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Matobo – An enchanting paradise

HOME to some of the most majestic granite scenery in the world, the Matobo National Park is one of the unsung highlights of Zimbabwe. This Unesco World Heritage Site is a stunning and worldly landscape of balancing rocks, kopjes — giant boulders unfeasibly teetering on top of one another.

When you visit this place, it is easy to understand why Matobo is considered the spiritual home of Zimbabwe. The national park is separated into two sections — the recreational park and the game park.

The recreational park includes World’s View (a scenic viewpoint and burial site of Rhodesia’s founder Cecil John Rhodes) and ancient San rock art caves.

One of Zimbabwe’s most breath-taking sites, the aptly named World’s View takes in epic 360-degree views of the park. The peacefulness up here is immense, taking on a spiritual quality that makes it clear why it is so sacred to the Ndebele people.

It is also the burial spot of Rhodes, whose grave sits, somewhat controversially, atop between two boulders.

Downhill from Rhodes’ grave is the Shangani River Memorial. Erected in 1904, it pays tribute to Allan Wilson and his soldiers who were wiped out by General Mtjaan and his 30 000 Ndebele warriors when attempting to take over the territory.

The landscape up here is surreal with giant boulders covered in multi-coloured lichen, clumps of hair-like grass and rainbow-striped lizards flitting between the rocks, all of which make it feel like another planet.

The entry fee also gains you access to the Pomongwe and Nswatugi rock art caves.

Dotted around the 425km Matobo National Park are 3 000 officially registered rock-art sites, including one of the best collections in the world of San paintings (estimated to be anywhere from 6 000 to 10 000 years old). White Rhino Shelter, Bambata Cave, Pomongwe Cave and Nswatugi Cave have some fine examples.

The game park may not have the most prolific wildlife in Zimbabwe — it has been hard hit by poaching — but it remains one of the best places to see both black and white rhinos (although the black rhinos are difficult to spot).

It also has the highest density of leopards in Zimbabwe, but you will be extremely lucky to spot one. Matobo is home to one-third of the world’s species of eagle, so you may see black eagles, African hawk eagles or rare Cape eagle owls.

— Lonely Planet

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