Is it Matobo National Park or Matopos National Park?
You have heard about Matobo National Park. Or is it Matopos National Park?
We have shared so many pictures of this enchanting gallery of rocks and wildlife. In fact, we – and many others – have written several articles on it. We inform and remind you of all that awaits you when you visit the Park.
Maybe, you have been to the nature reserve. Maybe you have not. Maybe you wish to visit it soon or later. And, we hope you do.
The park is home to massive “whale backed” domes or “dwalas”. These awesome rocks are a result of years and years of erosion due to weather changes.
This erosion is a very gradual process and it is ongoing. Yes – mother nature is not done showing us her erosive power.
This weathering process will continue to act upon the incredible landscape.
Luckily for us, we can still continue to enjoy this amazingly unique Park in all its complexity.
After all –
We have several more millions of years before erosion finally reduces it to a flat and unflattering plain.
In the meantime – We carpe diem indeed!
Still, you may have also wondered – Is it Matobo or Matopos National Park?
Some folks call it Matobo National Park. Maybe you are on of them. Others call it Matopos National Park.
Still, some use the two names interchangeably.
So – which is it? Gather around folks, it is time for a story.
Once upon a time…
Haha – just kidding. But, yes, we are travelling back into time now.
Where does the term, “Matobo” originate from?
It has been said that the Karanga people referred to the Matobo region as “madombo” meaning stones.
The distinct appearance of the rolling Matobo Hills was the reason behind the area’s name.
The founder and leader of the Ndebele nation, King Mzilikazi, is said to have named the balancing rocks “matobo”.
Matobo is a Ndebele term meaning “bald heads”.
Thus, the name of the area, Matobo, was born.
And how did the word, “Matopos” come about?
Again, history has it that White settlers are the ones who used this term.
They may have had trouble pronouncing the word, Matobo. Thus, they resorted to using Matopos instead of Matobo.
This word caught on so much that its increased usage led many to using the two words interchangeably.
So, which is it? Is it Matobo? Is it Matopos? Is it Matobo or Matopos?
The correct name is Matobo and not Matopos.
That means it’s Matobo Hills and not Matopos Hills.
It’s Matobo Hills Lodge and not Matopos Hills Lodge.
It’s Matobo National Park and not Matopos National Park.
While we are on the subject of Matobo, be sure to read our blog on all the fun facts about Matobo National Park.
Matobo national Park is located around 34kms to the South of the city of Bulawayo. This green park was established in 1926 and is also the oldest national park in Zimbabwe.
Matobo National Park teems with diverse plant, bird and animal species. It has over 200 tree species including mountain acacia, wild pear, paper bark tree and fig tree. The park also has many aloes, wild herbs and over 100 grass species.
Matobo National Park is an enthralling gallery of balancing rocks which formed over 3 billion years of erosion. Truly, this landscape is unique in the remarkable range of African scenery and experiences it provides.
Did you also know?
Matobo National Park has the world’s highest concentration of the Black eagle. AND leopards too. The dense population of leopards is because of the abundant dassies which, reportedly, make up 50 per cent of their diet.
Other bird species that can be found at the Park include the fish eagle, martial eagle, francolin, secretary bird, weavers, pied crow and Egyptian geese.
In addition, it is one of the last sanctuaries for the Black and White Rhino. In Southern Africa!
If you visit the reserve, and we hope you will, you are more likely to see White Rhino than Black Rhino. The reason? White Rhino is more social and can be found grazing in open areas. However, the Black Rhino is more private and spends its time browsing twigs in thick vegetation.
By the way, do you know how to tell the two species apart? If you need help identifying the differences, read our blog on those differences here.
Besides the Rhino, other animals you can expect to see at Matobo National Park include giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, ostrich and sometimes, leopard.
Matobo National Park in the International Spotlight
This Rhino sanctuary is a World Heritage Site. UNESCO bestowed this title upon it in 2003. This is due to the its cultural, aesthetic, and historical significance.
