I’m scrambling on my hands and knees in the sand and dirt, torch strapped to my head. My daypack is balanced a bit awkwardly in my hand, because there’s not enough wriggle-space above me to have it on my back. And, of course, my mates are up ahead whooping – mainly because we’re having a brilliant Wednesday morning, and they want to see if there’s an echo down here. We’re entering the bowels of the mountain through an inconspicuous cave entrance and narrow tunnel, high above Kalk Bay on Cape Town’s south peninsula.
This particular cave is dubbed Boomslang – probably because it slithers its way for about 200m right through the mountain. There are a network of other caves in the area, but we’re most familiar with this one – let’s just say taking a wrong turn in a cave you don’t know and getting lost wouldn’t be a bundle of fun, especially if you’re prone to claustrophobia.
But right now, we’re having a mountain of somewhat unconventional fun. Once you’ve crawled and wriggled your way along a tunnel that’s about 20m long, it quickly opens up into a double-head-high cavern, where glittering fools-gold lines fissures in the rock and peculiar orange algae decorates the walls. This is an eerie place, but at the same time fascinating. Seeping water drips from the rock above and, in places, tiny bats cling in clumps to the roof – until annoying hikers like us intrude on their hiding place, and they flitter about in a sonar-controlled frenzied formation. (But please do your utmost to cause minimal disturbance to these little mammals).
Though this route isn’t dangerous, it’s best to tackle it with someone who knows the way. Also, everyone should have a powerful torch, and a back-up in your daypack. When the lights go out in here, you can’t see your hand even five centimetres in front of your face.
I can also confirm there’s not much of an echo under the mountain, but Boomslang Cave has got great acoustic properties for making Walking Dead noise impersonations.
Follow Mark Samuel on Twitter @MarkSamuel_ZA
Where Park on Boyes Drive above Kalk Bay, then hike up the demarcated route into Echo Valley. The other end of the cave overlooks Fish Hoek.
When It’s best to hike the route in daylight. In winter, sections of the cave occasionally fill with about 30 cm of water.
Cost Absolutely free
Tip Take along two good torches per hiker, water and some snacks
Contact In case of an emergency, call Mountain Rescue on +27 21 937 0300
Photography & videography Rory Keohane/HSMimages.co.za