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The many attractions of Masvingo, Zimbabwe

The many attractions of Masvingo, Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe Ruins, a designated World Heritage Site
The Zimbabwe Ruins, a designated World Heritage Site
Barry Knight






Masvingo was the very first modern town in Zimbabwe, established in 1890 by the Pioneer Column en route to their eventual destination of Fort Salisbury (now Harare). Originally named Fort Victoria (after the reigning monarch, who else?), it is said to have hosted the very first cricket match played in the country.

In its early years, it became a bit of a backwater, as the rail links to other towns never came near it, but in more recent years it is firmly back on the map, straddling the main highway between Harare and Beitbridge.

Deserving of far more interest than it receives at the moment, there are a variety of attractions within a half hour drive of the city.

The first one that should be on the traveller’s list is Great Zimbabwe Monument - a UNESCO world heritage site. A bit like Stonehenge in that nobody’s really sure exactly who originally built it and why, Great Zimbabwe is the best known of the hundreds of megalithic ruins (some big, some small, some tiny) dotting the landscape of southern central Africa. After the Victoria Falls, it is a ‘must see’ for every traveller - especially those a little more curious than the rest; kind of like Machu Picchu, but different!

The history of the area extends back a long, long way and there are many painted caves and overhangs in the granite hills around Masvingo, a reminder of the bushmen people who were the original inhabitants of the subcontinent for many thousands of years. One of the most intriguing of these sites is Chamavara Cave, also known as the Cave of the White Lady, depicting a figure said to be a lady in oriental dress, right down to the pointed slippers on her feet.

Lake Mutirikwi (also known by its former name, Lake Kyle) is on the doorstep, offering some of the best bass fishing in the country. The 17,000ha Kyle Recreational Park is situated along a good part of the Lake’s 91km shoreline and, not being widely known or visited, is well worth a trip if you like seeing animals rather than tourists. You’ll find most species there, bar elephant. At the dam wall, you’ll find a tiny chapel built by the Water Bailiff, Tom Van Graan for his daughter’s wedding. It was never used as she was tragically killed in a road accident before her marriage.

The Italian Chapel in Masvingo is also worth a visit. Built by bored yet talented prisoners of war between 1942-46, it features amazing artwork and murals. Think Sistine Chapel on a much smaller scale.