The majestic Victoria Falls have over the years become synonymous with Zimbabwean tourism. Although the world wonder is shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls are the epitome of Zimbabwe’s tourism, receiving thousands of visitors annually. Indeed, the resort town offers a host of exciting activities and services to tourists. However, the Falls are by no means the only attraction to Zimbabwe. In fact, the country is endowed with a plethora of natural attractions, flora and fauna. The Eastern Highlands, the Matopo Hills, the Chinhoyi Caves and various game parks and safaris spread across the country all typify the country’s rich potential for tourism development. Unfortunately these other destinations are often overshadowed by the “mighty” Victoria Falls and are in dire need of aggressive marketing efforts both locally and abroad. Growing tourist activities and arrivals to these destinations will not only increase tourism receipts but also contribute toward the development of the respective surrounding communities.
The Chinhoyi Caves are one of the attractions which are not well appreciated and marketed both locally and beyond the country’s borders. Managed by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the recreational park is undergoing transformational developments and is geared to become a key attraction in the country and region. The park which comprises the mystical caves, a picnic site and a motel is located about 125km from the capital city, Harare. Conveniently situated along the Harare Chirundu Highway and about 8km from Chinhoyi town centre the Chinhoyi Caves Recreational Park serves both as an ultimate and stop over destination for those travelling along the route. The Highway provides access to the resort town of Kariba as well as being the gateway from Southern Africa to Central, Eastern and Northern Africa via Zambia. It is therefore, a busy route, creating a potentially lucrative market for the resort.
The breath-taking yet mysterious caves which are the parks’ main attraction are of cultural and geographical significance. The caves are traditionally known as Chirorodziva, a term supposedly derived from the 17th century when locals were flung into the pool by a migrating Angoni Tribe on its way up north. Chirorodziva therefore, loosely translates to the “pool of the fallen” in reference to the Sleeping Pool in which the locals were thrown. It is also believed that Chief Chinhoyi and his people often hid in the caves from raiding tribes. Several tales are often told of how the caves provided a sanctuary for the indigenous people during the liberation struggles in Zimbabwe, with some spirit mediums believed to draw their strength and prowess from the caves.
Intrinsically woven into a network of tunnels and caverns, the caves are an amazing permutation of dolomite and limestone. A steep stair case in the larger cavern, known as the Wonder Hole, leads to the Sleeping Pool. The Wonder Hole is a key feature of the caves, characterised by an artistic formation of limestone which creates a striking, natural artwork of spikes and carvings in the cave’s interior. As one reaches the end of the staircase there is a fence (though not as high and visibly secure as expected) providing a barrier to the sleeping pool. The Sleeping Pool, a clear cobalt blue, exudes a mystical aura, yet leaves one gaping in awe at its stillness and yet breath-taking view. The depth of the pool ranges from about 80 to 90 metres and also has several passages branching from beneath the waters. This presents a great opportunity for divers to explore the deep waters, providing exploration opportunities for diving enthusiasts.
The Dark cave is accessed through a different entrance and walking through it is also quite an experience. Much caution is however, required as the staircase is quite steep and slippery. The cave which is conveniently illuminated by light bulbs, leads to an alternative view of the sleeping pool. Going through the caves can take as long as you wish depending on the amount of time at your disposal.
After touring the caves, visitors can enjoy a hearty meal at the motel or an outdoor meal at the picnic site. On a hot day, visitors can enjoy a refreshing swim in the motels’ pool. Although a larger pool is desirable, it still serves the purpose of providing much needed ‘cooling off’ in the generally warm Makonde climate. With readily built braai stands dotted across the picnic site, revellers can enjoy outdoor meals and barbeques. The natural outdoor environment is quite refreshing and whether in transit or having specifically travelled to visit the caves, visitors can enjoy the serene atmosphere at the park.
Whilst the park is still under transformation, there is much potential for tourism development. More efforts should be directed toward marketing the destination, given the various facilities that are offered. The park provides a unique venue for weddings, conferences and other events. Having been to the “Caves” (as the park is also affectionately known by locals), several times myself, I totally recommend the recreational park. Each visit I have made to the caves has been absolutely captivating and refreshing, always leaving me in awe as if it were the first. It is perfect for a family outing, school tour, romantic getaway and events venue. So, the next time you are enroute to Kariba, or further on to Zambia, Tanzania or beyond, do take a recess at Chinhoyi Caves. It will be worth your while! Better still put the destination on your holiday plans and spend a few days camping at the site.
My sister and I… on our umpteenth visit to the ‘Caves’!
Chinhoyi Caves. (2014). Retrieved March 12, 2017, from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority: http://www.zimparks.org/index.php/parks-overview/recreational/chinhoyi-caves
Zivira, T. (2017, January 25). The rebirth of Chinhoyi Caves Motel. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from News Day: https://www.newsday.co.zw/2017/01/25/rebirth-chinhoyi-caves-motel/