In 1887, it is said, the first white man came across the marvel of the Chinhoyi Caves. His name was Frederick Selous. However, there were many who already knew of the Caves and saw them either as a place to admire or fear.
One legend that surrounds the Caves, and inspires their name, involves Chinhoyi, a Headman who defeated and killed the Nyamakwere outlaws. They used the Caves as their stronghold and murdered many victims by throwing them into the Silent Pool. After defeating the outlaws, Chinhoyi became a Mashona Chief who used the Caves to keep his people safe from raiding tribes like the Matebele. Until a few years ago, one could even come across the remains of Chief Chinhoyi’s grain bins in some of the Caves’ underground passageways.
Traditionally, the Chinhoyi Caves are called “Chirorodziva”, which means the “Pool of the Fallen”. The name, it’s believed, was inspired by an incident involving the Nguni Tribe in the 1830s. While moving northwards, the Tribe surprised a group of Shona tribe heroes, who were living near the Caves. The Nguni raiders flung them to their deaths, inspiring the oral tradition that whispers of the bones of the fallen that are believed to still cover the bottom of the Pool.
Surrounded by a National Park, the Chinhoyi Caves are a National Monument in Zimbabwe. They consist of a system of tunnels and caverns, which have been referred to as “dying” in that they are slowly collapsing. The rate however is so slow that it may not collapse within our lifetime. One such case of a collapse is the main feature of the Caves, called the Wonder Hole, which is actually a large cavern with a collapsed roof.
The 150-foot walls of the Wonder Hole drop vertically down to the Sleeping Pool, which if filled with water of an unbelievable blue and crystal clear. Incredibly, the water of the Pool defies meteorological logic, staying at a constant temperature of 22-degrees Celsius – every single day. Legend has it that a visitor cannot successfully throw a stone across the Pool, as the sacred spirits who watch over the Pool will catch it and bestow a curse upon the person who threw it. There are several underwater passages that lead from the Sleeping Pool, but so far all of the passages that have been explored have lead back to the main Pool.
A place quite unlike any other, the Chinhoyi Caves are a must for visitors to Zimbabwe. They radiate an aura that commands respect, while provoking excitement in the minds of all who go near them. With a silence that is both eerie and profound, the Caves are a geographical spectacle and one of Zimbabwe’s best kept tourism secrets.