The Matopos National Park situated 30km south of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe is one of the country’s best kept secrets. With an array of breath taking views, historic heritage, balancing rock formations and a selection of outstanding accommodation and hospitality, it is fast becoming one of Zimbabwe’s upcoming destinations. It is not surprising that one of the highlights of going to this magnificent national park is the possibility of getting up close and personal with one of the most majestic and endangered species on the planet – The Rhino.

I have lived in Zimbabwe all 28 years of my life but had never visited the Matobo Hills. I had a rough idea of what to expect from the descriptions of my colleagues and pictures that I had seen, but no description or picture will ever do this awe-inspiring landscape justice.

Having just completed a fascinating tour of some of the historical sites in the area with our very informative tour guide and conservationist Ian Harmer, we set off to find one of Africa’s most loved and endangered animals the Rhinoceros. Before we got off the vehicle to approach the area where Rhino had been sighted Ian briefed us on all safety measures and a few ways to avoid attracting poachers to the area. Within a couple of minutes Ian had tracked down the Rhino.

Having grown up in Zimbabwe I have a healthy respect for the dangers of wild animals. As I caught the first glimpse of the rhino I must admit that slight panic crept in. This is, until I glanced over and saw the calm look on Ian’s face as he quietly started communicating with the rhinos that he has obviously built a strong bond with.

As we slowly and quietly approached the Rhinos Ian explained each family member to us. Only when you get so close to a rhino can you truly appreciate their magnificence, strength and serenity. As we stood amongst these majestic creatures Ian explained how much goes into the conservation of rhino in Africa. We are so lucky to have such dedicated people protecting our wildlife in Zimbabwe. To demonstrate how dire the situation is, in 2010 333 Rhino were killed in South Africa and in 2014 1215 vulnerable Rhino were killed! This is completely unnecessary as, like fingernails, their horns grow back if removed correctly.

As we walked away through this incredibly ancient environment, where the Rhino are an integral part of the hills, I realised how much of an amazing opportunity we had just experienced and that this may not be possible in generations to come if these awesome animals are not protected.

Written by Tara Perepeczko

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