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Matobo

Matobo

The Matobo Hills National Park is a small hauntingly beautiful park, easily accessible just south of Bulawayo and forms the core of the Matobo Hills region famed for its bizarrely shaped rocky outcrops and is a World Heritage Site.

The rocky outcrops make it a perfect location for spotting leopard, klipspringer, rock dassies, flat lizard and elephant shrews.  It’s also known for its populations of Verreaux (black) Eagles and nesting raptors and is a protected sanctuary for black and white rhinos!

This area is rich in the history of the tribes who have lived here over the millennia.  The Matobo Hills has one of the highest concentrations of rock art in southern Africa dating back 13000 years and rich archaeological evidence suggests that the hills have been occupied over a period of 500,000 years. These hills are also the last resting place of Cecil John Rhodes who is buried on the summit of World’s View.

Activities in the area include game viewing, rhino tracking, bird watching, mountain biking and cultural experiences including the rock paintings of the San who lived in the hills 2000 years ago. We offer two select lodges within the Matopos as well as the renowned Bulawayo Club in the city.

at a glance

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Introduction

Home to one of Southern Africa’s most dramatic rock landscapes, Matobo is the most sacred place in Zimbabwe and an area of exceptional beauty with a rich and colourful history. Pronounced a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, Matobo offers spectacular scenery, an array of vegetation and a variety of wildlife in one of Zimbabwe’s prime wildlife sanctuaries.

Established as a national park in 1926 by Cecil John Rhodes, Matobo is the oldest park in the country. Situated in southern Zimbabwe, the area is rich in extraordinary landscapes of granite kopjes boulders interspersed with thickets, wooded valleys and vegetation which is visually and ecologically distinguished from the neighbouring savannah. Hundreds of caves and rock shelters were inhabited and decorated by descendants of some of the world’s most ancient of people’s over 40,000 years ago. Around 10,000 years ago, the area was inhabited by San Bushmen and today one can find 3,000 magnificent examples of their rock art; one of the highest concentrations of rock at in Africa. Bambata Cave is particularly popular for its vivid animal illustrations of giraffe, eland and kudu. From the Stone Age to recent times, the hills and caves bear testimony to the area’s turbulent past. Having been a place of worship and refuge during bloody rebellion along with a hunting ground, burial ground and battlefield, Matobo is an intriguing place of Africa’s struggle and strife.

During the 19th century, these distinctive rock landforms where nicknamed ‘Ama Tobo’, meaning ‘bald heads’ by the southern African king and founder of the Matabele kingdom Mzilikazi after the bald heads of his chiefs. Later on in the century, the great African empire builder Cecil John Rhodes arrived in Matobo and discovered an innate love of the area. However, during confrontation between Rhodes and the Ndebele leaders, the hills provided refuge to the local people who acquired inspiration from the oracles.

Since Rhodes’ death in 1902, his final resting place is at the summit of Malindidzimu, ‘the hill of spirits’ where Rhodes appropriately nicknamed the summit the ‘view of the world’. Visitors to the area can visit his tomb, look out over the landscape and absorb the serene essence of the Matobo Hills. Today, the hills are sacred to the Shona people and many rituals and religious activities are performed in the area. Rumour has it that the voice of the High God, Mwari, can be heard in the Njelele Cave, making this a sacred location with a powerful link between the indigenous communities of the hills and the powerful oracle.

Matobo National Park is home to high botanic biodiversity. With over 200 tree species including mountain acacia, mopane woodlands, terminalia species and paperbark tree, the area supports 175 species of bird and 88 mammal species, with the greatest diversity in the west. All the main animals are spotted here, with the notable exceptions of lion and elephant. There is a rich selection of plains game, the greatest concentration of leopard in the country and a strong population of black and white rhino. More than 50 raptor species have been recorded, including 50 pairs of Verreux’s black eagle; the greatest population anywhere in the world. They are often spotted perched atop the rocks or soaring over the cliffs. Other resident birds range from the fish eagle to the secretary bird and Egyptian geese. The area is also renowned for its brightly coloured lizards and range of marine life as catfish, robusts and bottlefish are common.

A range of top quality lodges are available which offer a range of activities and opportunities to become immersed in the wondrous landscape and history of Matobo Hills; from hiking and horse-riding to boating and fishing.

When To Visit

The dry season is preferential for wildlife viewing (May to October). Temperatures are cooler from May to August, with warm sunny days and excellent animal sightings. September and October are the hottest months which can reach 34°C during the day with low humidity.

November through to April is a vibrant time as the bush comes alive; however the rains can cause accessibility issues. Thunderstorms are common in late afternoon. This park is unlike others as its beautiful landscapes and unique rock art can be viewed and admired all year round.

Temperature & Rainfall

Climate Chart – Matobo

Matobo Highlights

San Rock Art

San Rock Art

San Rock Art

Visit the caves and rock shelters home to Zimbabwe’s earliest inhabitants, the "San". To see ...

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San Rock Art

San Rock Art

Visit the caves and rock shelters home to Zimbabwe’s earliest inhabitants, the “San”. To see superb galleries of their bushmen rock paintings.

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Granite Domes

Granite Domes

Granite Domes

We can arrange a tour guide specialising in the culture and history of Zimbabwe to accompany you in ...

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Granite Domes

Granite Domes

We can arrange a tour guide specialising in the culture and history of Zimbabwe to accompany you in the majestic and huge granite masses of the Matobo Hills.

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Unique Lodges

Unique Lodges

Unique Lodges

For a unique stay experience - Big Cave Camp reposes atop an enormous granite whaleback, commanding ...

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Unique Lodges

Unique Lodges

For a unique stay experience – Big Cave Camp reposes atop an enormous granite whaleback, commanding inspirational views across the famous Matobo National Park.

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Black Eagles

Black Eagles

Black Eagles

Matobo Hills boasts one of the highest concentrations of birds of prey anywhere in the world. ...

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Black Eagles

Black Eagles

Matobo Hills boasts one of the highest concentrations of birds of prey anywhere in the world. In particular, Verreaux (Black) Eagle can be seen in abundance and the elusive Cape (Mackinder’s) Eagle Owl. 

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World's View

World's View

World's View

Cecil John Rhodes' burial site is called “World’s View” for its spectacular views overlooking ...

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World's View

World's View

Cecil John Rhodes’ burial site is called “World’s View” for its spectacular views overlooking the matopos rocks and exquisite scenery.

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Rhino Walk

Rhino Walk

Rhino Walk

Matobo Hills has the last significant population of rhino in Zimbabwe, and the best way to view and ...

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Rhino Walk

Rhino Walk

Matobo Hills has the last significant population of rhino in Zimbabwe, and the best way to view and photograph these rare creatures is on foot, with a professional guide.

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camps & lodges

Big Cave Safari Camp

Big Cave Safari Camp

Big Cave Camp rests on top of an enormous granite whaleback commanding inspirational views across the famous Matobo National Park. Sophisticated ... Read More

Camp Amalinda

Camp Amalinda

Camp Amalinda overlooks the Matopos National Park that is classified as a World Heritage Site and is home to a profusion of ... Read More