When you dream of Africa, caves may not be the first thing that springs to your mind. Yet deep underground lies the literal bones of our beautiful earth…and the Cango Caves near Oudtshoorn hold some ages-old secrets of their own. Holiday packages to the Klein Karoo and Garden Route will often urge visitors to explore the wonders of the caves, and with very good reason- it’s an experience like no other. If you’re on the way to Buffelsdrift Game Reserve and our luxury tented camps, it’s time to tick this one off the bucket list and stop off at the Cango Caves- and here’s exactly why.
What are the Cango Caves, anyway?
Lying just 29km from Oudtshoorn, the Cango Caves are an intrinsic part of the Cango Valley. They’re also some of the largest limestone caverns in the entire world- we haven’t even fully explored the entire cave complex, yet! Legend has it that a lost herder was the first to stumble into these impressive caves, but the first known explorer was local farmer Jacobus van Zylin in 1780. That said, however, the caves have been known to- and explored by- man since the Stone Age, and artefacts from throughout humanity’s time on earth have been discovered here. Early San inhabitants also left a rich heritage of ancient art, although the years have taken a toll on these spectacular pieces. You can still see preserved remains at the cave today, however, so be sure not to miss them!
The entire cave complex stretches over 16km, hitting 1.5km wide in large parts. The limestone that comprises the bulk of the rock formations were formed over 750 million years ago. Surging underground water formed the magnificent caves that will greet your eyes, yet once the waters receded the dry environment was perfect for fossil formation. Towering stalagmites and cascading stalactites, spectacular limestone columns and other breathtaking natural features glitter from every corner.
Have the Cango Caves always been a popular attraction in the Karoo?
Keen visitors have been exploring the caves since the 1800s, but these early tourists caused considerable damage to the delicate limestone formations. As early as 1820, a conservation plan for the caves was put in place, helping to preserve this marvellous limestone heritage for future generations. That’s why tours are kept carefully limited (and why it’s important to book ahead for your cave delving experience). This helps preserve the natural beauty of the caves, and allows the dripstone formations to continue to grow and thrive. Many of the deeper parts of the cave have yet to be explored even today, and new discoveries are not uncommon. The area is also rich in fossil finds and other exciting examples of our living heritage.
What is a Cango Caves tour like?
The caves are open to visitors year-round, closing only on Christmas day. A standard 60 minute tour is accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels. For those looking for something a little more from the experience, the Adventure tour covers the same ground as the standard tour, but also takes you deeper into the less travelled parts of the cave. Be sure to wear cool clothing, as the caves can get humid!
See another side of South Africa with a Cango Caves experience. See two sides of this beautiful land with a cave tour and then your safari game reserve experience at Buffelsdrift Game Reserve. This intimate look into South Africa’s hidden beauty is sure to leave you stunned, inspired and in awe of the magnificent world around us.
Image | IG: jarattours