When tourists travel to South Africa, it is usually to see the Kruger Park, Cape Town, the Winelands, Robben Island and maybe the Garden Route. But there is one part of South Africa’s nature and history, that is not very well known, but just as interesting and impressive. I am talking about the huge, deep, pre-historic, marvelous (and maybe a little bit scary) caves of South Africa.
Now, a lot of countries have some caves that you can peek into, or even walk around in. But South Africa has a lot of them. And most of them are huge networks of tunnels that you can spend hours, or even days, exploring! And what is more thrilling than crawling deep down into a dark, seemingly never-ending tunnel that was created millions of years ago?
There are several different sites in South Africa where you can find these networks of caves and tunnels, but I won’t mention them all here. Though, some of them are just too important to miss! Like the UNESCO World Heritage Site called The Cradle of Human Kind, or the massive Cango Caves,Echo Caves and Sudwala Caves.
The Cradle of Human Kind
The Cradle of Human Kind World Heritage Site is actually much more than just the caves. They boast about having a total of 398 attractions at the site! But the main feature, and what I am the most interested in, are the caves. And they are not just plain caves. As the name implies, this is the area where human kind is known to have it’s oldest roots, and they have found 1.5 million years old fossils of direct ancestors to modern humans.
For more information about this World Heritage Site, visit their website at www.cradleofhumankind.co.za
The Echo Caves, also located in the Mpumalanga Region just west of the Kruger Park, is another cave that is worth a visit before or after your safari tours. The caves were discovered by a farmer who was looking for his cattle that continued to mysteriously disappear. They are more than 40 kilometers long (!), and have been named after its ability to carry sound (or echoes) all the way through. For more information about their history and tours of the caves, visit www.echocaves.co.za.
The Cango Caves are among the most popular caves in South Africa. Conveniently located close to the Garden Route, and with one of the finest and most impressive caves in South Africa, they attract a lot of tourists from all over the world. Though, if you are of the adventurous kind, I should warn you that you have to follow the guided tours and stay within the areas that are open to tourists. This is the case for most of South Africa’s large caves.
But even though you are walking with a big group of people, the caves will surely give you the feeling of exploring a different world. With spectacular limestone formations, they are definitely worth the visit. And if you were bummed that you can’t explore the caves on your own, you might be happy to know that they offer a special package called the Adventure Tour for souls like you! You can find more information here: www.cango-caves.co.za
The Sudwala Caves are visited less frequently, but definitely also worth the trip if you’re in the Mpumalanga region. As you’re walking up to the caves, you can barely spot the little opening, but as soon as you enter them you will realize that this is also a huge network of tunnels. And according to Sudwalacaves.co.za, they are also the oldest caves in the world!
As with the other mentioned caves, you are supposed follow the guided tours at Sudwala as well. But that is probably a good thing, considering that the caves are thousands of meters deep, and you don’t want to get lost all alone in there! You have two tour options, the Cave Tour and the Crystal Tour. The Cave Tour takes about an hour and you go 600 meters into the caves. The Crystal Tour takes 5 hours and takes you 2000 meters into the caves!