Why black people don’t scuba dive – The case of Zimbabweans and the Chinhoyi Caves

Did somebody say mermaid?! Yes, that’s the first thing that comes to mind when Zimbabweans hear about the resting  cobalt blue pool that lies in the Chinhoyi caves. A system of dolomite and limestone caves in Zimbabwe, the Chinhoyi caves are known to the locals as “Chirorodziva”; a name in the Shona language which means “Pool of the Fallen”. Thabani and Tendai Maphosa (Destination Africa) are two Zimbabwean documentary filmmakers, who, like me, are on a mission to share the story of travel in Africa. They’ve released a documentary entitled “What lies beneath? Scuba Diving in Zimbabwe”. Essentially, they set out to discover why Zimbabweans don’t scuba dive in the Chinhoyi caves,and dispell the myths, by taking the dive themselves. Before you read on for a review of their documentary, take a look at the short documentary below. They’re actually quite funny!


After interviewing what I thought was a good mix between millennials (born from early 1980s to early 2000s) and  generation X (born from the early 1960s to early 1980s), they discovered 3 main reasons why Zimbabweans wouldn’t go scuba diving.

1.Inability to swim

I totally get this. Some people have bathophobia, a fear of depths, including depths of water (not a fear of bathing!). Also, not everyone has/had a chance to go to a school with a swimming pool, and I personally learnt how to swim in junior (primary) school. So that’s a large group of people who miss the prime time to learn how to swim. . If you went to a school without a pool, chances are you came from a home without a pool, or a community without a public pool. So where exactly were you meant to learn how to swim? It just becomes a cycle in life, where you avoid large bodies of water because you fear drowning, and any activities in large bodies of water, albeit that they’re safe and don’t require the knowledge to swim. It gets to a point where after a certain age, you even feel embarrassed to learn, even if you now have access to the necessary resources. So most people just live with it.

2. Being black

I thought it was quite funny that the millennials used this as an excuse for not scuba diving! Can we take a moment to address how the amount of melanin in your skin is not an excuse for having  a desire to dive, or lack thereof? Being a black scuba diver, I thought this was not really a reason, but just another form of self-disparaging being used as an excuse. It’s basically saying, I don’t really know much about this, nor have I seen anyone similar to me doing it, therefore it can’t be done by someone like me. And that’s why I loved this documentary so much, because by doing the scuba diving himself, Thabani went out and said actually, I am like you, and I will show you that you can do it too! We need to see more black people doing these “unusual” things before we start to see a change in mentality.

3. Mermaids (njuzu)

Zimbabweans are a very religious people. A large part of the population is Christian. But, they are still very superstitious people, who believe in a lot of the teachings from the traditional ancestral religion. Many believe mermaids lurk in deep waters, and surface to take those who have been possessed by a “mermaid spirit” (shavi renjuzu). Zimbabweans believe if the mermaid takes you, and your family cries, you will never return. If your family doesn’t cry, they believe you will come back with strong healing powers. The superstition holds for many locals, but that’s largely because the disappearances have never been explained properly. In fact, one of the interviewees in the documentary asks ” what’s the explanation to those black people disappearing?”. Well, one is, they probably couldn’t swim. So they might have fallen in and drowned. The other reason also explains why divers disappear in the pool. Chinhoyi caves is a system of tunnels and caverns. So when you dive deep, you need to be conscious of which way you turned, so you know which way to turn back! If you take a wrong turn, you might find yourself lost in the caverns underwater. And this happens with all cave diving across the world. This wouldn’t be such a problem, if the air in the cylinder wasn’t limited. And so, a diver, black or white, will disappear if they take a wrong turn and run out of air to breathe while trying to find their way back.

The documentary goes on to show what an introductory scuba diving course entails, in a very simple, and non technical way. Anyone can get a gist of what it entails, which is fantastic. It really makes it seem “doable” for the average black person, even little children can do it! One key feature I liked was that Paul from DiveWild talks about how Zimbabwe has access to a decompression chamber. This is a gas chamber that’s used to treat divers that come out to the surface from a deep dive too quickly before the nitrogen in their body has been properly dispelled. Having a decompression chamber means we’re at par with world class diving facilities, and are able to treat divers with this decompression sickness. Even Mozambique, which has way more diving activity than we do, doesn’t have one! I was very proud to see this! Go Zimbabwe!


And the final dive? Stunning! For those of you that “will not enter water”(watch the video if you don’t get this), I hope that footage was enough to convince you that there’s nothing but beauty down there. No mermaids lurking! Diving is so relaxing, and you can see how none of the divers are furiously kicking their fins. It’s such an enjoyable sport, and the Destination Africa team have shown that not only is not difficult to get world class training, but the beauty that lies beneath the pool of Chinhoyi Caves makes it well worth it. I, for one, have committed to diving at the Chinhoyi Caves before the end of 2017. Thanks for the inspiration guys!

