Just over 100 kilometres to the north-west of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare lies the small town of Chinhoyi. It is home to the Chinhoyi Caves - formerly known as the Sinoia Caves - which have long been a popular stopping off point for travellers. A group of limestone and dolomite caves, they are not only a geographical wonder but a tourist attraction of myth and historical beauty. It is thought that in 1887 Frederick Selous was the first white man to see the caves which had been revered by the locals for centuries.
“I can’t help but marvel at this wonder, how perfect this scenery is. Just observing God’s work there are so many things which are undiscovered about ourselves, I reflect on how beautiful we are as individuals with our cracks and crevasses - just like the caves, we are beautiful,” marvels Mr Guta, a local tourist visiting the caves for the first time.
There are two caves: the Sleeping Pool cave and the smaller Dark Cave which leads into the Sleeping Pool’s cobalt blue pool. The cave is believed to have been carved by thousands of years of weather and other natural processes. The pool is 4500 ft above sea level with a known depth of 150 feet which varies with the seasons. One can’t help but look in awe at the limestone and dolomite etched in the caves by nature. To best describe the experience you need to actually go there and see for yourself.
The name Chinhoyi refers to the Headman who defeated the Nyamakwere tribe who terrorised people in the area in the 1800s. These caves were a refuge for Chief Chinhoyi and his people against other raiding tribes such as the Ndebele. The water is believed to have mythical and medicinal properties, even though it is forbidden to draw water from the pool; a few people still risk taking some. Though Selous is credited with discovering the caves in 1887, the Portuguese had known of this wonder a century earlier.
“There is something spiritual about these caves, the serenity and peace helps me reflect on my life. It’s not just the caves but the fish in the water, the birds who nest in the cracks and the trees growing around the caves,” say Courtney Stewart, who stopped over on his way to another tourist town of Kariba. Chinhoyi, a provincial town of the Mashonaland West Province, is on the route to other tourist attractions like Mana Pools and the Kariba Dam, and lies on the route to Zambia.
The caves are managed by Zimbabwe’s National Parks and Wildlife. Construction work to make them more accessible to tourists was started in 1917 and renovations are undertaken every now and again with care taken to maintain their natural appearance. National Parks and Wildlife also run a nearby lodge and restaurant. Accessing the caves is very affordable with local tourists paying as little as $3 and international visitors paying between $5-$10.