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2016 Africa Adventure – Bulawayo/Matopos National Park

June 3, 2016

Bulawayo Map

I left Masvingo and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins to drive four hours to Bulawayo, home of Matopos National Park, the only place in Zimbabwe there are rhinos.

Welcome to Bulawayo

Bulawayo is a lovely city.

Driving in Bulawayo

Driving in Bulawayo

I had a manicure from this pretty lady. She enjoyed practicing her English with me. She told me about her life in Bulawayo, her 2 children, and the dreams she and her husband have of moving to a larger home. The manicure wasn’t great, but she was delightful.

Manicure in Bulawayo

Stayed in a nice boutique hotel I found on Airbnb.  Zimbabweans use a bit of hyperbole in describing their businesses and their culture. This place marketed themselves as “Luxury Beyond Imagination,” which really meant nice and clean with a big shower and a guy who washed my car. Worked for me!

IMG_1274 Mpala hotel in Bulawayo

Matopos National Park

Matopos NP sign

As in all of this country, the infrastructure is crumbling and services have been reduced. But the people are making do and working with what they have, including this lovely park. Entrance to Matopos

The roads were rutty and signs were inadequate or nonexistent, but this was part of the adventure!

Matopos Park Road

I had a Zim map loaded on a Garmin, I had the park map ($2), and I assumed there were navigation signs in the park. Could not get lost on my way to find rhinos.

But I did get lost. The Zim map didn’t have the park in it and the park map did not match the park navigation signs even when they were there. Another part of the adventure, at least that was what I was telling myself!

I saw my first zebra. It was funny to get so excited over my first sighting, and later I saw so many I never even raised my camera. Zebra stripes are just like fingerprints: no two are the same.

My first Zebra in Matopos

Saw my first giraffe (there is nothing like your first giraffe!) I came around a corner and there she was! She just looked at me and went on eating the leaves, clearly not excited by my presence.

Giraffe Matopos

My first giraffe in Matopos

Giraffe in Matopos

Giraffe in Matopos

I kept on going. The grass was as high as the car, the road looked like no one had been on it in years, and I was getting a bit concerned. Then all of a sudden I see this moving thing in the middle of the road. I didn’t need to slow down because I was going like 2 mph, but I did stop.

IMG_1231 Matopos Turtle

It was leopard tortoise. This clip is not long because I was so excited watching him motor on down the road.

Then I hit the fence – the park boundary – and I realized I had to turn around.

Fence Boundary

I squeezed by the tortoise, drove back down rutty roads, then actually stumbled upon a viewing platform!

Rhino Viewing Platform Matopos

I climbed steps to see the meadow below…. no rhinos. No anything. I hung around a while, then as I climbed back down I spotted a tent hidden in the bush. Then I was startled by a man carrying an AK-47 walking toward me. He gestured me to keep on going back to the car, and I made a very fast descent!

At the gate I asked about the man. He is a park ranger who actually lives out there in the tent to prevent poachers – and that is why the AK-47. Rhinos have been decimated for their horns, and in Matopos they are protected. Maybe. At least they are trying.

On my way back to the park entrance I saw a rock that looked suspiciously like a baboon, Matopos Baboon Rock

more real baboons, and wildebeest. Never saw a rhino.

IMG_1267 Matopos Baboons

Tooled around downtown.


Bulawayo flower market

Everyone walks, including these young men on the way to school. Schools, especially primary schools, were widespread, even in the most remote areas. There were long stretches with few people but many signs for primary schools. I wondered where everyone lived to have so many schools.

Bulawayo young men walking

Left the next morning to drive to my next stop – Hwange National Park and my safari!

Next: Lions, no tigers but lots of elephants!

  1. The giraffe is so lovely! The wildebeests look small, like pigs. I thought they were big, like cows? You must have freaked when the ranger with the gun appeared! What a fabulous trip!

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  1. 2016 Africa Adventure – Safari in Hwange | Cathy's Adventures

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