I own no land, instead I have wheelestate. I’ve been a full time RVer since 1997. Working summers as a Park Ranger takes me to many beautiful places and playing during the winter takes me to many more. This blog is simply the story of my life's adventures.


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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sudwala Caves South Africa

01 Sunrise N40 E ZA (1024x768)

Joan got me up at a ridiculous early hour to hit the road to Sudwala Caves. Good thing she knows how to make a good cup of coffee.

02 Mankelekele Mountains Mpumalanga  ZA (1024x767)

The drive was gorgeous. The Sudwala Caves are in the heart of the Mankelekele Mountains in the Drakensberg escarpment which separates the Highveld from the lowlands of Mpumalanga.

03 Sudwala Caves sign ZA (1024x758)

We opted for a short 1 hour walking tour instead of the 5 hour Crystal Tour which involves crawling.

04 Sudwala Cave entrance ZA (942x1024)

We arrived just after a tour started, and got a reduced price by getting the “guides” rate.

05 Tour guide Musa Sudwala Cave ZA (1024x767)

Our tour-guide, Musa, led us 1968 feet (600 m) in and 492 feet (150 m) underground and safely back along the same route.

06 Sudwala Cave ZA (1024x768)

Sudwala Caves are the oldest known caves in the world situated in Pre-cambrian dolomite rocks formed over a period of some 3000 million years when the area was covered by warm shallow in-land seas.

07 Stromatolites Sudwala Cave ZA (1024x768)


A stream of fresh cool air from an unknown opening permeates the spacious corridors maintaining an even temperature of 62.6°F (17°C) all year round.

08 Sudwala Cave ZA (768x1024)

The caverns boast an array of calcite formations like these stalagmites.

09 Horse head wall Sudwala Cave ZA (1024x768)

Horse head shaped flowstone

The caves were used by our ancestors in the form of "Homo-Habilis" / "Handyman" approximately 1.8 million years ago. They mainly used the cave entrance as shelter during bad weather.

10 Sudwala Caves ZA (768x1024)

In the nineteenth century these caverns were used by "Samcuba", a relative of the Swazi King, as a fortress. Enemies tried to smoke him out yet were thwarted and withdrew. Afterwards a guard was posted called Sudwala which means “the grass skirt of a married woman.”

11 Sudwala Cave ZA (768x1024)

The caves also played a role in the South African War during 1900 when President Kruger moved and hid the gold bullion and State Treasury belonging to the Transvaal Republic (nowadays Mpumalanga). Because it was known that ammunition had been hidden in Sudwala Caves many people searched there unsuccessfully for the legendary fortune.

12 Sudwala Cave map ZA (1024x467)

Yet the only thing of value found was bat guano which a company excavated in 1914 and sold as fertilizer to farmers in the nearby Crocodile River Valley.

13 Cave from sudwalacaves_co_za (640x432)

P.R. Owen Hall

In 1965 Mr. Philippus Rudolf Owen purchased the Sudwalaskraal farm including the cave which he developed and made accessible to the public. Because of the size and natural air-conditioning, famous Russian singer Ivan Rebroff tested the hall for concert purposes in 1970. Afterwards he gave his considered opinion that “the acoustics were at least equal, if not positively superior to those of any concert hall or opera house in Europe.” For concert purposes more than 500 people could be seated in this
dolomite chamber.

14 Sudwala Cave entrance ZA (765x1024)
We also visited the Dinosaur Park next door which I posted about here.


Diane said...

Oh those memories all coming back - time I visited SA again :) Diane

Small City Scenes said...

Wow that is so interesting. And you are so informative. the only caves I have been in are the ice caves up by Verlot---which are closed now. (I had nothing to do with that) MB

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

We sure would have been in a bind if it wasn't for my expert coffee making. LOL!!

Love your post on the cave Gaelyn. Your pictures came out excellently. Dont you think it time for another visit? :)

Dale Forbes said...

it has been many moons since I was last in the caves, I am sure you had lots of fun!

Zane said...

mmmm - I have explored a few undersea caves and the well-known Cango Caves. I had no idea that Sudwala was so awesome.

Great photos too Gaelyn.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Gaelyn: Fun post and a fun look back to the big trip.

Diane AZ said...

I like the gate at the entrance that looks like a huge spider web. Can bats still get into the cave?

Barb said...

Hi Gaelyn, I'm glad that you went inside and took these great pics, so I can see the caves, too - I absolutely would not go into any where i had to crawl.

Janie said...

Interesting photos and history. Even with great acoustics, the concert goers might not attend in great numbers due to fear of bats...

Elaine said...

What fantastic rock formations in the caves! This was a very intersting post and a spectacular tour you took us on.

Carolyn said...

This is such an interesting post Gaelyn. I am not very comfortable in enclosed spaces but it would be wonderful to see. You were so blessed on this trip. Thank you for sharing your travels and your knowledge.

Pat said...

What beauty lies below. I enter caves (safely) whenever I can!

Anonymous said...

I have only been underground at Ohio Caverns. A great place to shut off the lights.

Firefly the Travel Guy said...

I have been to the Cango Caves many many times as a guide and to the Sterkfontain Caves at close to Maropeng once as a tourist, but never have I been to Sudwala. Thanks for the tour and making me want to visit there.

Arija said...

A most interesting post Gaelyn. In Western Australia there is a cave whose roof is 69' high, the temperature is a steady 68F ideal for storing wine which no-one does however and Dame Nellie Melba sang there in the early 20th. century. The acoustics are superb as well.

Karen said...

very beautiful cave. thank you for taking me along on the tour.

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