Would you consider diving in the Chinhoyi Caves, or scuba diving in general? Comment below. Remember to follow my page on Instagram @thingu.official,like my Facebook page Thingu and subscribe to my youtube channel Thingu Official for more updates! 

71 thoughts on “Why black people don’t scuba dive – The case of Zimbabweans and the Chinhoyi Caves”

  1. I absolutely enjoyed watching and reading about this adventure. Stuff like this makes me proud to be Zimbabwean. Great job Thabani and Tendai.

  2. You killed it Tinto and your crew. Our country is full of mystical yet beautiful places and we definitely need entities like Destination Africa to showcase this beauty. And thank you Ashley for providing the platform for them to air this. This is a high quality documentary…enjoyed every minute of it.

  3. Ruwarashe Mandikate

    wow Tinto what an underwater kaleidoscope. I felt like i was underwater with Thabani for a minute there. Well done to you and your crew I have not been to the Chinhoyi caves and this docie has me one foot out the door im definitely missing out though i doubt id venture into the water kikikikik.

  4. Well done Thabani … Tinto you next … guys you doing a great job exhibiting our natural gems to the whole world & big shout to Thingu.com…amazing collaboration , well done guys

  5. Wow! Absolutely impressive. Thank you for showcasing one of Zimbabwe’s natural heritage sites in an exciting and magical way.

    Thabani, you are one daring African ! Such a vivid and visually appealing experience. It left me feeling like l was part of the scuba diving team. You have just eased my fears of scuba diving.

    Great job. Kudos to the whole team!

  6. Thank you Thingu for introducing our work to the world and for such an amazing write up. Tatenda Zvikuru, Thank you very Much, Siyabonga

  7. Now this is a professional video that will live in my heart forever. I’m sure many will want to explore this place after this. Thank you for reminding us of the beauty that is Zimbabwe in the age of catastrophe.

  8. Wow! Great production! And demystification!!! I suppose those njuzu tales were relevant for the times they were created.

    How about Tendai goes down alone…???

  9. Hahah dope staff ..excellent vid and lots of truths .. i grew up there ryt next to the caves but i was filled more with scary stories to such an extend that i was even afraid to close my eyes in the shower or wen bathing thinking that i would disappear and find myself in the caves. I would do scuba diving somewhere else not in the caves hahah .

    1. Hahaha yeah we all grew up hearing these stories. I’ll be scuba diving in Zanzibar next week, hopefully that will convince you to go diving.

  10. We went there for our honeymoon in 1980!! The most magical place! Would love to scuba dive there one day…….! Putting it on my bucket list.

  11. Great vid buddie. I’ve been wanting to get a PADI license for a while now. Unfortunately I took up skydiving instead . This has just lit a fire inside me. I’m on my way!

    1. Hi Gerald! Skydiving is also quite fun. I really enjoyed it. But yes, get your PADI open water now, we’ll catch you in the water!

  12. I myself I am a living witness of a person who disappeared from that cave and later resurfaced some years later and exactly with the supernatural powers. I myself I am a witness of the same person who later came and laid rukukwe on the same pool and sat there and performed some rituals, believe it or not, National Parks records should review to you such happenings in the late 1999 if they recorded it because that event was attended by high officials.

    1. What a fascinating story. I will look into this and see if I can find records to corroborate your story. Very inyeresting

    2. As interesting as this revelation can be people need to be mindful that there is a possibility of a life deep down there. I think i know something more than just!!

  13. Brilliant vid and wonderful to see such promotion of the sport i nave been an instructor for many years and dived the caves on numerous occassions. Its a wonderful experience and i hope many people take the plunge…

  14. Awesome stuff my brothers. I grew up in Chinhoyi and I am into Tourism (safari) though I stay outside Zimbabwe now but I think you guys just gave me a great IDEA! Well done!

  15. Very breath taking but scary .
    To be honest when you went into that pool I was like “run away and don’t watch this young man disintegrate or the camera going blank because njuzu took I away”
    To be honest that fear is still in me and will never venture into that Chinhoyi caves water kkkk

  16. Amazing would love to join you guys on one of your exploration amazing production too loved it something zimbabwe’s media space needs

  17. Chinhoyi Caves are surreal to dive in & have stunning visibility too. I thoroughly enjoyed my training dives there & would love to go back. An experience not to be missed! The stair climb is more scarey than the pool! ???

    1. Hi Listoe. Because this was an “open water dive”, he can only go down 18m. Very advanced, technical divers would go down to 135m.

  18. beautiful indeed ….but take note of something important.. these people went down there in groups and i think that is one the reasons why the njuzu did not attempt to take one of them…go there alone and you will face the wrath of the njuzu…

  19. Great story and would be great to attract tourists if it were not for ALL the problems facing visitors being harassed by the Police at every turn in the road !!

