Known as the Matobo National Park, the Matopos National Park, is a worthwhile destination for a day trip from the surrounding Zimbabwe hotels, and is the oldest park in Zimbabwe. The area has a long and interesting history, varied species to view and several sights of historic importance. The Matopos Hills found within Matopos National Park, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Formed over 2 million years ago, the Motopos Hills encompass some 3100 square kilometres of Southern Zimbabwe, close to Bulawayo, and were first inhabited by the San about 2000 years ago. Reminders of their presence such as rock paintings, clay ovens and cave dwellings have been discovered here and faithfully preserved for visitors to marvel at today.
The grave of Cecil John Rhodes is also located high up amongst the rocks of the Matopos Hills, at a spot which he had chosen while out riding with friends, and proclaimed, ’the chaotic grandeur of it all….it brings home to me how very small we all are.’ After Rhodes’ death in Cape Town, his coffin was transported by rail in a private carriage draped with black velvet and purple silk, all the way to Bulawayo, where he lay in state.
After the funeral service, his body was taken by ox-wagon to the site of his grave along a road which had been carved out by thousands of Matabele in the days prior to the journey. He was laid to rest atop a huge dome of granite referred to as Marindidzimu (‘the haunt of the ancestral spirits’) by the local people, but also known as World’s View.
The Matopos Hills are regarded as sacred by the Shona people and many religious ceremonies are still held here today. It is believed that up voices can be heard in the hills of Matopos if you listen closely. The haunting landscapes certainly add fuel to the magical aura of Matopos, with stark granite formations rising above dense bush and the silence of the wilderness all around.
Apart from sightseeing, you can also enjoy canoeing, walking tours, picnics, horse riding, fishing and boating while visiting Matopos National Park. Game drives are a popular activity and the park has a high concentration of leopard, black eagle and raptors, along with 200 tree species, 100 grass species, 175 birds and 88 mammals.