A wonder of the Western Cape, the Cango Caves are a fascinating series of caverns about 29 km outside of Oudtshoorn.
It is believed that the caves were frequently visited by the indigenous Khoi of the area and evidence of habitation has been found at the entrance of the cave, as well as gennet and bat skeletons deeper inside.
However, there is a an ancient engraving further inside the caves where it is completely dark. Fascinatingly enough, it is the only piece of cave art in South Africa found in a completely dark area. How did the artist provide himself with a light source to work by? The engraving shows an elephant superimposed on an eland, and yet, amazingly, you can only see the elephant when you view the work from one side and only the eland when you view it from the other. Mysterious and very interesting.
The Cango Caves remain South Africa’s oldest tourist attraction and have been attracting paying crowds even before the year 1820. In that year a law was passed to protect them, as stalactites and stalagmites were being stolen as souvenirs and graffiti being etched on the chamber walls.
In 1780, a Dutch farmer named Van Zyl was informed about the caves by a Khoi herder, who had stumbled upon the entrance himself. Van Zyl then dared to venture into them and uncovered the natural wonder – their size now being confirmed as 5 km (until more, perhaps hidden, caves are uncovered stemming from the main series). It was after this discovery that the caves started being explored and visited on a regular basis.
Two different tours are now offered at the caves for visiting purposes, with the General/Heritage tour costing R80 an adult and a more challenging expedition known as the Adventure Tour costing R100 an adult.
If you’re a bit too big to squeeze through a 15 cm gap like I am, the Heritage Tour is for you. On this tour you will find yourself on a hour long journey through five different chambers, with plenty of highly impressive views and valuable information provided by the guide. At one point during the tour the dim, man-made backdrop lights are switched off on command of the guide, and one can really get a feel of just how dark and eerily beautiful the caves really are.
Where Scenic Cape Route 62, Oudtshoorn
When Daily 9 am – 4 pm
Cost Heritage Tour R80 pp, Adventure Tour R100 pp
Contact +27 44 272 7410, www.cango-caves.co.za