Matobo National Park shares this significant title with –
- The mighty Victoria Falls – one of the seven natural wonders of the world,
- Khami Ruins – the second largest stone monument in the nation,
- The arresting Mana Pools – a picturesque setting for avid photographers and
- Great Zimbabwe, also listed in the 2016 World Monuments Watch List.
Matobo National Park is also listed in the 2018 World Monuments Watch List.
This list contains 25 sites in over 30 territories and it highlights “their challenges, opportunities, and the communities that cherish them”.
The World Monuments Watch List is a call to action meant to preserve these sites.
Matobo National Park is also one of the eight sites on that List selected to receive a grant by the World Monuments Fund. These funds will be directed towards efforts to preserve the landscape.
You might be wondering,
Where Does the Name “Matobo” National Park Come From?
History has it that the Karanga people referred to the Matobo region as “madombo” meaning stones.
The distinct appearance of the rolling Matobo hills was the reason behind the area’s name.
The founder and leader of the Ndebele nation, King Mzilikazi, is said to have named the balancing rocks “matobo”, a Ndebele term meaning “bald heads”.
More Fun Facts on Matobo National Park
Matobo National Park is a recreational park. This means travelers are free to walk around and explore the scenic reserve.
The park is rich in historical and cultural aspects. Thus, it is an excellent spot for educational trips for schools, colleges and universities.
For thousands of years, Matobo National Park was home to the artistic San or Bushmen people. Caves in which they sought shelter bear evidence of the way of living of these hunter-gatherers.
These caves, such as Silozwane and Nswatugi, contain some of the world’s most remarkable rock paintings.
Matobo Hills – a Sacred Landscape
Unsurprisingly, Matobo National Park has long been regarded as a place of great spiritual importance. Some of the largest granite domes are sacred mountains.
It has long been held that they must not be pointed at for fear of causing disrespect to the spirits that occupy them.
Before the beginning of each rainy season and in times of drought, people from throughout Zimbabwe and beyond come to the Matobo shrines to pray for rain.
Indeed, there is so much about this sacred park that unsurprisingly, draws many – near and far – to it.
For more information on Matobo National Park, click here –
Today is World Environment Day.
This year the theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution” and official commemorations are taking place in India.
The Prime Minister of the country, Narendra Modi, took to twitter and wrote:
“Greetings on #WorldEnvironmentDay. Together, let us ensure that our future generations live in a clean and green planet, in harmony with nature.”
Matobo Hills Lodge joins the global community in celebrating World Environment Day.
We understand the destructive impact of plastic on the environment.
Therefore, we actively encourage our guests to responsibly dispose of their non-biodegradable rubbish.
We remain committed to spreading awareness of responsible tourism.
Graffiti Ruining Historical Monuments
Matobo National Park is home to several caves such as Silozwane and Nswatugi.
These caves contain rock paintings which have been tainted by illicit markings made by tourists.
There have been instances of people scribbling on or scratching the walls thus defacing the rock art.
The increasing defacement of the art, which has a cultural and religious bearing, is a cause for much concern.
3 Reasons Why We Discourage Graffiti
Firstly, defacement of these rock paintings is illegal.
It diminishes the value of our natural landscapes which draw many to the heritage sites.
These sites are tangible and sacred proof of our development as humans and our interaction with the environment.
Again, leaving graffiti on rock art destroys its aesthetic value.
Graffiti ruins the experience for other tourists who travel to see the art and learn about the history of the painters.
Can The Markings Be Removed?
But, some types of graffiti can be removed following specific procedures and using specific chemicals, though not easily.
However and unfortunately –
Some, like scratches, are permanent and cause irreparable damage.
This is why, on this World Environment Day, we discourage scribbling graffiti on our historical monuments.
What You Also Need To Know On This World Environment Day
Since 2003, Matobo National Park has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is due to its geographical, cultural, and historical significance.
The natural landscape, which was once home to the San people, contains some of the world’s most magnificent caves and rock paintings.
