WORLD’S OLDEST CAVES
The Sudwala caves, located on the R539 just outside Nelspruit, are regarded to be the oldest known caves in the world.
Images by Marius Van Zyl Silo Studio
Estimated to be 240 million years old they predate the continent of Africa! They were formed at a time when the whole of the Southern Hemisphere, Arabian Peninsula and Indian sub-continent were joined together in the supercontinent Gondwanaland before splitting apart and moving to their present locations!
The Sudwala caves are ‘Solution Caves’, formed when acidic groundwater seeps through cracks in the bedrock and dissolves the rocks below. Only a small fraction of the 30km of caves is accessible, but within this small piece an impressive array of mighty chambers studded with giant stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones can be found. The colossal stalactites found in the cave become even more impressive when you consider their growth rate is only around 2.5cm a year. The cave system is also home to 800 Horseshoe bats, which leave the cave system at 7pm each night to hunt their insect prey before returning around 4am the following morning.
By far the most impressive section is the mighty amphitheatre. 70m in diameter, it reaches a staggering 37m high in places and is mysteriously air conditioned by a constant stream of fresh air from a unknown source!
The unusual domed roof gives in a unique and natural acoustic that has made it the ideal venue for a host of spectacular concerts, most notably, the incredible 2012 Innibos performance that saw renowned South African artist Chris Chameleon teaming up with the iconic Drakensburg Boys Choir.
Visitors can enjoy two fascinating tours. The hour long cave tours takes you 600m into the cave system as you travel 150m under the surface. Here you can learn about all the different geographic features that are found in the caves from the informative guides. The tour is beautifully lit and well worth a visit.
For the more daring, the crystal tour allows you to embark on an epic underground adventure that takes you 200m down into the heart of the caves. The goal is to get to the crystal chamber with its sparkling array of aragonite crystals. To get there you need to wade through water, scramble up and down rocky passages and crawl through small openings leaving you wet and dirty but awestruck by the spectacular crystal chamber. The 4 hour tours leave on the first Saturday of every month and booking is essential, although tours can be arranged for other days provided there is a minimum of 5 people in the group.
Follow the GPS coordinates: S25 22.557, E30 41.555, the caves are located 35km before Nelspruit on the N4. Take the R539 towards Sabie follow for 8km until you see the signs directing you to Sudwala Lodge and the caves.
Contact Number: +27 (0) 83 446 0228 | Website: www.sudwalacaves.com
Opening Times: daily from 8.30am to 4.30pm | Costs standard tour is R90 Adults, R75 Pensioners and R45 Children under 16 (kids under 4 go free).
The crystal tour is R350pp