Whovi Wild Area, Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

The natural rock formation named, “Mother and Child” in the Whovi Game Park

One day, while staying in Bulawayo we decided to drive out to the Matobo Game Park for the day. We chose the Whovi Wild Area because we hadn’t been there before. Although we didn’t see much game, the scenery was glorious, and we felt very privileged, especially as we hardly saw another person all day.

The country was waiting desperately for the rains.
We crossed this dry river bed, with not a drop of water to be seen…

…although as we drove along, we did see the occasional puddle,
in what should have been a flowing river...

…as we made our way to this hide, hidden among the rocks.

I wasn’t able to photograph them, but we met up with an anti-rhino poaching unit, armed with AK47s. They were recharging their phones with solar powered chargers, before going out on patrol. Their task is aided by the fact that Whovi has been entirely ringed with a rhino fence, so that these endangered animals can more easily be protected.

The view from our hide.

We did manage to spot some rhino from a distance

As we continued on our drive, we managed to see this duiker,
hiding in the undergrowth

Eventually we found this dam. Even though it is drying out,
it still has a beauty of its own.

It’s easy to understand why Matobo is considered the spiritual home of Zimbabwe when you experience the dramatic scenery that could almost belong to another world.

The word ‘Matobo’ means 'bald heads', and 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.

We came across a large expanse of water, and David wandered over to look at a couple of hippo.

I decided to stay in the car. We didn’t see any crocodiles, but they are sly creatures, and I didn’t want to take a chance. David is a very fast runner, and very fit, so he was braver than me!

The landscape is extraordinary. Everywhere you see huge rocks randomly balanced one on top of the other. Millions of years of erosion and weathering have shaped the granite into seemingly impossible structures that appear to defy gravity.

Balancing rocks in the Matobo Hills

Eventually, after thousands of years of erosion, the whole structure gives way, 
and the rocks come tumbling down.

We were surprised to see bundles of thatching for houses, gathered by locals.
They must have braved the wild animals to do this.

On the way out of the park we saw this sweet little Dassie (Rock Rabbit) 
peeping out from the rocks

How lovely to be staying in Bulawayo, within easy reach of this remarkable park. If you have never been to Zimbabwe, you should definitely have it on your bucket list. It’s a wonderful country.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Camp Amalinda, Matopos National Park, Zimbabwe

Amalinda Camp is hidden away in an ancient Bushman’s shelter

The reception centre, where we were warmly greeted by Colin
who entertained us throughout our stay

Although the Matobo National Park is only 33 km away from Bulawayo, where we were staying, we decided to stay overnight in the park, even though we could easily drive there and back for the day. We stayed at the Amalinda Safari Lodge on the edge of the park.

 The individually thatched lodges are built like African huts

Although the accommodation looks basic from the outside, the inside was comfortable, with all the amenities you could wish for.

My towels were folded to represent an Aardvark

There was also a great outdoor area where we could sit in peace and quiet…

…and watch the wildlife, like this blue-tailed skink

Although this safari lodge is privately owned, the whole area of the Matobo Hills is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the oldest National Park in Zimbabwe. It was first established in 1926 as a bequest by Cecil John Rhodes, and is the place where he was buried.

The pool area, where you can sit and relax…

...while you watch the wildlife

This is the entrance to the dining room by the pool!

The rocks were covered with loads of these lizards basking in the sun

Everywhere you look, the view is beautiful

This is the “boma” area, where we enjoyed our sundowners around a fire

We only stayed one night at Camp Amalinda, but we will definitely go back there, as we had such a wonderful time.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Bulawayo Railway Museum, Zimbabwe

This steam engine was last used in February 1955,
and was given to the museum in 1972

We caught a fascinating glimpse into the history of rail travel in this part of the world when we visited the Bulawayo Railway Museum.  Although the museum is technically owned by the National Railways of Zimbabwe, it has been left to a few local enthusiasts to keep it funded.

We got to wander around, and even climb into the engines and carriages. I didn’t think I was a railway enthusiast, but this was fun.

David and Becca working the Pump Hand Cart

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, and it was essential to develop a link to the coast, as well as enable travel to and from the small towns and farms developing over the land in the early years. The first line began construction in 1892 from Fontesvilla in Mozambique, 56 km inland from Beira, to Umtali (now called Mutare). From there, a network was established over the whole country.

The Bulawayo Railway Museum reflects the 124 years of rail travel in Zimbabwe through its wonderful collection of rail memorabilia from a bygone era. It even has Cecil John Rhodes' private carriage, complete with its original cutlery.

Cecil John Rhodes' private rail coach

We were able to climb up into this coach to explore the inside.
There we found some memories from the past

Who remembers having one of these?

…or using these?

While wandering around the museum, I happened across
this old public telephone box…

…with this really old fashioned telephone inside, which even predates me!

 We were also able to climb up into the cab of an engine to inspect the steam boiler

The Centenary Train

This engine was last used in 1997, when she pulled a train from Figtree to celebrate the centenary of the arrival of the railway in the City of Bulawayo.

This was a fun day out, and one which I heartily recommend if ever you find yourself in Bulawayo. Thank you Becca for encouraging us to go.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Balancing Rocks in the Matobo National Park

Once back in Bulawayo, we visited Matobo National Park, where giant boulders teeter on top of one another in one of the most spectacular granite landscapes in the world. Since June 2003, this park has been named a World Heritage Site, and it is easy to see why, given its beauty and history. These huge boulders are the result of thousands of years of erosion.

Rhino hiding in the long grass

On our way into the park, we glimpsed the elusive rhino. This pair has been dehorned to protect them from poachers. Unfortunately, poaching is rife in Zimbabwe, often in connivance of those in government

We stopped off at a dam hoping to glimpse more game…

…but the dam was dry, and there was nothing but baboons

We were so happy that Michelle Keefe, who we met at Ivory Lodge, was going to be our guide. Her home is in Bulawayo, and she has studied the area extensively.

From the dam we drove to Nswatugi Cave, famous for its ancient cave paintings. The word Nswatugi is a   Karanga word, meaning the 'place of jumping'.  A local legend says God leapt from his home at Njelel Hill onto a nearby hill, briefly stepping on Nswatugi Hill, where he left his 'footprint' in the granite.

We climbed up over the granite rocks to reach the cave

Michelle was a mine of information about the cave

The paintings reflect the life of the San people,
the first inhabitants of this land that is now Zimbabwe

San hunters chasing a kudu

I especially liked these elegant giraffe

This lady can only be seen if you cast a shadow over her.
Michelle said she was a sort of calling card on the wall of the cave.

Michelle recounting the history of the San people as seen through their art

For the San people, dancing and music were very important. Through their ritual dancing, they could connect to the spirits of the world, helping them in bodily and spiritual healing, and success in hunting. Even today, this area is considered to be the spiritual home of Zimbabwe.

Walking back to the vehicles from the cave.

We were ready for lunch, so we put some steaks on the braai

Alison and Richard, waiting for lunch

Becca and Amy enjoying pre-lunch drinks

Barbs watching John, the braai expert.

David caught me tucking in to my steak roll. Yum!

This was our last trip with the Woltons. We were so sad to see them go, and hope to be able to catch up with them for more fun in the near future.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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