Adventure Travel: Caving in South Africa

Caving is gaining in popularity as a leisure or extreme sport in many parts of the world, and South Africa, with its abundance of dolomite and limestone, is a very rewarding caving destination. Each of the myriad of caves scattered around the county has its own unique formations, offering thrill-seekers a challenge no matter what level of caving experience they may have.

While many caves in South Africa, such as the Sterkfontein Caves near Krugersdorp, the renowned Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn and the Sudwala Caves near Lydenburg, offer tours showcasing the immense beauty and unique characteristics of each cave, the sport of caving goes way beyond a casual stroll through well-lit caverns and passageways with a tour guide leading the way. Caving enthusiasts delight in exploring an underground world that few venture to enter – and there are plenty of opportunities for serious caving in South Africa, either with a local caving group, or a tour operator specializing in caving. As experienced cavers are well aware, caving is a team effort and should never be attempted alone.

The Cango Caves, situated near Oudtshoorn, have some of the most magnificent stalagmite formations in the world. Despite having been explored for decades, the Cango Caves have a labyrinth of cave complexes that have not as yet been reached. The Sudwala Caves in the South African province of Mpumalanga are believed to be around 2,000 million years old. Cavers will not only get to see fascinating stalagmites and stalactites, but also the fossilized remains of an algae known as “collenia”, which scientists believe were the very first oxygen-producing plants on earth.

In addition to the more well known caves that offer caving enthusiasts exciting exploration opportunities, there are between 200 and 300 caves across South Africa, many of which are on privately owned land. The majority of these are made available to organized caving groups and through the Cave Research Organization of South Africa (Telephone:+ 27 (0)11 6404394).

Caving enthusiasts pursue this sport for a number of reasons, the foremost being the thrill and the challenge. Whether you are an experienced caver or are toying with the idea of trying out this unusual and exciting sport, you can be sure that caving in South Africa will be an unforgettable experience.