A visit to Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

In Africa, En-Route, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, Unesco, World Travel, Zimbabwe by JanisLeave a Comment

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.

A view over Matobo National Park from World's View.

World’s View

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. 

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An uninterrupted view across Matobo National Park from up on high.

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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UNESCO

Matobo National Park in Matabeleland is one of the few locations in Zimbabwe that is recognised by UNESCO and was inscribed onto the list in 2003.




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.

A sign within the entrance to the Matobo National Park with a route for the Game Drive and another for the Circular Drive.

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.

Park Fees

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.

Looking up at a rock formation within Matobo National Park.

Rock formation

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).

A rock formation high above the bush baseline.

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. 

Worn granite boulders balanced high on the rock formation.

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. 




Rock Paintings

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.

A rough pathway up to a remote spot on top of the rockface.

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. 

An ancient cave painting of bushmen on a boulder.

Bushmen – cave painting


The faint outline of a rhino in a 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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Is Zimbabwe for you?

Take a peek at our other posts from this trip and start creating your own adventure for yourself. 

We chose British Airways, and it was all done with a few clicks, a brief stopover in Johannesburg, and our luggage was there waiting for us on arrival at our end destination in Harare.




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.

A view of a collection of boulders from the top of another rock formation.

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.

A shot of Janis with a rock formation in the background at Matobo National Park.

Me in Matobo National Park

Cecil Rhodes

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.

A complete, uninterrupted, scene from World’s View across the African bush.

World’s View

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.

A collection of granite boulders at World’s View in Matobo National Park.

Granite boulders at World’s View


Looking up a collection of 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.

A full-size plaque over a stone marking the last resting place of Cecil John Rhodes on top of World's View in front of a collection of boulders.

Cecil John Rhodes burial site

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Have you visited Zimbabwe or any of its neighbouring countries, share with us your memories and drop a comment below? 




Shangani Memorial

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.

A large four-sided stone memorial to the Shangani massacre at World's View.

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.

The burial site of Leander Starr Jameson, marked by a brass plaque mounted on a stone.

Leander Starr Jameson burial site


A full-size plaque over a stone marking the last resting place of Charles Patrick John Coghlan.

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. 

A river on one side of a dammed river in Matobo National Park.

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. 

A colourful lizard, the Agama Lizard, with a blue head flowing into a green/yellow back that then travels onto orange and yellow tail.

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. 

Something for the Traveller

Buying Fuel

As we were tourists, we arrived in the country with USD cash, which is widely used in Zimbabwe. We used USD to buy the fuel, which, unfortunately, majority Zimbabweans do not have access to. 




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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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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