Hillside Dams

Nestled in the heart of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the Hillside Dams Conservancy stands as a shining example of how conservation, recreation, and education can come together harmoniously to protect the environment while providing a haven for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Hillside Dams

The 86-hectare property is located just 6km south of the city center and is currently operated by a dedicated Trust whose mission is crystal clear: to preserve the Hillside Dams Area through recreation and education. Visiting this pristine sanctuary isn’t just about experiencing the great outdoors – it’s a direct contribution to the ongoing conservation efforts that make this place truly special.

Preserving Hillside Dams Heritage

In 1942, the Hillside Dams area was designated as a National Monument, marking its significance as the country’s inaugural bird sanctuary. The reservoirs, which have now been decommissioned, were once the primary source of domestic water for Bulawayo. The transformation of this region into a recreational haven commenced in 1959, marked by the creation of essential amenities like toilet blocks, pathways, the Upper Dam Tearoom, and parking facilities.

This area boasts a rich history of human habitation, having various archaeological sites, ancient rock paintings, and historical landmarks dating back to the stone age. Going back to the 19th century, King Lobengula selected this very area to establish an outpost settlement of koBulawayo. This retreat offered respite from the demands of Ndebele capital life, providing a serene escape for the King.

In a remarkable historical event, in late December of 1893, the vicinity near the conservancy’s northern boundary witnessed a pivotal meeting involving Cecil John Rhodes, prominent settler leaders, and Ndebele chiefs.

For many years the Hillside Dams were kept full by utilizing recycled water when the city was amply provisioned. Regrettably, recent times have seen a shortage of water supply, resulting in prolonged periods of low water levels in the Dams, particularly the Lower Dam. Subsequent dependence on favorable rainy seasons to replenish the reservoirs has posed challenges.

Today, the Hillside Dams Conservancy stands as a testament to the past, preserving its historical legacy for future generations. While it once served as a lifeline for the city’s water needs, it has evolved into a space that nurtures community engagement and adventure, offering a fresh purpose to its scenic expanse.

Gateway to Conservation: Where Every Visit Counts

Stepping into Hillside Dams Conservancy, visitors embark on a journey that goes beyond enjoying the beauty of nature. The gate entry fee serves as a vital source of support for the conservation projects carried out by the Trust. This means that every time you visit, you’re playing a direct role in safeguarding the local ecosystems and ensuring the longevity of this natural treasure.
Currently the entry fee stands at $3 per adult, $2 per child under 12 and pensioners and each vehicle pay a $1 on entry. The park opens from sunrise to sunset which is usually from 6am to 6pm, however in the summer when the sun is out for longer the park remains open until 7pm.

Affordable, Accessible, Adventure

Once you are inside the conservancy, a world of adventure and relaxation unfolds. From thrilling activities like ziplining and stand-up paddleboarding to the tranquility of nature walks and birdwatching, the conservancy offers an array of experiences catering to various tastes. Canoeing along serene waters and bouncing on trampolines evoke a sense of childlike wonder, while camping under the stars rekindles our connection with the great outdoors. With affordability at its core, the conservancy ensures that these exhilarating activities remain accessible to all, allowing everyone to partake in its adventurous offerings.

Hillside Dams Conservancy believes that adventure and environmental education should be accessible to everyone. That’s why they’ve worked hard to keep activity prices affordable, ensuring that visitors from all walks of life can participate and make a positive impact on the environment. It’s an adventure that not only challenges the body and mind but also nurtures the soul.

Currently activities range from as little as $2 per person per activity and up to $5 per person depending on the activity and age of the person.

Food, Events, Community

Amidst its natural beauty, the Hillside Dams Conservancy offers more than just a traditional picnic site where visitors bring their own food and drinks. Adding to the allure, the conservancy boasts its very own inviting restaurant. Here, visitors can savor local flavors, all while immersing themselves in the serene ambiance. Beyond personal exploration, the conservancy has transformed into a hub for vibrant community events. One such event is the renowned Groovy Cab, organized by Round Table, which now finds its permanent home at the conservancy. Exciting plans are also underway to relocate the beloved miniature train from Centenary Park to Hillside Dams. The grounds come alive with local food markets and captivating arts & craft exhibitions, injecting a vibrant sense of community spirit.

