The Caves are composed mainly of the sunlit “Sleeping Pool” and the artificially lit Dark Cave.
The Sleeping Pool/ Chirorodziva
Chirorodziva is the ancient name for the Sleeping pool. The pool is open to sunlight and is 46 metres below ground level. It is situated in The Wonder Hole, which was once a large cavern but is now in the open-air due to a collapsed ceiling. The water in the main section of the Sleeping Pool is between 80 and 91 metres deep, fluctuating due to seasonal rainfall. The depth of the water system is estimated to be around 172 metres in depth. The Silent Pool stays at a constant temperature of 22 degrees Celsius every single day indicating that it is part of an even bigger water body.
The Dark caves
The Caves consist of a system of tunnels and caverns. This system is a dying one (in geological time spans), in that they are slowly collapsing. These collapses can be noticed by the sink holes and depressions within the surrounding area. The Dark Cave leads to the underwater passageways of Bat Cave and Blind Cave. The exit from the Dark Cave is demanding, as the steps are very steep. Therefore, less agile visitors are well advised to use the main entrance when accessing the Sleeping Pool.
The caves are located in Makonde District, Mashonaland West Province, in north central Zimbabwe. They lie approximately 9 kilometres (by road) northwest of Chinhoyi. They are about 1.5 hours’ drive from Harare (115 km) on the Harare-Chirundu Road. If you are driving to Kariba or Mana Pools, then Chinhoyi Caves Park is an excellent place to stop and have a look around.
Myths surrounding the caves
The caves are said to be named after Chief Chinhoyi who defeated and killed a group of outlaws, providing safety to the once feared caves. The Nyamakwere outlaws used the caves as their stronghold where they murdered many victims by throwing them in the Silent Pool. Chinhoyi, a headman at the time, killed the Nyamakwere outlaws and later became Chief of the Mashona tribe. Chief Chinhoyi used the caves as a hideout to protect his people from the Matebele attacks. Until recently, the remains of Chief Chinhoyi’s grain bins could be seen in some caves’ underground passageway.
The Chinhoyi caves are traditionally known as “Chirorodziva,” meaning “The Pool of the Fallen.” The name is believed to have been derived from the 1830s incident where the Nguni Tribe, moving northwards, surprised and attacked a group of Shona Tribe heroes who lived near the caves and flung them into the pool. It is said that the bones of the fallen heroes still cover the bottom of the pool.
The main activities involve viewing the ancient dark caves and the Sleeping pool. The caves also offer a variety of activities which include:
- Game viewing
- Cultural activities
- Rock art galleries
- Bird watching
- Picnic sites
- Camping and Caravan sites