Another of Zimbabwe’s great natural wonders, the Matobo Hills (considered to be sacred by the Shona tribe) cover an area of almost 2000sq kms, although the National Park itself (one of the oldest in Zimbabwe) is a relatively small 43 000 hectares. The sweeping granite hills get their name from Mzilikazi who called the hills Matobo meaning “bald headed”. The Hills were formed over 2000 million years ago and Apart from the inherent beauty, they are also famous for a rich heritage in hundreds of rock paintings, left by the San (Bushmen) who lived in the hills some 2,000 years ago. Cecil John Rhodes was so taken with the place that not only did he request it be turned into a park, but also requested to be buried here on his death. He was laid to rest here at what the locals called “place of the spirits” although Rhodes preferred it be known as “view of the “world”
Part of the national park is set aside as a game park, which covers some 100 km² of beautiful scenery including some spectacular balancing rocks and impressive views along the Mpopoma river Valley. Today the Matobo National Park is one of Zimbabwe’s prime wildlife sanctuaries with a large population of white rhino, the elusive black rhino, a variety of antelope species, baboon, rock hyraxes and a large population of leopard and black eagle to name a few.
Bulawayo (the Ndebele word meaning “the place of slaughter”) is also fondly known as The City of Kings. It is the second largest city in Zimbabwe after the capital city, Harare, with an estimated metropolitan population in 2007 of 731,003 people. Located in Matabeleland, 439 km southwest of Harare, it is now treated as a separate provincial area from Matabeleland. Being a multicultural city most residents are able to speak at least three languages (including English, Ndebele, Shona, Xhosa, Kalanga, Sotho, Nambya, Tonga and Venda). Bulawayo has long been and is still regarded as the industrial and business capital of Zimbabwe and is home to the National Railways of Zimbabwe because of its strategic position near Botswana and South Africa. It is the nearest large city to Hwange National Park, Matopo National Park and Victoria Falls – offering travellers a convenient stopover enroute to any of these destinations.
A city rich in cultural history, Bulawayo is one of the oldest and historically most important of Zimbabwe’s towns. Certainly one cannot say that they have experienced the full range of Zimbabwe’s diversity if they have not been to this bustling city in the southwestern part of the the country. It has been said that visitors to the city describe Bulawayo as the “Jewel Beneath the Zimbabwe Sun “, well worth visiting due to its vast array of treasures located in a truly unique setting.
Where to stay and what to do
Why we like it – Serviced by Air Zimbabwe and SAA, this is an ideal place to start or finish a safari in the western section of Zimbabwe. It also makes an ideal stopping off place if driving from Harare, Victoria Falls or the Zimbabwe lowveld and Gonarezhou. Bulawayo and Motobo hills are rich in history – both from colonial days and from the natives who inhabited the area before then. Bulawayo has got great places to visit – the natural history museum, Railway museum, The national gallery, Khami Ruins and Chipingali wildlife orphanage to name a few. There are two very good lodges near to the Matobo Hills and the hills themselves are steeped in history, superstition and are incredibly beautiful.
Accommodation at Matobo hills
Big Cave Camp, Camp Amalinda
Mobile Camping Safaris, Self Drive and Escorted Tours options
How to get there – by Air Zimbabwe from Harare and South African Airways out of Johannesburg or by road from one of the major towns, or by charter out of, or to, the safari camps