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Winter 2009/ 2010 Travel Zimbabwe 23 FLAGSHIP SPECIES Matobo's fl agship species are black eagles, rainbow lizzards and rock hyraxes. The abundance of the latter not only feeds the eagles, but it also nourishes Africa's densest population of leopard - although, with so many places to hide, you'll see few of these big cats. QUIRKY BULAWAYO Bulawayo is the jumping- off point for Matobo National Park. There's a new walking tour of the city's heritage sites, which explore its colonial architecture and history. Some of its quirkier attractions include: ¦ THE BULAWAYO CLUB This bastion of stiff British upper lip opened its doors in 1895 but has recently been impressively refurbished. Its columned atrium ( pictured) is a great place to lunch in airy splendour. Upstairs hosts priceless memorabilia from Rhodes' era, while the plush Lobengula Lounge celebrates the great Ndebele chief. ¦ NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM Taxidermy has never attained such giddy heights. This cracking museum houses a mind- blowing 100,000 animal specimens, including the second- largest elephant ever mounted and a rugby ball- sized egg of an extinct aepyornis. Its star turn is a coelacanth, one of the world's oldest species and its rarest fi sh. The museum was once voted in the top fi ve in the world. ¦ NESBITT CASTLE This early 20th- century gothic castle was built by Thomas Holdengarde and was later renovated into a hotel by Digby Nesbitt. Crenulated walls, turrets, dungeons and a liberal sprinkling of swords, suits of armour and red telephone boxes combine to create one of Africa's most bizarre and surreal accommodation options. ALL IN THE NAME The park's current name dates back to Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele kingdom. He believed the rocks here resembled bald heads, or matobo in the Ndebele language. It was an intense experience I can equate only to sitting with mountain gorillas in the jungles of Uganda ANCIENT TOOLS Stone tools excavated from rubble in Bambata Cave have been estimated to date back 20,000 years, while crude scrapers and knife- like tools from deeper layers may be twice as old. However, archaeologists believe humans have been here for 300,000 years. hyraxes Left: Swaziland IV, the largest rhino in Matobo Above: Matobo's caves make for rewarding exploration Main image: The grave of Cecil John Rhodes, hewn into the summit of Malindidzimu, or ' Place of Benevolent Spirits' ( aka ' World's View') Left: Young appreciating old in Silozwane Cave ERIC GAUSS COLIN BRISTOW / ECOLOGICAL AFRICA MARK STRATTON MARK STRATTON

Lowveld oughly translated, gonarezhou means ' the wilderness of elephants' - a name that conveys the eponymous park's austere beauty and natural wealth. Lower in altitude and hotter than anywhere else in Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park exudes a sense of remoteness, and it wasn't long before it cast its spell on me. I'd joined Clive Stockil of Chilo Gorge and Senuko Safari Lodges on a rough and tumble adventure deep in Zimbabwe's southeastern corner, where the country's second- largest national park fl anks the Mozambique border. From his lodge retreat at Chilo Gorge, we crossed the Save River and entered the 5000- square- kilometre park's northern quarter. Impressively, we immediately encountered a bachelor herd of Gonarezhou's famously big- tusked elephants and three proud nyala bulls. Around us the earth seemed to move, with gangs of mongoose scurrying and ground hornbills strutting. The backdrop was a continuum of ever- changing ecosystems: fl oodplain thickets; sandveld forests dotted with giant nyala- berry trees; and the Tambahata Pan, the richest bird wetland I'd ever encountered. " It's like an aviary," commented Clive, as our frenzied binoculars picked out sacred ibis, jacanas, black- winged stilts, squacco herons and numerous other species. Clive's earlier assertion that Gonarezhou possessed the highest biodiversity of all Zimbabwe's parks seemed even more justifi ed. Clive has spent his career ensuring the local Shangaan people prosper from Gonarezhou's wildlife. " Our most wonderful resource is our wildlife," explained Clive, " but we can't protect it successfully unless the local communities benefi t Gonarezhou and Malilangwe - very different local initiatives with equally compelling wildlife experiences. CONSERVATION CHRISTOPHER SCOTT Main image: The Runde River and Chilojo Cliffs of Gonarezhou National Park Left: Clive Stockil, a man fi rmly focused on helping wildlife and local communities COMMUNITY