Matobo National Park

The Matobo National Park forms the core of the Matobo or Matopos Hills, an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys commencing some 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Bulawayo, southern Zimbabwe. The hills were formed over 2 billion years ago with granite being forced to the surface, this has eroded to produce smooth "whaleback dwalas" and broken kopjes, strewn with boulders and interspersed with thickets of vegetation. Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, gave the area its name, meaning 'Bald Heads'.

The Hills cover an area of about 3100 km² (1200 sq mi), of which 424 km² (164 sq mi) is National Park, the remainder being largely communal land and a small proportion of commercial farmland. The park extends along the Thuli, Mtshelele, Maleme and Mpopoma river valleys. Part of the national park is set aside as a 100 km² (39 sq mi) game park, which has been stocked with game including the white rhinoceros. The highest point in the hills is the promontory named Gulati (1549 m; 5082 ft) just outside the north-eastern corner of the park.

Administratively, Matobo National Park incorporates the Lake Matopos Recreational Park, being the area around Hazelside, Sandy Spruit and Lake Matopos.
The national park is located within the southern Africa bushveld ecoregion.

Nswatugi Cave painting art - Zimbabwe
Nswatugi Cave - Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe | Image credits: Kate T via Flickr

Each year it seems I have to go 15 rounds with my family, to convince them to go somewhere interesting for our annual family vacation and there is always the same old beach towns, major cities, national parks, Europe and so on. Don’t
get me wrong they are all great places, but I would want something interesting and new. To see something that few people ever see in a place even fewer people would include in their travel plans.

If you’re like me and want something a little unusual, might I suggest the Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park???

Most likely, you’ve never heard of this tourist attraction place. It is indeed in the African country of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe? That’s right. Of course, most people do not think this country is a tourist destination and may be right, but in this case, Matobo National Park was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and it has more than 300 paintings concern mass balanced on rocks surrounded by incredible scenery.

The best time of year to go is between April and August because it is the dry season when the weather is cool. Sure, you could go in November, when it’s hot (but dry) or late November to March, if you do not mind the rain and humidity of the rainy season.

The Matobo National Park is a mystical place that has a history dating back to about 4 million years. The wind and rain during this period formed the huge granite rocks that you will not see anywhere else. Most rocks hidden caves were sacred places a very long time ago and you can find the amazing rock art in several of these caves, and indeed, this region has the highest concentration of this type of art in Africa.

The Victoria Falls, Zambia-Zimbabwe | Image credits: DoctorJoeE via Wikimedia Commons

You really have to see it to believe that much art would exist in a place like this. Not only the images on a wall! Many of these images seem almost animated, representing men in motion in a dance, or of course, hunting. The pictures are incredibly realistic and detailed to the point where we can identify the species of animals from old photographs.

The park not only boasts the big rocks, you can be dazzled by the wide variety of rainbow lizards! Tourists can see the Power Rangers of these lizards and it is a sight to see these small shoots under rocks to catch their food and come home.

Of course, many other animals as well … Zimbabwe is Africa after all. You can see the white rhino, rare color and black and antelope, lots of different monkeys and baboons, and even zebras and leopards!

I’ll be honest with you, this is not the type of holiday for everyone, but if you are looking for something incredibly unusual and rare, it can get much more spectacular than Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe, Africa. Why not take a chance and try something out of the ordinary for a change?