Established in 1953, the Matobo National Park - formerly called Matopos - covers an area of 445 km2, just over 30 km south of Bulawayo. It is known for its beautiful granite domes and balancing rocks, and a large number of San rock paintings. There are many great walks through the park. It is an area with plenty of wildlife, birds (including a large population of Black Eagles) and beautiful, truly African landcape. They have also successfully reintroduced rhinos and established a breeding programme to help to protect this highly endangered species.
The national park covers 445 km2 of this vast area of granite hills and bushveld - 3 100 km2 of it. The rest of this hilly bushveld area is mainly communal land and some commercial farms. Approximately 100 km2 of the national park is the Whovi Wild Area, where most of the wildlife are concentrated.
The Matobo hills themselves are a geographical wonder. They showcase the beautiful domes, spires and balancing rocks that result from millions of years of granite erosion. It is these domes that inspired King Mzilikazi to name the area Matobo, which means 'bald head'.
The area provides a habitat for many of Africa's 'signature' plants, including Acacia and Mopani trees, aloes, and a hundred different grasses.This is real bushveld - thorny and beautiful. Guided walks are offered and are well worth doing. An up-close encounter with both the trees and the intriguing tiny plants, that you miss out on when driving through an area, is a must.
Matobo boasts a wide array of wildlife, both in the national park and the Whovi Wild Area.
With over 80 mammals and 30 snakes, the park is a wildlife treat. Game that call Matobo home include giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, a range of buck, baboons, lizards and leopard. If you're lucky, you'll get to spot a leopard in this area, as it has a high population of them. Dassies (hyrax) abound, and explain the high number of leopard, as they're a favourite leopard meal.
Matobo is known for its successful breeding programme of the highly endangered black and white rhino. A San painting of a rhino in one of the many caves at Matobo was a compelling reason to reintroduce these enormous creatures to the area. There are regular sightings of these amazing animals in the Matobo area.
White rhino were brought in from South Africa in the 1960's and the black rhino from the Zambezi Valley in the 1990's.
Known most famously for having the world's densest population of black eagles, Matobo is a birdwatcher's paradise. To hear the eagle's cry as it soars through the sky and returns to its cliff-side nest, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
There is a wide array of other raptors and birds in the park, including the enormous, comical-looking ostrich.
This area has numerous important cultural sites for the local Ndebele and Shona people. Many rituals and religious ceremonies still take place here, in the quiet solitude of the hills.
Up on Malindidzimu, or the 'hill of the spirits', lies Cecil John Rhodes' grave. Controversy surrounds this spot as it is a sacred Ndebele site.
A short walk up to the grave offers spectacular views across the bushveld.
There are a number of lodges and camping sites in the surrounding area too.
The park remains open throughout the year and has a fairly temperate, tending toward hot and dry, climate.
The dry season is in winter, from May to October. Night time temperatures can get down to 5°C/41°F, and early mornings can be very chilly. Daytime temperatures average a pleasant 23°C/73°F.
The wet season - summer - runs from November to April. The rain is often in the form of spectacular afternoon thunderstorms followed by bright sunshine. It is unusual to get European-like days of drizzle, although it does happen occassionally, and is welcomed. Temperatures average 27°C/81°F during the day and a balmy 15°C/59°F in the evenings/early mornings.
Use the Google map to explore Matobo National Park. Feel free to Print the Street Map when you're ready.