It feels like time has forgotten this tranquil oasis
As we stand high above the open savannah gazing across the magnificent Zimbabwean landscape of Matobo National Park, Gary looks over and says, I don’t think this view would’ve changed in a thousand years. And I think he was probably right.
The majestic open land stretched out beyond us is breath-taking.
You can see why Cecil Rhodes referred to it as “World’s View”.
You almost feel you could see the earth curving, in the far distance.
View across Matobo National Park
This is Matobo National Park which is Zimbabwe’s oldest national park and one of its most treasured gems. Particularly by Zimbabweans themselves and considered their spiritual home. There’s just something quite ethereal about it.
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A short hop
We were staying in Bulawayo for a few nights so, the 22-mile (35km) drive to Matobo was pretty easy. We had received so many positive reactions from people, when we said we were heading to the national park. Especially from locals who really felt like they had a personal affinity with the serene surroundings.
The choice is yours
After paying our dues, which wasn’t a quick process, as particular dockets needed to be filled out in a specific order, we headed into the park – There’s no rush, you’re in Africa.
In 2019 the entrance charge was US$15 per person and US$3 per vehicle.
We took the circular route through Matobo National Park, as we knew this would include incredible scenery and also pick up Cecil Rhodes’s last resting place. Although the landscape is stunning throughout.
The scenery and terrain are so different from the other national parks like Hwange and Matusadona that we had visited. The enormous granite boulders have worn away over thousands of years and formed kopjes (balancing rocks).
Rock formations in Matobo Hills
The majestic rocks look like they have been stacked upon each other and appear to be just teetering on edge. However, amazingly, these are all-natural and the weather and time, has made them what they are today.
Granite has worn away over centuries
It gives such a calming feel, perhaps it’s the round shapes and the unbelievable enormity of some of them. You almost feel that with a little nudge, and they would topple over.
Whilst on the circular route we saw a sign for White Rhino cave paintings, so, we just had to go and take a peek. Parked up, we headed into the bush to take a look.
Climb up to the White Rhino cave paintings
Obviously, these weren’t just going to be on the roadside, so a climb ensued. The walk wasn’t too bad as the rocks had been placed strategically to create some sort of steps. Even if the rock paintings weren’t there, the view from the top of the hill was stunning and certainly worth the climb.
Bushmen – cave painting
Faint outline of White Rhino
To protect the paintings, a fence had been placed around them, but, you could still see one set of pictures in clear view. A few of the rhino paintings were slightly faint.
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Given more time
We spent some time soaking up the view from a high and then carried on around the park, taking in more of the spectacular rock formations.
The view near the cave painting
There are quite a few other ancient examples of rock paintings in Matobo NP, some are very remote and may take a few hours hike to reach.
Me in Matobo National Park
One of the other reasons we wanted to head to Matobo National Park, was to visit the Cecil John Rhodes burial site and witness the “World’s View” for ourselves.
It was an additional US$10 per person but was certainly worth it. Cecil Rhodes had died in South Africa in 1902 but wanted to be buried at Matobo Hills. Rhodes request was granted and was the first time that a white man was given the Matabele royal salute.
Granite boulders at World’s View
Perched high on World’s View
I must agree the views from this location in the park across the landscape beyond are beautiful, we just stood there trying to take it all in. Rhodes’s grave was on the highest point and laid amongst huge granite boulders that almost encompassed the tomb.
Cecil John Rhodes burial site
This was an exceptional place, and you could easily see why Rhodes fell in love with it. The view that we were witnessing would have changed very little from when Cecil looked out over Zimbabwe.
The Shangani Memorial
Additionally, upon the same viewpoint is a huge memorial to the Shangani Patrol, which was a small unit of soldiers who lost their lives during the First Matabele War. Along with Rhodes are also two other graves that of Leander Starr Jameson and Charles Patrick John Coghlan.
Leander Starr Jameson burial site
The final resting place of Charles Patrick John Coghlan
Back on route
Driving further on we veered off the route to visit a dam and took an off-road option. For this part of the trail, you definitely needed a 4x4, and even then, parts were pretty rough terrain.
Dam in Matobo National Park
However, not to sound too repetitive, the park was beautiful. It would have been better if there had been more lay-bys to stop at and enjoy the surroundings. But, hey there were quite a few picnic spots.
An agama lizard
On your travels, you may even see a few of these little fellas around, the Agama lizard.
Getting to Bulawayo and Matobo National Park
Of course, you can fly, but where is the fun in that?
From Harare the drive is around 6 hours (270 miles/433km), there are 5 tolls along the way to Bulawayo, at a charge of two Zimbabwe Bond each (around 50p in 2019). Also a few police roadblocks, which tend to be stopping the laden down commuter buses.
It may seem to be a long journey, but you see so much of the countryside and locals along the way, and you get to experience a bit of what Zimbabwean life is about.
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Inspired to visit Matobo National Park?
Why not stay in the old colonial city of Bulawayo, just 40-minute drive away.
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