Experience It: Chinhoyi Caves – Limestone Magic & Mysteries

Experience It: Chinhoyi Caves – Limestone Magic & Mysteries

Take a journey approximately 76 miles (123 km) northwest of Harare and discover an adventure beyond your wildest imagination. Tucked away amidst the beautiful forest in the Makonde District, Mashonaland West Province lies Zimbabwe’s Chinhoyi Caves.

Sculpted over centuries, these limestone caves are layered with mysteries. From fascinating history to breathtaking scenery, the caves (originally Sinoia Caves) stand as another masterpiece in the grand exhibit that is resplendent Zimbabwe.

There is so much to see in this magical place. Here, we will tell you all there is to know before you begin your journey to these amazing caves.

“Chirorodziva” Caves Legends

Despite their beauty, there are dark legends associated with the caves. Beginning with their traditional name “Chirorodziva”, which means the “pool of the fallen”.

This name came from an incident that took place in the 1830s. The story goes that the Angoni tribe, who were migrating to northern Zimbabwe, ambushed the original dwellers of the Chinhoyi Cave and flung them into the pool.

Later, the caves were supposedly used as a stronghold by an outlaw called Nyamakwere who killed many victims by throwing them into the now-famous “pool of the fallen”. The great Mashona Chief Chinhoyi eventually defeated and killed Nyamakwere.

Chief Chinhoyi and his followers were said to use the caves as a refuge from enemies. The great Chief’s name was given to the nearest large town, which is now home to the district and provincial headquarters.

If you had visited the caves just a few years ago, you would have caught a glimpse of the remains of Chief Chinhoyi’s grain bins in some of the cave’s underground passages.

Be aware that these caves are considered to be sacred land. The caverns have cultural importance to the local indigenous group. They are grounds for rainmaking ceremonies called mukwerera.

Chinhoyi Caves National & Recreational Park

This area enjoys the status of being both a national and recreational park. Not only is there plenty of wildlife and botanical species to see, there is also plenty for you to do.

National Park

With such diverse history, it is no wonder that the caves and their surroundings were designated a national park in 1955. The national parks authority protects the region and all its beauty.

This protection ensures that you get to see this perfectly preserved national monument for yourself. A true asset to our global environment!

Flora & Wildlife

The local flora is made up largely of indigenous species and a few exotics. You can witness the following colourful, foreign plant life:  

  • Mukwa
  • Cape Fig
  • Combretum species
  • Terminalia species
  • Msasa
  • Violet tree
  • Yellow Wood
  • Pink Jacaranda.

Plant lovers aren’t the only ones who benefit from the national park status as the caves also feature various aquatic creatures, bird species, and small mammals. You’re in for something special with unique feathered species like these: 

  • Angola Rock Thrush
  • Bat Hawk
  • Large Striped Pipit
  • Paradise Flycatcher
  • Tree Creeper

Recreational Park

For the low entry fee of between $3-$10 (subject to change), you get to spend as much time as you want at this park. With so much to do it’s definitely a dollar well spent.

If you are simply passing by, you could enjoy a quick view of the caves and a beautiful picnic in nature. If you have a few days to spare, why not enjoy a campsite or the caves motel?

Sleeping Pool

As you descend into the main cave, the mysterious Sleeping Pool awaits. The main feature of the caves, the crystal clear water is a stagnant pool of beauty.

Rumoured to be approximately 56 430 ft (172 metres) deep, the silent pool is situated below a high ceiling with a hole that leads up to the sky. This cavity is called the Wonder Hole. It’s the remains of a large cavern that now has a collapsed roof.

The main pool is said to have an eerie calmness and limitless aura about it. Maybe this is the reason that no one has yet reached the bottom of the Sleeping Pool.

Getting close to this silent pool is a chance to see nature’s architecture at its finest. One can only marvel at the complex rock formations that line the pool.

Chinhoyi’s Mysterious Caves: What to Expect

The Sleeping Pool cave is not the only one worth exploring. This site is known as Zimbabwe’s most extensive cave system. You could explore for hours and still not see it all.

Dark Cave

For another view of the mysterious cobalt blue water, you can enter the imaginatively named Dark Cave. Here you can view the Sleeping Pool from above. As you walk through this boundless system, you will find that almost all the caves are intricately connected.

Other Caves

Strategically placed, the Dark Cave has underwater passageways that lead to other parts of the cavern system. Divers can explore a submarine passage leading from one hidden cave to another. A trip through the Bat Cave, a sub-chamber of the Dark Cave, will take you into another room known as the Blind Cave.

Below The Surface

With so much to explore above ground, it might surprise you to know that most visitors only have access to a small part of this maze-like structure. The caves continue incredibly far underground in a complex limestone formation.

Even though several diving expedition teams have ventured into the mysterious waters, no one has been able to explore the caves’ full depth. In fact, no one knows exactly how deep the caves go.

In 1969, a team of South African experienced technical divers descended just over 328.084 feet (100 metres) within the Sleeping Pool. In 1992, they were beaten by American Navy divers who went about 446.194 feet (136 metres) deep. Maybe there is something to that limitless aura we described earlier…

Sink Holes

The quicker you go and see this wonder the better! The cave system is regarded as a ‘dying one’ in geological time spans. The caves are slowly collapsing and noticeable depressions have begun to form in the area. Don’t miss out.

Mysteries Await You…

These caves are truly one of the best experiences you will ever have. It’s a fantastic place to stop, especially if you’re travelling from Harare to Lake Kariba.

Why not make an adventure out of it? Take a journey to Chinhoyi’s exquisite caves before their time runs out!