Zimbabwe specialists Emma and Tara have just returned from a fact-finding trip to this much underrated safari destination. Visiting the ancient landscape scenery of Matopos National Park, Emma describes her encounter with the three Rs: rhinos, rock art and the grave of Cecil Rhodes.
Sundowners at Rhodes' grave, sited at his favorite view of the world and accompanied by the scurrying of elephant shrew as the sun set over the horizon, provided a near perfect end to the day.
We spent the day at Matopos with Paul Hubbard, an expert guide on the local culture of the area through the ages.
With no real idea what to expect, we headed first into the northern area of the national park. Here we found out about the huge efforts being made to protect the white and black rhino populations. Patrols circle the park 24 hours a day and 32 km of specialized fencing protects the park boundaries.
After a brief sighting of a pod of hippo growing increasingly grumpy with some overbold hammerkops, we headed to one of the 1,200 rock art sites discovered in the area so far.
We scaled a rocky outcrop and rounded the corner to find a cave, which was used as a shrine by the local people until the 1950s. On the walls were perfectly preserved paintings of animals and people from generations of painters from several thousand years ago.
Over lunch, Paul explained the current thinking behind why the paintings were created, the cave’s ongoing significance to the local communities and modern archaeological excavation techniques.
He also told us that rhino were reintroduced to Matopos partly because they had obviously lived there before as they’re frequently depicted in the rock art.
Paul went on to explain about the battlefields (Baden Powell was inspired to create the Boy Scout movement while fighting here) and give us a life history of Cecil Rhodes.
Sundowners at Rhodes' grave, sited at his favorite view of the world, and accompanied by the scurrying of elephant shrew as the sun set over the horizon, provided a near perfect end to the day.
A last memory of the day? As the car rolled to a stop just outside camp, the lights turned off and our eyes slowly adjusted to the night with Mars, Saturn and Jupiter showing clearly in the cloudless sky.
Emma’s top tip when in Matopos National Park
"Look and then look again at the rock art, each time you'll see something new."
Tailor-made itinerary ideas in Zimbabwe
This safari itinerary incorporates two fantastic national parks. In the South Luangwa you will have superb game viewing on game drives, walks and night drives. In Mana Pools you will explore this beautiful area with your guides by canoe, on boats, on foot and game viewing vehicle.
Encompassing Lake Kariba, Hwange National Park and the Victoria Falls, this comprehensive Zimbabwe itinerary offers ample opportunities for game viewing as well as time to relax on the banks of the Zambezi.
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