Exploring the Mysterious Echo Caves
When cattle started to disappear without a trace on the farm where the Echo Caves are located in the early 1920’s, the original owner of the farm started to search for his missing cattle. It did not take him long to realize that his cattle were not disappearing, but entering a cave that he did not realize existed on his land. His amazement and curiosity in discovering the caves took him on an adventure where he entered a cavern that was a staggering sixty meters in height.
Nestled in the northern area of the famous Drakensberg Mountains, near Ohrigstad in the Mpumalanga region of South Africa, the Echo Caves are surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and spectacular hills. Declared a Historical Monument, the Echo Caves have proved to be a vital part of the history of the area, as several artifacts and items have been found within the caves. They are now known to be some of the oldest limestone caves in the world. The fact that they are not a commercialized attraction or as well-known as other cave systems in South Africa, means that the Echo Caves are almost untouched by visitors, and guided tours can be taken in much smaller and more personal groups.
It is believed that the cave systems extend further than forty kilometers, but its true length remains a mystery, and the entire system has not been explored yet. The guided tours take visitors through two kilometers and a tour lasts approximately forty-five minutes. Lighting inside the caves, railings and staircases ensures safety and accessibility for visitors. As more of the caves are discovered, the list of breathtaking chambers grows. The stalagmites and stalactites in the caves are wonderful sight to look upon, with the most recent chamber additions added on the tour being the Crystal Palace and the Madonna Room. The name Echo Caves was derived from the rock formations that are found in the caves, as when one is struck the noise resonates from the blow, echoing for kilometers down the system. It is believed that early inhabitants of the area would strike the rock to warn others of the approaching danger and give them time to flee into the caves. Special tours deeper into the system can be arranged, but this is not recommended for claustrophobic people.
The museum, located near the caves, is another fascinating attraction and is home to the wonderful collection of artifacts and rare findings from the caves. Echo Caves can offer visitors comfortable accommodation in one of the eleven available rooms, or in the youth hostel. Both the caves and the nearby regions are worth exploring, as they hold the answers to the past and to a rich heritage.