Experience It: Matobo National Park: Matopos Hills & Wooded Valleys
This small area holds all the elements of a big African adventure. If you are looking for a great tourist attraction, this unique park won’t leave you wanting. Let’s take a little virtual visit and find out everything you should know about Matobo National Park.
Matopos National Park: Brief History
No, that is not a typo you see above. The area that is now known as Matobo National Park was formerly Matobo Hills National Park and before that, the Rhodes Matopos National Park.
The park’s original name was in honour of former Cape Colony Prime Minister Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes was so in awe of this beautiful region that he requested to be buried here.
The current name Matobo reflects the correct pronunciation of the area. Matobo and Matopos are still used interchangeably when referring to the hills that gave the park its notoriety.
Who could blame Cecil Rhodes for falling in love with Matobo National Park? The serenity and grandeur found here are just some of the things that make this place unforgettable.
For many years before colonial rule, the Shona and Ndebele people performed rituals and religious activities in the hills. Thousands of years before that the area provided a haven for ancient man. Stone tools excavated from one of the caves are estimated to be between 10 000 and 20 000 years old.
As early as 2000 years ago, San Bushman left a rich heritage in the form of rock paintings. Today, there are over 300 registered rock art sites that you will definitely want to see.
Magnificent Matopos Hills
Image Source: Susan Adams
The core attraction of the Matobo National Park is the spectacular Matopos Hills. A true masterpiece of nature, the hills have been sculpted from massive blocks of granite that originated deep within the Earth’s crust.
Known locally as kopjes, the Matopos Hills are classified into two main categories. The rock splitting along natural lines of weakness forms the ‘castle kopjes’. These splits cause balancing piles of ‘building blocks’ that look like they have been carefully constructed from the ground up.
These cracks create almost impossible-looking sights where boulders balance on one another at extremely awkward angles. The hills are little individual statues designed by nature herself. One of the most famous formations is the Mother and Child Kopje, pictured above.
The second category includes smooth boulder-like formations. These ‘whaleback’ rocks split parallel to the earth surface, leaving small mounds of astonishing granite peeking out from the most unusual places.
In addition to striking formations, numerous caves have been carved into the hills. These have become archaeological sites thanks to the San paintings found within them. A visit to the Matopos Hills is not just an amazing adventure but a fascinating history lesson too.
Matobo Wooded Valleys & Surroundings
If the Matopos Hills are the key feature, then its surroundings set the scene for this signature attraction. Just 22 miles (35 km) outside of Bulawayo, the wooded valley begins. Picturesque trees stretch for miles, standing sentry for the hill’s granite sculptures.
The flora in the area is extremely diverse, with over 200 species of plants recorded in the national park. This includes many rare endemic plants. It is no wonder that the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.
Matobo National Park Wildlife
There is no one on the planet that comes for a visit to one of Zimbabwe’s national parks without hoping to catch a glimpse of wildlife. Rare plant life is not the only reason that Matobo National Park is fiercely protected.
A large population of Black and White Rhino are successfully bred in the area. Imagine a chance to see not one, but two, endangered creatures on the same trip!
Besides the impressive rhino, you can expect to see a host of memorable creatures in Matobo National Park. Zebra, Leopard, Hyena, Hippo, Warthog, Wildcat, Crocodiles, and Monkeys are just a few on the list.
If the creatures in the sky are more your cup of tea, then you won’t be disappointed. Matobo National Park contains the highest concentration of black eagles in the entire world. There are also various other species to set your sights on.
Visit Matobo, Africa, For A New Experience!
Matobo National park is definitely small when you compare it to some of Zimbabwe’s other well-known parks, like Hwange National Park. But, there are so many amazing things packed into this small space you won’t know where to start your trip.
Rich in history, adventure, and wildlife, this is a trip for the ages. Any vacation to Zimbabwe would be incomplete without a visit to Matobo National Park.