Zimbabwe trip - Day 5 Matobo National Park

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June 6th 2019
Published: June 16th 2019
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So about half of us got up to head to breakfast before our day's Rhino Trek at Matobo National Park. The service was quite slow (though food still good), so we had to rush back to the hostel to wait for our ride. And who turned out to be our guide? Jordan!!! He was back to fill our heads with more information and give us a good time. So, we piled into the truck, this time I sat in the middle since I had claimed an edge on the last time, but I sat in back (I liked being able to stand, better views and more comfortable and adventurous!). Jordan said it was a half hour ride, but at around half an hour I wondered if that was "African time" - it was not too far off at least.

We pulled into the park for a bathroom break and then made our way. We saw one of the armed guards who patrol the park and he was able to point us in the direction of our first trek. The guards each have their own zones and are responsible for the areas but let the rhinos wander around the park at their leisure; once they've left the zone, it is the next guard's responsibility. The rhinos horns have been removed for their own safety. Effing poachers. The evil poachers have gotten smart and use social media to assist them, so we turned off the gps functions on our cameras / phones. Jordan gave us tips on how to approach; we were to walk single file, crouch when we get close and be silent. While the rhinos have terrible eyesight, they hear and smell well. But they are generally non-aggressive, which the poachers use to their advantage.

So we made our way, a little longer than the jaunt our daily guides told us, but not too far. We saw a white rhino from a nearby rise as we approached and followed along behind to get a good spot. Then we got nearer and crouched down, happy to see a mama and baby!!! We were all quiet but mentally high-fiving each other - it was so beautiful and amazing. It was so quiet and peaceful, just watching them go about their daily routine. There was a lot of scrub, so getting quality photos was super hard. But we stayed for a good 15 minutes before heading back, encountering another group on the way.

While it was still early in the day, we were all like, it was already totally worth the 6 hour drive down.

The wildlife for the rest of the day was pretty sparse, but we were still riding high for the rhino siting. We saw baboons and warthogs. Another interesting sighting was a black eagle circling above - apparently this is the best place to view black eagles as it has the most breeding pairs in the world. We also saw some more kudu and impala, and some cows. There were also some prehistoric paintings on the rocks scattered throughout and Jordan has a pretty good handle on the geology of the area.

The area is huge and has a lot of locations for picnicking and camping, dams, and they also allow locals to cultivate the fields for free in exchange for 10% of the yield. Jordan also had a handle on the botany of the area and gave us a sample of bushman's soap - it is a plant that if you add water to it and rub together, it acts as and feels like soap and will clean your skin, but when it dries it is not sticky. There was a plant that you could chew and keep in the side of your mouth that could be felt slightly; I did not try it. There was another plant that felt kind of like mint and if you crushed it and kept in your pockets, it acted as a mosquito repellent. I love all these little "bush fixes"!

This is another area of school field trips and we missed the welcome center as there was a huge bus of children there that we later saw again at the curios stand. They were so cute and excited. They would just look at me and many would shyly say "hi" - adorable! I bought two canvas prints of giraffes and rhinos - I love getting art on my trips. 😊

Since we didn't see any more rhinos on our own, Jordan knew where others were that we had to hike pretty far in to see, but, again, it was so worth it! There were five of them just lounging around. Jordan called them "teenagers" - still young enough to want to be social, but old enough to be on their own. It was just so amazing to be so close to them. Again, we stayed another 15-20 minutes for photos and just to take it in. They are so peaceful and incredible, it is devastating that people kill these creatures to take a horn that is made of the same material as your fingernails for some ridiculous notion of medical healing (that is proven not to have any basis).

The word of the trip was "Amazing" and we said this word over and over again on the long drive home that went by so quickly. Amazing.

Additional photos below
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18th June 2019
Matobo National Park

Great photo
Full of emotion.

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