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 kilometers about (22 miles) 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. Matopo/Matobo was named by the Lozwi, who are the ancestors of Kalanga. A different tradition states that the first King, Mzilikazi Khumalo when told by the local residents that the great granite domes were called Madombo he replied, possible half jest, “We will call them Matobo” – an IsiNdebele play on ‘Bald heads.
The Hills cover an area of about 3100 km² (1200 square miles), of which 424 km² (164 square miles) 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 square miles) 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 feet) just outside the north-eastern corner of the park.
Administratively, Matobo National Park incorporates the Lake Matopos Recreational Park, being the area around Hazel side, Sandy Spruit and Lake Matopos.
The national park is located within the southern Africa bushveld ecoregion.
THE ORIGIN OF MATOBO NATIONAL PARK
The national park is the oldest in Zimbabwe, established in 1926 as Rhodes Matopos National Park, a bequest from Cecil Rhodes. The original park borders extended well to the south and east of the current park. These areas were redesignated for settlement as part of a compromise between the colonial authorities and the local people, creating the Khumalo and Matobo Communal Lands The park area then increased with the acquisition of World’s View and Hazelside farms to the north.
The current name Matobo reflects the correct vernacular pronunciation of the area.
The Matobo Hills were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. The area “exhibits a profusion of distinctive rock landforms rising above the granite shield that covers much of Zimbabwe
The Matobo Hills is an area of high botanic diversity, with over 200 species of tree recorded in the national park, including the mountain acacia, wild pear and the paperbark acacia
There are also many aloes, wild herbs and over 100 grass specie
Many types of rare endemic plants have been recorded
Matobo National Park has a wide diversity of fauna: 175 bird, 88 mammals, 39 snake and 16 fish species Game include white rhinos, sable antelopes, impala and leopards. The park contains the world’s densest population of the latter, due to the abundance of hyrax, which make up 50% of their diet. The game park in the west has been restocked with white and black rhinos, the former from KwaZulu-Natal in the 1960s and the latter from the Zambezi Valley in the 1990s. It has been designated as an Intensive Protection Zone for the two species, as well as hyenas, hippopotami, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests and ostriches
Matobo National Park contains the highest concentration of black eagles, and breeding pairs of these birds, worldwide.
limnological research centre has operated since 1950 at Maleme Dam and researched species such as the yellow-fish, Barbus Mattoz
ACTIVITIES TAKING PLACE AT MATOBO NATIONAL PARK
Some game can be seen throughout the park, with regular sightings of white rhino, sable antelope and impala. However, the best viewing is to be had in the 105 km2 Game Park, in the west of the national park. The game park, also known as Whovi or Hove Wild Area was established with animals translocated from the border areas of Hwange National Park. It has been restocked with white and black rhinos.
With its scenery, climate and safe environment, Matobo has a number of hiking trails. Shorter hikes and walks include:
Lakeside walk, Maleme Dam, from Fish Eagle lodge, Mount Pomongwe, near Maleme Camp, Maleme Camp to Pomongwe Cave rock paintings
Longer hikes include:
Climbing mount Shumbashawa, near Gordon Park, Climbing Nyahwe mountain, Hike from Toghwana Dam to Inanke Cave and rock paintings.
Accompanied hikes, with an armed game scout are available from Maleme Rest Camp.
Supervised horse trails are arranged by the parks and wildlife staff. There are two routes, that one from Maleme Camp and visiting scenic locations in the Maleme valley and environs.
From whitewater office into the game park for game viewing
The many dams in the par allow for pleasant fishing, notably for Tilapia and bass. Bass were stocked into seven of the parks dams from the research station at Maleme Dam. The park entry fee includes a fishing license.
This activity is possible on a larger dam, such as Maleme, Mtshelele, Toghwana and lake Matopos. Privately owned boats are permitted subject to approval of the park’s officials.