The town of Chinhoyi is situated 100km north of Harare on the main road towards Kariba. The area around Chinhoyi is full of limestone, dolomite caves and sinkholes. These caves and tunnels were used by the local Shona tribes in the 16th century for storing grain and for refuge from invading tribes. The largest sinkhole drops to a pool some 20metres below ground level. This is known as the ‘Sleeping Pool’ of Sinoia (the ancient name for Chinhoyi). The pool is also known as “Chirorodzira” (Pool of the Fallen). In the early 19th century, the locals were often thrown into the pool by invading Ngumi tribes.
Speaking to locals around the area, we found that many believe the walls of the caves hold a powerful spiritual presence and in the past, when evil was spoken in the caves, the person would simply disappear or wither and die soon after.
Frederick Courtney Selous, famous colonial hunter, found the area occupied by subjects of Chief Chinhoyi in 1887 which accounts for the area’s name change.
About the Diving
As the caves are protected by National Parks, you are only allowed to dive there if you are with a Zimbabwean registered dive club/center. Glen Campbell of African Dive Safaris came highly recommended to us by a good friend who’d recently dived in Chinhoyi. His extensive commercial and sport diving history – ex Canadian Navy diver – made us feel very secure to know he was guiding us and his enthusiasm for diving in these caves had us incredibly excited even before we reached Chinhoyi.
African Dive Safaris is a new venture for Glen and his wife, Nahoko, but is destined to be a winner. Positioned perfectly for the backpacker market, ADS dive center is within the Shoestrings Resort in Harare. With a combined diving experience of 30 years, Glenn, Nahoko Campbell and Kristine Carter provide on-site PADI training up to Divemaster level. ADS provide Nitrox Gas and training and are presently in training and hope to offer IANTD Technical courses. They are also DAN (Divers Alert Network) O2 providers and instructors. All specialties are offered with an emphasis on Cave Penetration, Night Diving, Deep Diving and Nitrox. In fact there is no emphasis on these specialties at all, we just think you should do them at Chinhoyi Caves as the experience is so incredible!
Everything we had heard about diving in Chinhoyi Caves was true. The experience was truly spiritual and so addictive. We ended up doing 5 dives here and we’re coming back with caving qualifications to explore further.
After kitting up in the camp ground we walked, hot and sweltering in neoprene and steel, down towards the cave entrance. Our first glimpse of the water was enough to stop us in our tracks. Clambering down a dark tunnel we saw a circle of the most intense blue shimmering up at us. We forgot the heat and the weight on our backs and almost ran down the steps to what is known as the Sleeping Pool of Sinoia (Chinhoyi).
The pull into 22 degrees and 110 meters of gin clear freshwater was so strong that it was a real chore to do check our equipment and put our fins and masks on. What was down there? Would we find human bones where sacrificial slaves had been cast in days of old?