Visit Zimbabwe's Chinhoyi Cave And The Blue Grotto
Technically a sink hole, Chinhoyi Cave is really worth a visit if you are in Zimbabwe. The electric blue of the water at the bottom of the cave is just stunning and even though you learn a few different theories on why the water of Chinhoyi cave is so blue, none of them really seem to explain exactly how blue the water is.
We were told that Chinhoyi is pronounced “chin-ho-we” so that's how I referred to it.
What Are The Chinhoyi Caves?
Referred to by the locals as Chirorodziwa, which means the “Pool of the Fallen”, Chinhoyi Caves are sinkholes and caverns caused by errosion of the dolomite that the area is made of. Our guide told us that there are many sinkholes in the area, however the main one is the most spectacular from both the color of the water at its base and because of the 45m vertical drop. This main shaft is called Wonder hole and the body of water at the base is referred to as “The Sleeping Pool”.
What makes the cobalt blue color of the water?
There were a few causes explained to us, however the one that makes the most sense to me (and scientifically I believe) is that the colour is form dispersed particles of lime in the water.
About The Wonder Hole at Chinhoyi Caves
The Cave gets its name from two events in time. One around 1830 where the Angoni tribe was moving north and surprised the local people living in and around the caves. It is said the Angoni threw the uncooperative locals into the pool. The caves were also said to have been a stronghold for a local criminal called Nyamakware who murded those who displeased him by also throwing them into the pool. While you may have survived the fall, almost no-one could swim in those days so even if you did hit the water without being seriously injured you couldn't get to the edge. I guess even if you did, where were you going to go?
Interestingly the water remains at a relatively stable 22 degrees Celsius which is unusual for a cave pool.
Originally thought to be bottomless the Zimbabwe Sub-Aqua Speleological Research Group sent divers down establishing the depth of the pool to be between 80 and 90 meters. While this is dependant on rainfall the pool itself is fed from water leaching out of the rock, so a direct rainfall of a few mm is unlikely to affect the depth of the pool. I've also read reports of the pool being up to 170 meters deep, however I guess to us “non geologists” – its a deep pool! There are also some fish living in the pool and apparently water lilies also grow around the edges at certain times of the year.
While there are a few tunnels and passages leading off from under the water, to date the ones explored all seem to lead back into the pool.
Human remains and artefacts discovered in the area have been dated to as early at 650AD so people have been living and using the caves for thousands of years.
You can visit both the Sleeping Pool and the Dark Pool however the access is via steep steps and you do have a feeling of descending down into the earth. There is a little chair about half way down which you could use to sit and rest on the way up out of the cave, but if you take it slow anyone that can walk a kilometer or two should be able to do the hike in and out. The stairs are well make and there is a handrail to use as well.
What Facilities Are There At Chinhoyi Caves
There is a camp ground that has multiple toilet blocks. Even though these blocks are here, there was only one open when we were there and unfortunately due to Mugabe and his cohorts pillaging Zimbabwe's finances, the facilities are not great. There is a ranger on site and they do the best with what they have, however don't expect pristine new facilities.
There was also a pub style restaurant “Chinhoyi Caves Motel” that was affordable and had good food when I was there, however that was in 2017 so I can't speak for its condition today. I didn't personally see the rooms so I can't speak to their facilities. Use the link to see some reveiws on Trip Advisor.
How Do I Get To Chinhoyi Caves?
If you are starting from Harare, Chinhoyi Caves is only about 130km from the city on the way to Lake Kariba. I would recommend just planning a hour or so stop here. It will only take you about an hour to see both the Dark Cave and the Sleeping Pool and you can either get some refreshements at the motel or keep going to Lake Kariba. I can't find any tours to Chinhoyi Caves at the moment but that could be a COVID think. If you get onto the A1 and just keep on that highway you can't miss it. Just be aware though that 130km is probably about 2 hours in Zimbabwe. This is the location of the caves on Google Maps.
The cobalt blue sleeping pool at Chinhoyi Cave (above) and looking out the top of the sinkhole from the main cave.