Huge granite masses – seamed, split, shaped and sculptured by time and the elements - form an array of giant whalebacks and castellated kopjes that cover 3000 square kilometers of Matabeleland South Province. Much of the country's history has been written and played out within the confines of the Matobo Hills - from the time thousands of years ago when ancient bushmen used the granite faces as a canvas for their unique and extraordinary art, to more recent times, when black and white met in war and peace.
These are the Matobo Hills, located south of Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo. Forty thousand years ago the caves and crevices carved out of these rocks became home to Zimbabwe’s earliest inhabitants, the "San". Twenty thousand years later "San" artists began painting on the walls of caves and rock shelters, using special pigments and natural minerals that have survived the onslaught of climate and time.
Many caves contain superb galleries of Bushman paintings, one of which is Bambata, located no more than 10km from Big Cave Camp. Other Bushman paintings may be seen on the private wilderness in secluded caves and rock shelters.
The Matobo Hills made a profound impression on two men of absolute power, whose destinies drew them into a final showdown in the last decade of the nineteenth century. One of them was Cecil John Rhodes who spearheaded the invasion of the colonising pioneers, the other was his adversary Lobengula, king of the Ndebele people and son of Mzilikasi (who named the hills Amatobo, the Sindebele word for "bald heads"). Cecil John Rhodes is buried in the Matobo Hills on the kopje Malindidsimu, the Ndebele’s "place of spirits". Rhodes named the hill "The View of the World" which today is commonly known as "World's View". Guests can visit the grave and walk the hundred odd metres up to the site, and reflect on the spectacular view and the hills that stood the test of time.
The Matobo Hills became the stronghold of Lobengula's indunas and impis in the battle against Rhodes colonizing "pioneers". The "grain bins" still exist in hidden places where the Ndebele warriors used to store their grain, together with clay ovens, known locally as "iron smelters", which the warriors used to manufacture their infamous assegais in 1896. Good examples of grain bins can be seen on the private wilderness, together with pottery almost a century old.
Today the Matobo Hills are a place of peace; however this area is still held in reverential awe by local communities and ceremonies continue to be performed to assist in the making of rain.