These rock paintings depict the way of living of the hunter-gatherer people and are between 1500 and 10000 years old.
Did you also know that Matobo National Park has one of the highest concentrations of such rock paintings?
In Southern Africa!
There are several different caves in the nature reserve and these include the Pomongwe and Inanke cave.
If you are boarded close to some caves, you will get to hike directly to them.
Otherwise, caves further from you will require a game drive and short hike.
The caves are also subjected to erosion due to temperature changes and contact with weather elements like water.
Though this tends to make the paintings hard to understand, they are still in a relatively good state.
Unlike vandalism –
Erosion does not pose a huge threat to the preservation of the rock art.
It is part of the natural connection between the paintings and the rocks.
Measures need to be put in place to discourage graffiti which poses a threat to the conservation efforts of concerned stakeholders.
When you visit us, one of the activities you can do is visiting the caves and learning about the rock art.
For more information on all the other activities in store for you, click HERE
I had seen the pictures of the lodge on the website and they were breath-taking. However, having visited a lodge the previous year whose net pictures were a huge disappointment I wondered if Matobo Hills Lodge would also turn out to be just another case of “false advertising”.
The 55km kilometre drive from the hustle and bustle of BULAWAYO was refreshing and cathartic. As the noise of the city made way for the peace and beauty of the flora, I couldn’t help but smile.
There are said to be over 200 species of trees and over 100 species of grass in the national park. But this park is not about trees and grass or flowers and herbs it is the granite formations that take centre stage – rocks that balance precariously as though placed by the hand of an artist, rocks that have fallen and tumbled in a pleasing heap, monoliths that curve and thrust into the blue Matobo skies all formed by the erosion of wind and rain over so many millions of years that our finite minds cannot cope with the timeline. The end result is that we are here now with a sculptural feast that continues to delight around every bend and over every hill.
Established in 1953, the park received the much deserved and highly-acclaimed World Heritage Status in 2003. Anyone who has been to the park will feel the call of the granite hills, 44 500 hectares of land steeped in grandeur.
John Muir (famously known as John of the Mountains) said that mountains were calling him and he had to go, so too was the magnificence of this landscape calling me, sucking me deep into its own heart.
And I had not even reached the Lodge yet.
The main road to Maleme, which is about 20km from the entrance to Matopos National Park, was smoothly tarred leading to a well-manicured gravel road that barely produced a puff of dust as our transfer continued to the Lodge.
The first feature of the lodge that caught my curious eye was the buildings made of granite, like the mountains themselves. Weathered thatched roofs blended with the colourscape and an immaculate lawn surrounded all. An affable gentleman by the name of Blessing Muchape came to greet us with a smile as wide as the sky and to show me to my chalet.
We walked towards my chalet past a swimming pool set naturally in the rock. Finally the full landscape unveiled itself and I could hardly believe that anywhere so beautiful existed in my country. How had I not been here before? How did I not know that such splendour existed? Around us the mountains rose and dipped, casting shadows, playing with light, soaring like eagles with pink feathers, blue wings and purple hued heads.
Matobo Hills Lodge is as stunning as the images on their website.
At this point I didn’t care if my chalet was small, cramped and uncomfortable, I was too enchanted with the scenic splendour of the place but as it turned out my room was huge, spotless, with a view to die for and a welcome that whispered as I walked through the door. My heart knew it had come home.
I wanted to explore more. The pool was my first stop situated between the bar and the open-air dining room. How on earth did water tumble into the pool from a granite ridge on which the bar had been built. At first, I thought it may be a natural spring. How was that even possible? Where was the water coming from? Clever design, for sure.
The bar itself is a soaring structure with massive windows framing a 360° view of special scenes that speak of millennia and weathering and fantastical pre-historic times. The roof is so high it made me dizzy looking up at it. Who had been brave enough to place the poles so evenly and then thatch that great expanse?
Back at my chalet I had time to take in the detail, like all the other structures it was built of granite with a thatched roof.
