Chinhoyi Caves — the deep blue ‘wonder’
If you are driving to Kariba or Mana Pools, then Chinhoyi Caves Park is an excellent place to stop and have a look around.
From the main road, you would never guess, that this series of deep caves and blue pools of water exist in the hillside.
Located about 115 km along the Harare-Chirundu road, the caves are located about 9km after Chinhoyi town.
The park is very close to the main road, so it a convenient place to stop, requiring hardly any deviation from the main route.
It opens early in the morning, so you can have breakfast here after an early start from Harare.
The caves are never busy so you do not need to book ahead. There are shaded picnic sites, camping and caravan sites.
There are three ablution blocks with toilets, hot and cold water, baths and showers. The car park is large, and shaded by trees.
Chinhoyi Caves Park is suitable for all ages but bear in mind, that there are lots of steps and rocks.
There are not many barriers around the steps or pools so you would need to carry younger children. There are no large animals around but there are monkeys, baboons, bushpigs and rock hares.
You can spend as long or short as you like at Chinhoyi Caves.
You could explore Chinhoyi Caves for a few hours as a day trip from Harare, taking your own picnic lunch and enjoying the natural scenery in the area.
As there are camping facilities, the Caves could be used as an affordable overnight stop-over from further afield such as Bulawayo or Mutare.
The caves have a mysterious, eerie atmosphere about them, perhaps because the water is so deep and still.
You will feel a tingle down your spine when you hear about their history too.
Legend says that an outlaw named Nyamakwere murdered many victims here by throwing them into the Silent Pool.
A headman named Chinhoyi eventually defeated Nyamakwere and then became a chief. It is after him that the nearby town of Chinhoyi was named.
Later, Chief Chinhoyi and his followers used the caves as a refuge from raiding tribes. The plan did not always work though.
In the 1830s, another tribe found Chinhoyi’s people in the caves and threw them into the pool below.
Until recently, the remains of Chief Chinhoyi’s grain bins could be seen in some of the underground passages.
Pottery and human remains suggest that the caves have been inhabited from around 650AD.
The main attraction of the area is Sleeping Pool, which is open to the sunlight and is 46m below ground level.
Sleeping Pool is situated in The Wonder Hole, which was once a large cavern but is now in the open-air due to a collapsed ceiling.
When you reach The Sleeping Pool, you will be rewarded with the most fascinating shade of blue you have ever seen, and metres of unnervingly clear water.
The pool is surrounded by the vertical rock walls of The Wonder Hole, which only adds to the atmosphere.
The water in the main section of Sleeping Pool is between 80 and 91 metres deep, fluctuating due to seasonal rainfall.
The depth of the water system is unknown, but the estimated depth is around 172metres.
Sleeping Pool is also accessible from Dark Cave, but bear in mind that the exit from Dark Cave is extremely steep and therefore this route is not suitable for everyone.
Chinhoyi Caves is regarded to be on a par with some of the best dive sites in the world and has fantastic visibility.
There are tunnels leading off Sleeping Pool and Dark Cave.
Divers of all qualifications have something to enjoy, although bouyancy control is a must. You will need to dive with a Zimbabwe registered dive club.
US Navy Divers have reached 135 metres here, and the actual depth is unknown. Just looking at those unfathomable waters from the outside gives me the shivers, but I understand that some people may enjoy it!