A recent exploration of Matobo Hills introduced us to the more gentle and cultural side of Africa, set amongst giant granite domes. Matobo National Park is a landscape where the earth is decorated with the footsteps of rhino; a place where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. Matobo holds a magic like none other. Its environment, ambience and lasting impact is unique to its location, found nowhere else in Africa. It’s quiet wilderness, steeped in history and embedded in culture, finds a way to settle onto your skin and steals a special part of your heart.
If one is seeking a location to soothe the soul, the lodge and its surroundings will willingly answer your call.
Built on the edge of a giant rock dome, Shashani Matobo Hills encourages one to observe the landscape in all its splendour, from private patio to the horizon, and beyond. This was our home for the next few days, blessed with a view of the Shashani valley. If one is seeking a location to soothe the soul, the lodge and its surroundings will willingly answer your call. Undulating granite hills, covered in colourful lichen and blanketed in history awakens one’s curiosity and demands the respect of presence.
The park as a whole feels like a masterpiece.
In the local Ndebele language, Matobo means ‘bald heads’ – a reference to the granite domes characteristic of the area. These rocks exist as giant boulders, with smaller versions balancing atop the other, creating fascinating formations akin to art. The park as a whole feels like a masterpiece. The Matobo area is home to some of the oldest rock paintings in the world, deeming it a significant archeological and historical area. The paintings gift evidence of the existence of humanity in Matobo dating back over 100 000 years. To stand beneath these paintings and absorb such information is awe-inspiring, stories of Zimbabwe’s history imprinted in rock, and now in memory. One feels a sense of honour in witnessing these tales of old, their beauty held in their simplicity.
The Matobo National Park is also home to the endangered and elusive rhino, part of its vast and significant biodiversity. We dedicated one of our days to seeking out this rare and shy species, led on foot through the national park by a professional guide. Other animals we would possibly encounter were sable, zebra, giraffe and wildebeest, with a small leopard population who thrive in the rocky habitat. The flora and fauna of the area boasts botanic diversity, with over 200 species of plants and 100 species of grasses. The birdlife lays claim to the highest concentration of breeding pairs of black eagles worldwide, an accolade worthy of mention for these endangered species. Collected early in the morning, eager to spot any of the above, we set out for a full day’s experience, immersed in the wild following in the cultural and historical footsteps of the past.
The tracks led us through tall golden grass with flattened areas revealing where the rhinos had previously been napping. The idea that we were literally reliving their footsteps was thrilling, the 2000 kg animals in our midst. The combination of this knowledge in the shadows of granite domes was truly humbling, the giants of Matobo granting us momentary visitation to their world. We found the rhinos resting under an acacia tree – seven gorgeous creatures unaffected by our presence. In quiet respect, our guide led us merely metres away from the herd, educating us about their ways. With breath held in awe, we stood in extreme gratitude at having the opportunity to stand amongst these endangered giants, each silently wishing the same for future generations.
Exploring ancient grain bins from cultures of old, spending time learning of traditional Ndebele rituals, exerting yourself to climb rock faces, or follow in the footsteps of guides to find rhino – Matobo is a place to honour the inquisitive, enveloped by the gentle side of Africa.