As I would find out later, everything was produced and built by local craftsmen and artisans, and nothing could have made me prouder to be African. I was intrigued by realistic geckos artfully stuck on the wall – a nice touch in an already stylish room, until later that evening one of them moved as I closed the curtains!
As much as I wanted to be inside my chalet and revel in its relaxing atmosphere, I was raring to be outside because there was a lot more to see and so little time. I chatted with various staff members including Blessing and Onias. Their love of the area was apparent in the way they talked of the history, geology and spiritual significance of the Matobo Hills. I believed them.
Every now and then, the tranquillity of running water would be broken by the chirping of a solitary bird in a nearby tree soon joined by others creating a symphony.
The city drowns birds out, the clear air of the Matopos tunes them in like a conductor with his orchestra. I know little of the birds of my country. Shame on me! My visit has made me determined to remedy that. I’m getting a bird book and binoculars ASAP.
Night came, the sky became luminous. The campfire flared into the night sending sparks to the stars. I felt small and insignificant gazing up into the darkness punctuated by wheeling stars and I thought of Africa, of her wonder and her vastness and my heart raced a little faster. I was brought back to reality by the sound of a beating drum and the smell of delicious food prepared by Chef Kudzai Hwingwiri and his team. My stomach grumbled to rival the bubbling water from the swimming pool waterfall.
My three-course dinner was scrumptious. I was not surprised. I had come to expect much of this lodge. During dinner I chatted to other guests from all over the world. Some had spent the afternoon tracking white rhinos and they were on an adrenalin high, Coming across a mother and baby grazing peacefully, they approached undetected with stealth and sensitivity under the watchful eye of their guide and left without disturbing the little family. This had been the highlight of their whole stay in Zimbabwe.
Others talked of a trip to Silozwane Cave marvelling at the paintings that depicted the way of living of the San or bushman people.
A group from South Africa had taken a picnic to scenic rocks, solitude and the granite wilderness their reward, with views only they owned.
Maleme Dam was the place to go, said a French couple. A family of locals had been on a game drive and spotted a shy black rhino. ‘It’s got a pointed lip so it can pick leaves from branches, the white rhino has a flat, wide lip for easier grazing’ explained one of the children. ‘That’s the difference between the species.’
My plan was to visit Njelele Shrine the sacred spot of ritual. Here my elders and ancestors consulted spirit mediums on drought, war, royal succession and other weighty issues. I wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Everyone had been to Cecil John Rhodes’ grave on the Malindidzimu hill. Rhodes asked to be buried, ‘among the benevolent spirits, the peacefulness of it all: the chaotic grandeur of it.’ The colonial despoiler might have created havoc here and there but he certainly knew how to pick a stunning spot.
How I wished my partner could have been with me to soak in all the brilliance. In my mind, I had already begun to plan a return visit.
Because this was certainly not the last I’d see of Matobos Hills Lodge. There were rhinos to track, for crying out loud. I fell asleep with that thought.
After breakfast, I took a short local walk to a cave containing clay bins and water pots build by the Ndebele in 1896 to withstand siege and used during the Matabele war against the British South Africa Company.
Although uphill, the walk was the easiest of the three trails accessible from the lodge. At some point during my walk, I stopped to sit because walking seemed to be a distraction. I wanted to marvel at the clear blue sky, I wanted to breath in the smell of the damp leaves, I wanted to soak in the warmth of the sunlit morning.
I wanted to listen to the unknown birds. I wanted to freeze that moment, for in that moment I wished all fellow Zimbabweans could afford to travel around the country to see its beauty – the beauty that a privileged few get to talk about whenever they describe Zimbabwe.
You see, many of us live in not-so-appealing surroundings, are hung up on politics or earning a living, fighting to feed our kids or put them through school, looking after gogo ( Granny), finding a better life for ourselves and we never fully acknowledge the existence of a “beautiful” Zimbabwe. We might see images, but they are surreal, another world detached from our humdrum and sometimes grinding reality.