Cango Caves, South Africa: The Complete Guide

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Today we want to share with you something special:

Discover Cango Caves: one of the main attractions for visitors to this arid region of the country!

In the beautiful Klein Karoo area of the Western Cape, you will find one of South Africa's greatest geological treasures: the Cango Caves. A series of hidden chambers carved out by ancient waters eroding the Precambrian limestone of the Swartberg Mountains, the caves are the largest exhibit cave system in Africa. They are also the most visited caves in South Africa and along with the ostrich farms of neighboring Oudtshoorn.

History of the Caves

Ancient past

Although the limestone from which the caves are carved is about 750 million years old, the caves themselves have formed about 20 million years ago. As rainwater seeped through cracks in the porous rock, it collected in underground lakes and rivers. When these underground water resources were drained, the caves were left behind. At this stage, secondary mineral deposits, or speleothems, formed, creating incredible stalagmites and stalactites dotted with a rainbow of colors.

Artifacts discovered during subsequent cave research show that the Cango Caves were inhabited by our prehistoric ancestors from the early Stone Age. Ancient San rock paintings at the cave entrance indicate that these semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers used the first cave as a refuge until about 500 years ago. However, it seems unlikely that they ventured further into the cave system than the entrance, and the rock art they left behind has suffered extensive damage in the years after their departure.

Modern discovery

The discovery of caves in modern times is generally attributed to a local farmer, Jacobus Van Zyl, who owned the land above them. He was lowered into the cavernous room that is now named after him in 1780. News of the caves spread and visitors from all over the Cape came to see them with their own eyes. Many have broken pieces of stalagmites and stalactites as souvenirs or engraved their names on the cave walls. So many guests did so that, in 1820, the Cape Governor issued the first regulations to preserve the cave system.

The first official tour of the caves took place in 1891, making the Cango Caves the oldest tourist attraction in South Africa. The first full-time guide, Johnnie van Wassenaar, is responsible for opening many of the side chambers and introducing the caves to thousands of people. people over a career spanning four decades. Legend has it that van Wassenaar successfully explored the entire cave system, which he estimated to be some 15.5 miles long. However, more recent scans have mapped only a fraction of that distance.

The caves today

The studied length of the cave system spans at least 2.5 miles and is divided into three sections: Cango 1, Cango 2, and Cango 3. The third extension was discovered in 1975 after an underwater passage was drained to allow access. Only Cango 1 is open to the public, which represents about a quarter of the mapped system. Here, the caves are illuminated with spotlights showing drip caves, grand halls, and towering limestone formations for dramatic effect.

Limestone formations in the Cango Caves

Geological highlights include Van Zyl Hall, which at 350 feet long and 177 feet wide is about the size of a football field; and Cleopatra's Needle (a 33-foot dripping stalactite believed to be 150,000 years old). Other lineups with fantastic names include Organ Pipes, Ballerina, and Frozen Waterfall. The Cango Caves complex also has an interpretation center with an auditorium that shows a short film about an expedition to Wonder Cave in Cango 2; a South African restaurant and a curio shop that sells African crafts, books, and gemstones.

Cango Caves tours

Heritage tour

The Heritage Tour takes visitors on a guided walk through the first six caves. These are the largest and most impressive spaces in the cave system and include the Van Zyl and Botha rooms, and the African Drum Chamber. Anyone who can climb some easy stairs can join this tour, making it the best option for families with young children, claustrophobic, and anyone of less than average physical condition. It is also ideal for those who simply want to admire the most beautiful formations in the system at a relaxed pace. The tour lasts 60 minutes and runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with departures every hour.

Price: Rand 150 per adult, Rand 100 per child

Adventure tour

The Adventure Tour is a much more challenging affair, taking you past the initial corridors into the narrow tunnels and alleys of Cango 1. Highlights include Jacob's Ladder (with over 200 steps) and Lumbago's Alley (with a roof about four feet tall). The route ends on a tight-fitting adventure loop, the smallest of which, the Devil's Mailbox, is just 10.6 inches tall. This tour is suitable for those who are at least moderately fit, lean, and good with small spaces. Children must be at least 6 years old to participate. It lasts 90 minutes and runs every half hour, from 9:30 a.m. at 3:30 p.m.

Cost: R220 per adult, R150 per child

General information

Both tours are conducted by accredited English-speaking guides and you must remain with the group at all times for your own safety. It is recommended to book in advance. Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing, as the temperature inside the caves remains humid at 60 degrees F (15.5 degrees C) year-round.

Getting there

The nearest town is Oudtshoorn. From there, take R328 north out of town and travel for 30 minutes until you see the turnoff to the caves on the right. The Cango Caves are also a popular detour for those driving the Garden Route. If traveling from Mossel Bay in the south, turn inland onto R328 at Hartenbos. Continue on Oudtshoorn until you reach the cave turnoff. The journey from Hartenbos takes about 1.5 hours. For those traveling south of the River Storms, turn inland onto George on the N12 towards Oudtshoorn. From George, the trip also takes about 1.5 hours.

We hope you enjoy watching this video about Exploring The Cango Caves in South Africa

Source: Brad Newton Vlogs

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