MATOBO HILLS NATIONAL PARK ZIMBABWE
The Matobo Hills, which form part of the Matobo National Park, must be one of the most special destinations in Zimbabwe: spectacularly beautiful, but also filled with a quiet serenity. The Matobo Hills in Zimbabwe was proclaimed a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003 and is situated approximately 35 km south of Bulawayo.
The characteristic granite “kopjes” (small hills) were formed some 300 million years ago as a result of the erosion of an exposed granite batholith. These hump-backed domes (or “dwalas”, in geology-speak) reminded king Mzilikazi of the Ndebele people of bald heads, therefore he named the place Matobo. The “mother and child” kopje is quite a balancing act of granite rocks – although it seems as if they could topple over at any moment, they have been there for many years.
The Matopo Hills in Zimbabwe also include wooded valleys and boulders, and is a place of very high biodiversity. More than 200 species of trees are found here, including the wild pear and paperbark, as well as wild herbs, aloes and more than 100 grass species. The highest concentration of black eagles in the world is found here. The Matobo National Park has 88 mammal, 39 snake, 16 fish and 175 bird species. Leopards are plentiful, because the area has a high number of hyrax. The Park is a Intensive Protection Zone for white and black rhino, and also contains many zebra, giraffe, ostrich and wildebeest.
The Matopbo Hills is a place of archaeological significance, with 3000 rock art sites from San inhabitants dating from 2000 years ago. Other artefacts, such as clay ovens and stone tools, date back from the Pre-middle Stone Age (approximately 300 000 BP) and can be seen in a number of caves that have been opened to the public in the Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe.
The Matopo Hills is of special religious importance to the Shona and Ndebele people. Before the colonial era started, the Mlimo (a specialist oracle) lived here. In 1896 the famous meeting between the British and Ndebele took place here in the Matobo Hills and this marked the end of the Second Matabele War (or the First Chimurenga).
Quite a few British settlers are buried here in the Matobo Hills, including Leander Starr Jameson, Allan Wilson and the entire Shangani Patrol killed during the First Matabele War. Cecil John Rhodes is buried at the summit of Malindindzimu (‘hill of benevolent spirits’), which he called ‘View of the world’. Given the special religious importance of the Matobo Hills to the Shona and Ndebele people, it is no wonder that this remains a source of much controversy in Zimbabwe.
In the Matopo Hills, the Matobo Hills Lodge offers thatched cottages built to blend into the granite rocks. Granite Ridge offers self-catering ( self contained ) accommodation in a beautiful, tranquil garden, while the Matobo Hills Rest Camp is situated in the Matobo National Park.