The Matobo National Park sits in the heart of the Matobo Hills, an expanse of land in southern Zimbabwe characterised by thousands of prehistoric-looking granite kopjes. This unsung highlight of Zimbabwe is the oldest national park in the country and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The national park spans 424 square kilometres of hilly terrain, which is divided into a game park and a recreational park. The recreational park is an important part of Zimbabwe’s San history. Ancient caves form the canvas for San rock art, while the Cecil Rhodes Memorial site is located at one of the viewpoints.
The park sprawls across four river valleys that give rise to swamp-laden pockets of vegetation in amongst the predominantly mountain acacia landscape. The game park is where visitors go to see wildlife, in particular black and white rhinos.
International visitors are encouraged to fly into Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo, which is an hour by road to the national park. Alternatively, visitors can fly into Victoria Falls International Airport and connect via domestic flight to Bulawayo or drive.
Matobo National Park is the ideal place for twitchers to get their fill as it has abundant birdlife. The park also has the highest concentration of black eagles anywhere in the world.
Safari-goers to the park will have access to swimming pools, restaurants and bars at a whole host of exclusive and luxury overnight accommodation options.
There is a diverse array of flora and fauna within the national park, boasting a mammal count of 88 and a bird count of 175 species. White and black rhino, sable, waterbuck, warthog, ostrich, leopard, impala, hyena, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe and hippo account for most of the mammal sightings in the park.
The main attraction of the park is the massive concentration of black eagles that favour the rocky terrain for nesting purposes. Matobo National Park is home to the highest concentration of black eagles worldwide. In addition to the exquisite array of birds, there are 39 species of snakes slithering about, and 16 species of fish in the various pans. The park is one of the most diverse regions for a safari experience.
Zimbabwe's long and dry winter is from May to October, which means the window for peak safari season is quite long. During the dry winter, the vegetation thins out, and wildlife tends to gather at more permanent water sources. September to March sees the weather warm up a bit, but November to March is also when the rains pelt down on the landscape.
The emerald season is January, and the green season is when the landscape shifts its colours. The main roads are accessible during heavy rains, but the remote regions of the park remain inaccessible.
In the recreational park, there are caves scattered across the landscape with San rock art plastered on the walls. Historical walking trails are designed to introduce visitors to the artwork of our ancestors. Part of the walking trail leads to a rocky outcrop where Cecil Rhodes is buried—a raised area offering unmatched panoramic views of the landscape below.
There are also guided rhino walks in the Intensive Protection Zone which is home to a rhino breeding project. Fishing in the many dams within the park and pony trails around the various waterholes prove to be popular excursions with visitors.
Guided game drives led by professionals introduce guests to portions of the landscape known for their phenomenal wildlife sightings. Visitors are privy to wildlife knowledge from locals and will learn interesting facts about the surrounding wilderness.
There are a host of accommodation options available inside the park. These include everything from exclusive villas to authentic Zimbabwe safari lodges, farmhouse stays and high-end establishments.
Most of the permanent accommodation options offer luxury facilities such as swimming pools, boma areas, restaurants and bars.