Cango Caves – An Underground Adventure
Near the town of Oudtshoorn, located in the Karoo and part of the Garden Route, are the spectacular Cango Caves. The Garden Route is the most scenic and picturesque travel route in the Eastern Cape, and the trip inland to the Cango Caves is well worth the effort.
In 1760 Hermanus Steyn was given a land grant and established his farm which he named Combuys aan de Cango (meaning “kitchen of the Cango”). The entrance to the Cango Caves are located on the farm, and in 1780 the discovery of the Cango Caves was made. The first visit to the Cango Caves was recorded in 1806, and in 1820 Lord Charles Somerset became the first British Governor to visit the Caves. The extension of the African Drum Room to the Grand Hall was made in 1890, and Lt General Henry Augustus Smyth donated an iron ladder, known as Smyth’s Ladder, on a visit to the area in the same year. A gate to the entrance of the Caves was also installed and in 1891 the then owner of Combuys, Mr HWJ Van Der Veen, was appointed supervisor to the Cango Caves, while Johnnie van Wassenaar was appointed the first full-time guide. The Cango Caves became such a well known attraction that the Prince of Wales visited in 1925. The long overdue proclamation of “Historical Monument” came to the Cango Caves in 1938.
There are two tours available to visitors. The Standard Tour has a duration time of approximately one hour. This includes the magical Van Zyl’s Hall, with its cathedral atmosphere, and the African Drum Room. These two chambers are the largest of the cave system and make for a comfortable and easy walking tour. The Adventure Tour is somewhat hair raising and it is advised that if you are not fit or suffer from claustrophobia, that you stay well clear of this 90 minute adventure. Some parts of the tour consist of narrow spaces, low hanging rocks and steep climbs. Appropriately, the names that were given to a few of these areas are: Crystal Palace, Devil’s Chimney, Tunnel of Love, Post Box and Coffin. If the names alone don’t scare you, the tour is likely to thrill, stun and enchant its daring visitors.
The Cango Caves also have a restaurant, curio shop, exchange bureau and fantasy shop. The fantasy shop offers fantasy photos, black and white cave photos and even certificates of achievement! The Garden Route experience would not be complete without visiting the amazing Cango Caves.