There’s something decisively inaccessible and elusive about caves. They evoke an image of stalagmites and stalactites – nope, we don’t know the difference either – echoing caverns, claustrophobia inducing spaces and a whole lot of eerie darkness. But the beauty of the underground world isn’t limited to the crazy cavers who deem navigating excruciatingly tight spaces to be a thrilling sport. Just a short drive from the town of Oudtshoorn, the otherworldly pull of Cango Caves has drawn savvy travellers for longer than any other attraction in South Africa. Here you can take a journey into the secrets that lie within nature’s very own hidden world – an experience that is nothing short of magical.
Located beneath the Karoo plateau, at the foothills of the towering Swartberg Mountains, the vast halls and intricate limestone formations of Cango Caves are an example of Southern Africa’s best natural cave series. In fact, they are amongst some of the best limestone caverns in the world.
Sculpted by Mother Nature herself, it’s thought that these caves are over 20 millions years old – probably housing communities in their vast entrance caverns during the Later Stone and Middle Ages. But it wasn’t until a local farmer, Jacobus Van Zyl, stumbled across them back in 1780 that this incredible natural landmark was put back on the map. Since their re-discovery, the ethereal wonder of the caves have been a source of fascination for tourists and locals alike.
Here, the aim of the game is to get lost in the natural beauty of the caves’ myriad delights – a Heritage Tour will see you jumping right into the rich history of this underground wonder as your enthusiastic guide makes sure that you don’t miss a thing. And with the cave formations all skillfully illuminated, in no sense of the phrase will you be left in the dark.
Van Zyl’s Hall – named after the man who founded the caves – is your starting point, and it most definitely sets the bar high. This vast cavern, or ‘hall’ as it has been aptly referred to, is much like a naturally formed cathedral, boasting its own “Giant Organ Pipes” and “Pulpit” amongst other impressive, ancient formations.
Moving beyond this magnificent entrance hall you’ll be led through Botha’s Hall where you will find “The Madonna and her Child”, the Rainbow Chamber where the “Cave Devil” resides, the Bridal Chamber’s “Fourteen-post Bridal Bed”, the coloured lights of the Fairyland Chamber and finish up in the Drum Chamber before heading back out into the sunlight.
Oh, and it may be worth mentioning that bats still inhabit this cage. But far from the vampire connotations of “vanting to suck your blood”, these nocturnal mammals are just hanging out in their natural environment – literally.
If you’re heading to South Africa, you’re not going to want to miss its oldest tourist attraction.
A 30 km drive from Oudtshoorn at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains.
9am-4pm daily, with tours running every hour.
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