Sudwala Caves, Mpumalanga
Imagine a system of caves over 30 kilometres in length, of which only 600 metres is accessible, that date back 3 000 million years to a time when incredible stresses cracked the dolomite of the Mankelekele Mountains (also spelt Makelexele) - part of the Drakensberg escarpment that separates the highveld from the lowveld of the Mpumalanga Province - allowing water to slowly trickle, forming a series of passages through the rocks.
The result: an incredible array of mighty chambers studded with giant examples of stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone formations - The Sudwala Caves. Not only are the Sudwala caves regarded as the oldest known caves in the world but the caves rest in Pre-cambrian dolomite rocks that are also amongst the second oldest known sedimentary rocks on Earth. At the base of a gigantic cliff face close to the caves, is the Sudwala rainforest, the recipient of gentle trickles of water over the cliff face.
The Sudwala series of caves are dominated by a roughly circular chamber, 70 metres in diameter with a height of 37 metres - the PR Owen hall - known also as the amphitheatre because of its natural acoustics and ‘air conditioning’ provided by a constant source of air from outside, the source of which is unknown.
The hour long tours that lead one 600 metres and 150 metres underground on a return route are incredibly interesting and provide worthwhile photo opportunities in the spacious well lit chambers. There is also a crystal tour for the more adventurous, which involves an excursion into the bowels of the earth, 2000 metres into the cave, to a crystal chamber with dazzling examples of sparkling aragonite crystals – a once in a lifetime experience, that admittedly involves stretches of crawling through tunnels, some of which contain water.
For more information and photographs see our articles at:
"One of South Africa’s most impressive wonders: the Sudwala caves".
For tours, costs and opening times see "Go Deep at Sudwala Caves".
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