Last year July I was fortunate enough to embark on a trip with my family that involved driving from KZN, South Africa through Botswana and back down through Zimbabwe over two weeks. We visited some of the most incredible places, one of my favourites was the Matopos Hills National Park, Zimbabwe.
The Matopos Hills National Park was established in 1953, these hills are also known as the Matobo (meaning ‘the bald heads’). It is an amazing site to see, over 3000 square kilometers of intense history, spirituality and pure beauty. Some believe that this is where the spirits of the leaders of the Ndebele tribe lie, I’m not one for superstition but there is definitely a level of spirituality here that I had never experienced before. This is a one of a kind place, the ‘balancing rocks’ that make up this enormous area were formed by granite being forced to the surface of the earth followed by millions of years of erosion and weathering.
The Mapoto Hills were proclaimed a world heritage site in 2003 (for good reason!). The grave of Cecil John Rhodes lies at the top of the Malindidzimu Hill which I had the privilege of walking up to. Cecil John Rhodes once referred to this spot as “having a view of the world” (my dad is admiring the view of the world in the image above).
On top of the history and spirituality of this place, the plants and wildlife that occur here are beyond special. This national park is one of the very few places left in Zimbabwe that still have a healthy population of breeding rhino (white & black). They also have one of the highest population of leopards in Africa – but apparently this population is just not enough seeing as we did not have the pleasure of a sighting. When I think of leopards I always picture them hiding in thick bushes and caves which is the epitome of this rocky environment.
In these some 3000 square kilometers, one of the most extraordinary facts exists. This area is home to the highest concentration of breeding pairs of Black (Verreaux) Eagles in the world. They almost obviously perch themselves on the highest outcrops of granite visible and once I got my eyes used to this strange angle, I saw these majestic birds in their numbers.
I have a real love for the small things in the bush and the Matopos Hills have a hold my heart for this reason. The eagles were amazing and the scenery, divine! But watching the elephant shrews scurrying between their tiny caves under rocks on the tops of hills was to precious not to mention. The colours and abundance of the Common Flat Lizards which I strongly feel are in desperate need of a new name as they really are anything but common, brought me such joy. Even the lichen growing on every visible surface of granite is just to magnificent for words.
Thank you Matopos, for opening my eyes to the raw spirituality of wild Zimbabwe.