There are no boundaries or borders to the adventurous spirit, whether it be tackling fresh terrain outdoors, or absorbing surroundings in inner exploration; the soul is equally fulfilled. Perhaps it is the word ‘adventure’ that is actually misunderstood, as adventures appear in various forms evoking a range of emotions. The adventurous spirit may be one who wishes to ride the waves of the Zambezi River, or who follows in the footsteps of the Big 5, or they may be found quietly observing nature, from a viewpoint with vistas stretching to the horizon.
It calls to the wild wanderer, the culturally curious, the artist as well as the philosopher.
One of these soul-nourishing destinations for us at Hideaways is Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe. Historically, culturally and topographically distinctive, the national park and its surroundings offer multiple opportunities for exploration and connection. It calls to the wild wanderer, the culturally curious, the artist as well as the philosopher. Its boulders and caves summon the explorer, whereas its vistas beckon the dreamers, and its cultural quilt, historians. It seems to have understood these characters since the beginning of time, with its rock paintings, its pioneers and its raw beauty.
Despite not being an African location of the Big 5, Matobo holds wild wonders of its own. From the boulder’s edge of Shashani, Matobo Hills Lodge, to the caves and savannahs of the national park, you will encounter Matobo Hills very own Big 5, the reasons for its World Heritage Site status which it wholly deserves.
Rock Art and Ancient Culture
A sacred past is unveiled on cave walls in paintings made from natural pigment, peeling back layers of symbolism and cultural significance – stories held timeless on granite canvas. According to UNESCO, the area holds the highest rock art concentrations in Southern Africa, dating back at least 13 000 years. To experience both the well-known caves as well as off the beaten track hidden art spots is highly recommended – gaining a more holistic and in-depth perspective of the local culture.
Home to the Rhino
A rare and honoured encounter awaits amidst golden grass beneath giant granite boulders. The Matobo National Park is home to the endangered and elusive rhino, part of its vast and significant biodiversity. One is able to track and observe these magnificent creatures from a respectful distance, following in the footsteps of a professional guide.
Largest Population of Black Eagles
The national park boasts one of the largest populations of black eagles in the world. According to the Black Eagle Project, at one stage there were +/- 60 breeding pairs within its borders. A rare and royal bird in stature and sighting, the landscapes of Matobo are where these eagles nest and breed with their chosen mates for life. Its rocky, mountainous terrain is the birds’ preferred habitat, as well as home to the rock hyrax, the black eagles’ favourite meal, sustaining this healthy fleet of feathered friends.
The Largest Population of Leopard
The rocky outcrops, caves and savannah of the national park are home to one of the largest leopard populations in Southern Africa. This elusive carnivore thrives in the granite habitat of caves and crevices, as well as off its rock hyraxes, a delicacy shared with the black eagles. A leopard sighting always feels like a gift from mother nature, and most certainly one for the Matobo Hills bucket list.
Grave of Cecil John Rhodes
Atop a granite hill in Matobo National Park, surrounded by an amphitheatre of boulders, lies the grave of Cecil John Rhodes. With panoramic scenery akin to a painting – a landscape of rugged rock formations and thick vegetation seemingly stretching to the horizon – one gets the feeling of peering into the past while rooted in the present. Rhodes himself dubbed it ‘View of the World’ mesmerised by the gentle ambience of Matobo Hills and the breathtaking vista beyond, and chose it as his final resting place.