional Khoisan, Bantu and settler European values.
The Hills setting on 3100 km² of land, which comprises a National Park, communal land, granite kopjes and wooded valleys, offers a stunning panorama of constantly changing landscape around the area.
Lying just 35 km south of Bulawayo, the Matobo Hills were declared a world heritage site in 2003 for their high concentrations of rock art and the long-standing religious traditions still associated with the landscape.
Archaeologists say man has inhabited Matobo since the stone age.
The San Bushmen
Stone tools as old as 50 000 years, have been excavated from the floors of the caves, and the 13 000-year-old paintings in those caves and rocks still illustrate a vivid picture of San culture.
For instance, Bambata Cave has been excavated to 15 meters providing incredible deposits of remains, dating from around 2000 years ago to some material dating over 250,000 years old!
The cave wall is littered with wild animal outlines, paintings and sketches such as Elephant, Zebra, Rhino, kudu as well as a plethora of other animals. The wall is adorned with mystic and ancient abstract paintings done in a wild variety of dazzlingly beautiful colours.
Some of the paintings are suspected to be part of mystical trance ceremonies that took place.
The paintings that are more telling are the ones that are at Silozwane cave. They are even more beautiful and delicate, illustrating paintings of giraffe as well as traditional hunting scenes.
There are also paintings of very large humans, up to four feet in length, painted in a dark red ochre.
In Silozwane Cave you will find all the traditional scenes that can be seen in rock art sites throughout the Matobo Hills.
The Hills and Bantu Tribes
Towering above the caves, the hills beckon visitors to explore the surrounding areas.
The hills in Matobo have been the religious headquarters of many Bantu tribes since the 15th Century.
Rain dances and other religious ceremonies were held there and to this day, some still believe that a number of hills should not be pointed at, that would just bring bad luck.
Before the colonial era, Matobo was the headquarters of the spiritualist oracle, the Mlimo.
In fact, it is said that Mlimo, the spiritual leader of the Ndebele people, used Silozwane Cave as a shrine.
The Hill of the Benevolent Spirits or Malindidzimu offers an epic 360-degree view of the Matobo National Park.
White Settlers in the Matobo Hills
Cecil Rhodes, Leander Starr Jameson, and several other leading early white settlers, including Allan Wilson and all the members of the Shangani Patrol killed in the First Matabele War, are buried on the summit of Malindidzimu.
Rhodes fell in love with this hill hence he named it the ‘View of the World’ and it is easy to grasp why he chose this spot as his final resting place – unbelievably beautiful views surround you in every direction.
A memorial shrine, erected by the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTH), an organization that seeks to commemorate the sacrifice of Rhodesian servicemen and women during World War One and World War Two, can also be accessed within the Park
There’s a reason Matobo (sometimes spelled Matopos) has drawn a growing stream of visitors in recent years.
It is a land that has it all: A rare combination of natural and manmade splendour with rich spiritual and cultural traditions that appeals equally to the pilgrim, the backpacker, and the ecotourist.