The hills are made of granite and have eroded over two billion years to form a spectacular assortment of island mountains, castle kopjes and random boulders, among lush valleys and vast expanses of plains.
Matobo became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, in recognition of its spectacular rock formations. Certainly it is a dream destination for hikers, but it is a site of cultural interest too. This is because the San Bushmen who lived here over two thousand years ago left a fascinating collection of rock art and much of this survives today, both within the park and just outside its borders. The caves of Nswatugi, Bambata and Inanke all contain beautiful paintings inspired by the local wildlife – elephant, giraffe and mongoose, to name just three.
The descendants of some of the animals represented in the caves roam Matobo today, making the area wonderful for vehicle and walking safari. Visitors can expect to see leopard, white rhinoceros, impala and sable antelope throughout the park. However, a true wealth of wildlife inhabits the western region, an Intensive Protection Zone. This zone includes an impressive amount of black and white rhino, brought from Kwa-Zulu Natal and Zambezi Valley in the 1960s and 1990s respectively. There are also zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and many more – in fact, the park as a whole boasts an outstanding range of mammal, bird, snake and fish species, supported by a rich variety of vegetation including mopane, acacia and fig trees.
Another historical attraction in the park is the burial site of Mzilikazi, the Ndebele king who gave the area its name – meaning ‘bald heads’! The Ndebele people attached great reverence to the hills and ceremonies are conducted by local people to this day. And Cecil John Rhodes’ final resting place is located at the summit of Malindidzimu, translated as ‘hill of benevolent spirits’. Just a short distance from the car park, this grand granite carving amid huge boulders is well worth a visit.
Matabo contains some great accommodation options – take a look below!