Setting itself apart, the restaurant at Hillside Dams Conservancy celebrates a fusion of Afro-centric culinary traditions. Its menu harmoniously blends the intricate and diverse flavors and ingredients from various cultures, resulting in a truly unique dining experience. Moreover, the restaurant plays host to captivating Pop Up Events, showcasing a rich ethnic vibe that encompasses amateur talents performing traditional Zimbabwean music, including the enchanting sounds of the Mbira and more.

Conservation in Action

In addition to its recreational attractions, the Hillside Dams Conservancy goes above and beyond to safeguard the unique natural ecosystems within its boundaries. The latest endeavor, the “Restoration of the Hillside Dams Wetland” project, serves as a remarkable testament to their unwavering commitment. This ambitious initiative, conducted in collaboration with entities such as the Environmental Agency Management (EMA), Bulawayo City Council (BCC), and other stakeholders, addresses a spectrum of crucial components: solid waste management, invasive species eradication, outdoor environmental learning, catchment area restoration, and biodiversity documentation.

A pivotal aspect of the conservancy’s mission lies in fostering community involvement, which stands as a cornerstone of the project’s triumph. An avenue for active engagement comes in the form of joining the conservancy’s WhatsApp group, granting you access to regular updates, insightful surveys, and the opportunity to volunteer on Wednesday mornings. This approach underscores the Trust’s firm belief in the collective prowess of community action and acknowledges the indispensable role that local residents play in shaping the conservancy’s trajectory.


Recognizing the invaluable role that biodiversity documentation plays in understanding and preserving the ecosystem, the conservancy actively encourages public participation. Through user-friendly platforms like “iNaturalist,” individuals can contribute to the documentation of the rich biodiversity present in the Hillside Dams Conservancy. This collective data collection not only enriches scientific knowledge but also supports conservation efforts.

Furthermore, the conservancy extends its arms to universities and research institutions who stand to benefit greatly from the wealth of information collected. This data provides invaluable resources for research, study, and insights into local ecosystems, ultimately enriching academic pursuits and contributing to broader environmental understanding.

For those who wish to contribute in a different manner, the conservancy welcomes donations from the community at large. Details for making donations are easily accessible through the conservancy’s office, where the dedicated staff can facilitate this process.

In essence, the Hillside Dams Conservancy’s initiatives encapsulate a harmonious blend of ecological preservation, community engagement, and education. By participating in activities ranging from biodiversity documentation to volunteering and donating, individuals become integral parts of a movement that safeguards the natural treasures of the area and ensures their availability for generations to come.

More than a Sanctuary: A Hub of Community Engagement

Hillside Dams Conservancy extends its embrace to the broader community, becoming a hub for a variety of events that foster unity, creativity, and dialogue. Aside from the Groovy Cab, organized by Round Table, as well as local food markets and arts & craft exhibitions mentioned earlier in this article, the Hillside Dams Conservancy also collaborates with the Zimbabwe Professional Guides Association (Z.P.G.A.) in organising talks that spark discussions, forge connections, and nurture the exchange of ideas.

The Hillside Dams Conservancy is a place where every footstep contributes to the preservation of the environment, where adventure and serenity coexist, and where learning thrives amidst the beauty of nature. As visitors explore its wonders, they become not just witnesses but active contributors to a legacy of conservation, recreation, and education that will endure for generations to come.

By visiting this remarkable sanctuary, you become part of a larger movement to safeguard the environment and create a sustainable future for generations to come. So, embark on your journey of discovery, adventure, and giving back – and experience the magic of Hillside Dams Conservancy for yourself.

For more information and to plan your visit, head over to their official website, www.hillsidedams.com, or contact our admin office on +263780652668/ +263292335991.

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