One of Zimbabwe’s major attractions is Matobo national park. It’s located about an hour away from the town of Bulawayo, and just getting there is a spectacle. As you leave Bulawayo and approach the park, there are many granite outcroppings increasing in size and complexity. Here erosion is gradually trying to destroy the landscape, but creating even more spectacular scenery as it does so.
The area around the Matobo hills are full of hidden caves, sacred places and Bushman paintings. Archaeological digs indicate humans have had a presence here for over 40,000 years. The massive rock formations of Matobo are awesome in their grandeur and create a unique atmosphere. Giant lichen-streaked boulders have weathered in place to create tremendous sculptures, which balance precariously in defiance of gravity. This is also one of the few parks in Africa where you can actually get out of your vehicle (at designated spots only!) and approach the wildlife. The park is especially known for it’s extreme protection of the endangered rhino.
We spend an afternoon here driving around, finding giraffe, eland, monkeys, and the elusive white rhino. Rhinos come in two different types, black and white. The name isn’t really indicative of the color, but white is a poor translation of “wide” which describes the shape of the jaw. They have extremely poor eyesight and hearing, but a keen sense of smell. It’s possible to approach them on foot as long as you take precautions to keep the wind blowing towards you away from the animal. We successfully crept up on a rhino and spent a good 10 minutes watching him nap in the afternoon heat. Suddenly the wind shifted, and instantly he was on his feet, snorting and ready to charge. We all completely disregarded everything the ranger had said about freezing and ran for the car. Luckily for us, he decided not to follow us!
The population of both types of rhinos are slowly increasing, but poaching is still a huge problem. The photo at the top of this post indicates how seriously the rangers actually take this problem!