  20. I’m black, Zimbabwean and I dive. But you won’t find me diving in chinhoyi caves. I believe the disappearance stories and ain’t about to risk it

  21. That’s absolutely amazing guys and it looks like you had a great time. Thanks for show casing Zimbabwe ??. Been to the Caves but never went in. Heard the stories but one can never substantiate them so one never knows the truth….
    I started swimming as an adult with 3 kids and found that once you know how to behave in water as you learn to swim the fear of water is gone and you welcome any opportunity to be in the water. Will certainly consider this on my next visit.

  22. Somebody needs to contact Kirsty Coventry, if she hasn’t already been contacted. As Zimbabwe’s premier Olympic swimmer, she could share this on the world stage if it resonated with her. Just a thought….

  23. Wow this is great, when i clicked it on FB i wasn’a t expecting to see such high quality video. This is really excellent!!! I loved the diversity of the interviewed people. You really did cover your ground. Next stop, proper movie, and you guys can do it. So Oscars to you guys for Best Picture Quality; Well Researched Documentary; Best Sound Quality!!!!!!

  24. Eish you guys are daring. Mayee my stomarch tightened big time and i can imagine how your mum is feeling.
    Im squimish and my sons would only tell me about such ventures after having done them..otherwise hospital is where i would be.
    My son went bungee jumping at Victoria Falls and i only heard about it when i saw it on his face book page..i nearly died.
    But..boys will always be boys…if you are comfortable and confident in doing it..why not?…. but pliz dont tell me,kikiki
    Well done Thabani…i will keep peeping..and praying that you realise your dream….
    wuuu im even sweating as i write this.
    Ohh my..being a mother of boys is so scary sometimes…
    Good luck to you my boys..and to you Tendai…”you go under water”…common man up???

  25. Yes if I am with a professional diver who I can trust but the njuzu believe will be on my mind. I am so terrified of njuzu strories

  26. I remember when I was about 8 yrs. we went to chinoyi cave for a school trip and we were told stories of kids who disappeared for 2 days after they say something which was not allowed to say when you are in the caves. The story was that there was a njuzu that will make you disappear. I have no idea whether these stories were true but I guest that might be the reason why local do not want to diver there.

  27. I remember when I was about 8 yrs. we went to chinoyi cave for a school trip and we were told stories of kids who disappeared for 2 days after they say something which was not allowed to say when you are in the caves. The story was that there was a njuzu that will make you disappear. I have no idea whether these stories were true but I guest that might be the reason why local do not want to diver there.

  28. Didn’t know you could actually learn to scuba dive in Zimbabwe, had to go far to do that. But despite that, this was one of the best videos i have watched on travelling in Zimbabwe. Well done guys, will definitely follow and see some of your experiences, maybe… Only maybe, one day i will convince my wife to go scuba diving in Chinhoyi caves.

  29. Great that you are actually encouraging more Zimbabwean folks to scuba dive. I am black woman , Zimbabwean and am PADI open water scuba diver together with daughter who got certified when she was 12.

    You don’t actually need to be a great swimmer to scuba dive as you don’t swim underwater. The mandatory swimming test is for those who wish to get certified but there are always some fun trial dives that people can do if they want to discover the magic that lies beneath the waves.

    Moza is a magical diving spot too!

  30. Passions and interest differ! Ever considered the cost of the required gear for scuba? Honestly title your article as such? Let’s be objective in our analysis, you think people will leave bread and butter issues to focus on scuba? Get real

  31. That was great! For a moment I was struggling to breathe as I went down into the water with you. Anyway, it’s nice to learn that Zimbabwe is beautiful on top and beneath. Although I wouldn’t call myself a bathophobic, I certainly am a hydro. I feel dizzy just by looking at a huge mass of water. Maybe down-under gives a different perspective, which tckles me to try scuba some time soon. But isn’t it funny how we are so afraid of kusiya sadza nemaveggie. Kkkkkk…

  32. Eye opening stuff indeed! I even frowned on my African American friend down in Durban for doing “white things”. Needless to say I would not mind sacrificing pleasures such as restaurants and braais so I can afford the training. Would be well worth it though. Keep up the good work fellas!

  33. Black man for those who like labels. Homo scubien to colour blinds like us. Happy connect with fellow Zimbabwean scubiens out there and share those scubien stories. Too broke to dive currently but too happy to help promote my country and the sport i love. Chinhoyi caves has been on my radar for years, still is. Thank you guys for the lovely job. Hopefully with your work I can convince friends from far privileged places to visit me. As the old saying says, “beer tastes better under the influence of nitrox.” Okay something I just made up. A little bit of dry humour from the man in the wetsuit, I suppose.

  34. Fascinating indeed. I am very tempted to join in but is there any other place I can be taught, because ..HELL NO, there’s no way I’m going to get my black body into that deep blue pool of Chirorodziva, Chinhoyi Caves lol. Anywhere else, yes I might consider because, yes I do believe the caves are sacred, a little too much for my daring but somewhat faint heart.

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