Stadsaal Caves

Landmarks / Natural Wonders in or near Cederberg, Olifants River Valley in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Western Cape Tourist AttractionsStadsaal Caves

The Stadtsaal, sometimes spelt Stadsaal, caves are a series of ancient inter-leading caves in the Cederberg Wilderness that hold excellent examples of !Xam (more often called San) rock art, in particular paintings of elephant.

The !Xam lived in the Cederberg for over 500 000 years, but stopped painting about 200 years ago, disrupted by European colonialists.

The caves are called Stadtsaal (Afrikaans for city hall) possibly for the impressively spacious domed cave, into which lead several small passageways and 'foyers' that easily remind one of a city hall.

You find the caves in Matjiesriver Nature Reserve on the dirt road to Algeria that veers off the N7, 29 km from Citrusdal, to head up the Kriedouw and the Nieuwoudt passes, roughly 5 km down the road from the Algeria camp site, south east of the Clanwilliam Dam.

The area is understandably protected by Cape Nature and a gate bars the entrance to the caves. But your permit, which you may buy from several venues - including Algeria, Driehoek, Sanddrif, Kromrivier, Nuwerus or Oasis farms - comes with a combination for the lock.

And not all the art in the cave is rock art. Much of it is graffiti from more recent South African history. In fact, some of the walls are almost filled with the names of members of the National Party back in 1948 (rumour has it that they met in the caves).

The caves used to belong on a farm owned by the Wagener family who, together with friends Strauss, Scheepers and Conradie, have left their own mark upon the walls.

It seems that man cannot resist a wall.

The immediate craggy, almost other-wordly landscape is filled with eroded rock formations in burnt orange, amber, reds and yellows. Against the blue of the sky, it is incredible; the stuff of photographs. In the background are the Wolfberg Cracks.

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