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!