The Big Tree marvel and Chirinda Forest

13 Jan, 2023 - 00:01 0 Views
The Big Tree marvel and Chirinda Forest The Big Tree

The ManicaPost

Liberty Dube
Tourism Correspondent

WHILE a lot of attention has been given to Nyanga, Chimanimani and Bvumba as major tourist attractions in the Eastern Highlands, there is need to divert tourists’ attention to Chirinda Forest in Mount Selinda, Chipinge District.

The thick serene forest is home to the famous Big Tree, which is the tallest indigenous tree in Zimbabwe and a declared national monument.

The tree is 65 metres tall and measures 4,5 metres in diameter, while its age is estimated at 1 000 years or over.

On the travel itinerary for travellers to the Eastern Highlands, the Chirinda Forest is a must visit, thanks to the cool fresh breeze coming from the thickets and tree canopy.

One can easily lose themselves in the thickets of the natural reserve. One can enjoy the therapeutic trip to the nature reserve from Mutare after passing through Hot Springs in Nyanyadzi and the engineering marvel of Birchenough Bridge before reaching Chipinge.

The journey to the forests, which is 82 kilometres from Chipinge Town, is a worthwhile one.

The Big Tree, located in the beautiful jungle, was first measured in 1920. In 1939, its upper branches wilted away for it to measure 59 metres.


Now measuring 54 metres tall, the red mahogany tree still maintains its serenity and quiet strength.

Chirinda Forest is one of the protected forest areas in the country with a unique combination of tropical and subtropical vegetation species.

The forest is home to other indigenous and exotic trees and wildlife such as the Fluted Milkwood which is the dominant canopy species, Chirinda Fig, Undershrub Big-leaf, Chirinda Stinkwood, Yellow Bitterberry and Forest Strychnos.

The dominant canopy species, besides Fluted Milkwood, are Forest Mahogany and Peawood.

The Big Tree is the largest Red Mahogany Tree in Southern Africa and the tallest native tree in Zimbabwe.

Other forest tree species include colossal specimens of Strangling Figs, Brown Mahogany, White Stinkwood, Forest Climbing Acacia, Ironwood, Giant Diospyros and Apricot Vine.

Thousands of specimens of the yucca-like Dracaena Fragrans populate the forest floor, and numerous ferns, creepers, vines, epiphytes and orchids (including Calanthe Sylvatica) are also found there.

Some bird species that can be found there, during the unforgettable expedition of the forest include Swynnerton’s robin, a globally threatened Monotypic genus, Stripe-cheeked greenbul, Moustached warbler, White-tailed flycatcher and Yellow-bellied waxbill.

Despite its enticing, beautiful and adrenaline rush views and the spectacular view of the Big Tree, there is a need for travellers to be cautious especially when exploring the place during late hours.

The forests house various dangerous reptiles that include pythons, cobras, vipers, mambas, adders and chameleons, among others.

Said Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s Manicaland provincial manager, Ms Ropafadzo Dunira after an unforgettable visit to the mystic site: “The much-awaited visit to Chipinge finally came. I have always wanted to visit the area, but didn’t have much information about the place. We left Chipinge with a couple of friends to Chirinda Forest.


“The road from Chipinge town to Chirinda was really in bad shape. It is a strip road that has not been maintained for some time, so I would recommend a four-wheel drive vehicle, or a vehicle with high clearance. It took us 1hour 30mins to finally get there.

“We drove to the parking area and rushed to the Big Tree since it was getting late. The nature walk to the Big Tree was so refreshing. It took us about 20mins. We had no guide to tell us about the place, but we made it and managed to take some pictures. Unfortunately, we couldn’t proceed to the Valley of Giants because of time. I love nature, and I enjoyed the feeling of finally getting to see the Big Tree.”

She added: “There are some nice tall and big trees along the way, but it was going to be interesting if there were some write-ups about the forest or a guide to tell us more. The place is beautiful, but looks deserted. The signage is falling off. There were no rest rooms to refresh at the parking area, though I managed to see a tap for water and a braai area. However, I believed something could be done to improve the place.”

The Manica Post gathered that for travellers to enjoy the roller-coaster ride and exploration of the forest, among other things, one should travel early to reach there by mid-morning.

The forests can be dangerous if explored later during the day because of darkness and obscurity.

One should also have decent hiking shoes as some parts are sloppy and slippery.

Tourism expert and Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences’ Tourism and Hospitality lecturer, Mr Willard Madhombiro, said the Big Tree and the Chirinda Forest among other sites in Chipinge and Chimanimani have become of interest in the minds of other segments of the market like historians and archaeologists.

“Talking about Chirinda Forest in Chipinge, before even thinking of exploring for tourism benefits, let us think of sustainability. Conservation of such virgin and rainforests is key to ensure that future generations also enjoy such natural splendour.


“The Eastern Highlands has remained a key attraction due to among other aspects scenic views and conservation of natural resources which is a pull factor. Besides that, let us also remember that the substance of the environment is strategic and mitigation against climate change.

“Chirinda Forest is already a tourism resource just like Bvumba. I believe more should be done to market the forests. Such places are essential for bush dinners, camping and some cultural festivals.


“For accessibility and touring, travel agents may have to sell an interesting tour package itinerary which constitutes spectacular sites in Chipinge and Chimanimani that were affected by Cyclone Idai, but are on the recovery path,” said Mr Madhombiro.


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