Matobo National Park occupies a total area of 44 500 hectares. Established in 1953, the Park was awarded Unesco World Heritage Status in June 2003.
Matobo meaning ‘bald heads’ was the name chosen for the area by the great Ndebele King, Mzilikazi. He is buried in the Matobo Hills just a short distance from the park.
The park is situated in the magnificent Matobo Hills, a range of domes, spires and balancing rock formations which have been hewn out of the solid granite plateau through millions of years of erosion and weathering. The majestic and rugged terrain of the park is a hikers paradise and the diversity of the vegetation supports a wide range of wildlife.
Matobo National Park is also the site of the grave of Cecil John Rhodes. He is buried at the summit of Malindidzimu -‘ hill of benevolent spirits’. He referred to this hill as having a ‘View of the World’. A short walk from the parking lot will lead the visitor to his grave, which is carved out of the solid granite hill and surrounded by a natural amphitheatre of massive boulders.
The Matobo area has great spiritual and cultural significance to the local people and there are many sites within the park where important ceremonies still take place.
The Park is home to a wide variety of animal species including: black and white rhinoceros, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, kudu, eland, sable, klipspringer, leopard, hyena, cheetah, hippo, warthog, rock dassies, waterbuck, wildcat, springhare, common duiker, crocodiles, baboons and monkeys.
The richness of the Park can also be seen from the diverse bird life. The park is famous for its large concentration of black eagles, which can be seen perched atop the rock formations or soaring along the cliffs in search of prey. Bird species that can be found include, fish eagle, martial eagle, francolin, secretary bird, weavers, pied crow and Egyptian geese.
Fish species readily found in this Park include, bass, bottle fish, bream, catfish and robustus.
Matobo National Park has a mixed type of vegetation that ranges from Mopane, Acacia species, Brachstegia in other area, Figtrees, Azanza species, Zizphus species, Strychnos species and Terminalia species.
Accommodation facilites are located at Whitewaters, Tshabalala Sanctuary, Toghwana, Hazelside and Mtsheleli. Maleme Rest Camp provides accommodation in the form of chalets and lodges and it is by far the largest rest area in the Park.
Some of the lodges have 4 single beds and others have 1 double bed and 2 singles. All lodges are equipped either dressing tables or wardrobes, dinning rooms with tables, chairs, heaters, flush toilet and bathrooms with cold and hot water.
Fish Eagle -This is a 2 bedroomed lodge with 5 beds i.e. one double and one single bed, one bedroom with 2 single beds all with linen, 2 dressing tables. The kitchen has a fridge, 4 plate stove, electric kettle, crockery and cutlery. The lodge has a flush toilet, bathroom with tub and hot shower, veranda, garden table and chairs.
Black Eagle -This is a 2 bed roomed lodge with 5 beds i.e. one double and one single bed, one bedroom with 2 single beds all with linen, 2 dressing tables. The kitchen has a fridge, 4 plate stove, electric kettle, crockery and cutlery. The lodge has a flush toilet, bathroom with tub and hot shower, veranda, garden table and chairs.
Imbila –has standard accommodation with 2 bedrooms containing 2 double teak beds. Each bedroom has 4-seater teak easy chairs. There are 2 ensuite bathrooms and flush toilets. The dinning room has a teak table. The veranda overlooking the river has a garden table and chairs. The kitchen has a fridge, 4 plate stove, crockery and cultlery supplied.
Camping sites are available at Maleme Dam, Mthselele Dam, Toghwana Dam, Mesilume Dam and Arboretum.
Fine rock paintings – within the park are numerous sites which were once occupied by the San hunter-gatherers. The paintings at Nswatugi Cave are perhaps some of the finest in the country and contain beautiful renditions of giraffe, eland and kudu.
There are other areas of note such as Bambata Cave, Inanke Cave and Silozwane Cave – just outside the park – that display fine animal paintings.
Pony trails – conducted around the Maleme Dam area and into the Whovi Wild Area.
Fishing – allowed in most dams to those issued with licences at the tourist office
Boating – privately owned boats are permitted on certain dams
The park is located 34 kilometres south of Bulawayo along the Kezi/Maphisa Road. The Main road to Maleme is tarred while all other Park roads are gravel and mostly in good condition. Durintg the rainy season the road to Toghwana requires 4 wheel drive vehicles.