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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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 –
Matobo Hills is Listed in the 2018 World Monuments Watch
Wondering why it is listed in the World Monuments Watch (WMF)?
This natural landscape is threatened by several factors including deforestation.
That is the reason why.
The World Monuments Fund announced the List on 15 October 2017.
The WMF is a private nonprofit organization founded in 1965.
The founders were concerned about the accelerating destruction of important artistic treasures.
These treasures are found throughout the world.
What is the purpose of the World Monuments Fund List?
This list contains 25 sites in more than various countries and territories.
These sites are facing various dangers such as .
- Human conflict.
- Natural disasters.
- Climate change.
All these pose a threat to the conservation of the heritage sites.
The World Monuments Watch List is announced twice a year.
It intends to protect our collective history and preserve our memory of it.
It also aims to strengthen social bonds of the different generations.
How does it do this?
The List gives these treasured sites and their challenges international airplay.
It identifies opportunities for local communities to collaborate with other stakeholders.
These include preservation agencies, governments and corporate sponsors.
All of them are interested in conserving our cultural and natural sites.
So far, the program has issued a call to action for around 814 sites.
What WMF CEO Has to Say About the List
Joshua David, President and CEO of WMF says,
“By building an international coalition,
the World Monuments Watch protects both the sites and the shared history they embody.
We may be best known for the excellence of our conservation practices,
but the human impacts of our work ultimately mean the most.
Sites like the 25 on the 2018 Watch are where we come together as citizens of the world.
We are prompted to renew our commitments to justice, culture, peace, and understanding.”
What threats are Matobo Hills facing?
Matobo Hills, known for its granite rock formations, is on the 2018 WMF watch list.
The park is under stress from various activities.
These include deforestation, grazing, graffiti and damaging fires caused by human activities.
Population growth along with scarce natural resources is leading to its degradation.
Deforestation also threatens the rock paintings.
Their protective barriers, trees, are slowly disappearing.
The delicate paintings are left exposed to damaging weather conditions.
They are also more vulnerable to fire damage.
How Matobo Hills Lodge is helping to preserve Matobo Hills
Matobo Hills Lodge understands the importance of preserving our heritage sites.
Their preservation is tied to the successful continuity of our business.
Conservation, environmental consciousness, and responsible tourism are central to our operations.
Every month, we have a pick-litter day at our Lodge.
Our Manager, Grey Nyama, oversees this.
We hope that our efforts will help conserve Matobo Hills.