Most people who fly to South Africa for their holiday are quick to book places in Cape Town, the area’s largest city and hub, bustling with activity and plenty of things to do and see, but it’s always SO busy, even in the off season that it can be hard to find your tranquility among the throng of people. If trying to make your way through crowds isn’t exactly your thing, consider going just a bit farther, toward the Garden Route where places like Wilderness open their arms and hospitality to you, bringing you a taste of the paradise you’ve come to expect of South Africa.
Wilderness on Sea is situated in a prime location along beach roads that bring you to some of the finest dining locations worldwide. After enjoying some of the many varieties of cuisine on hand, you can visit the Wilderness Tourist information station and get pointers to all the exciting things in store for you in the secreted place on the coast. Imagine waking up among comfortable and tasteful furnishings, reminding you the moment you open your eyes of where you are, a place completely unlike any you’ve seen before. Free to explore, braai outside your own room, there’s so much you can plan to see and do.
One of these things is visiting the Cango Caves about 105km away from Wilderness on Sea. The Caves are any hiker or explorer’s dream grounds. 29km from Oudtshoorn, at the head of the picturesque Cango Valley, is the underground wonder of the Klein Karoo. Situated in limestone you’ll find the finest dripstone caverns, with vast halls and towering formations.
Cango Caves is the only show cave in Africa which offers the choices of Heritage (easy) and Adventure (more adventurous) All the tours are led by experienced, knowledgeable, and accredited Caves Guides. All the tours are offered in English, but Afrikaans, German, French and others may be available, so check when you book ahead, as a limited number of visitors are allowed per tour option to help preserve the caves. It should be noted that no children under age 6 may be allowed on the Adventure option, nor anyone pregnant, suffering from claustrophobia, high blood pressure, asthma, or any muscular ailments. The Caves are only closed one day a year on Christmas.
The Cave temperature remains a constant 18*C, there’s no ATM or petrol station available so plan ahead. The nearest town is Oudtshoorn, 29km from the Cango Caves.
Looking closer at the Heritage Tour: the moment you enter, you’ll sense the increase in humidity, and pleasantly warm temperature. There may be a faintly musty odor due to the presence of bats which still call the caves their home.
First stop is Van Zyl’s Hall, featuring ancient stalactites known as the dried tobacco leaves of Oudtshoorn. The hall is over 90 meters long, 50 meters wide and between 14-18 meters high. Nearly 100 meters of solid limestone roof seperates the cavern from the ridge above. Van Zyl’s Hall is dominated by the giant Organ Pipes, a dripstone/flowstone combination. A tall stalagmite named Cleopatra’s needle rises nearly 10 meters toward the ceiling, and is still active and growing; estimated at 150,000 years old. At the base of the staircase is an impressive formation known as the Pulpit of a Great Cathedral, replete with angel’s wings sculpted by Mother Nature herself. Many people like to name the formations they see, like the kneeling camel or the Moses figure.
Second stop is Botha’s Hall. This area features an impressive decorative side chamber known as The Throne Room, and on the left upon entry there is a formation resembling the beak of a giant eagle feeding its chick. Botha’s Hall is dominated by two completed columns soaring upward to the ceiling. Further in, you will find the largest ancient stone formation some 500,000 years old known as The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Just beyond, stands a remarkable column reaching 13 meters high and around 250,000 years old. To the right is the caverns most famous formation, the Madonna and Child. Moving through to the left, you climb through an open platform flaked by two huge formations. The Heavy Stage Curtains, and The Petrified Weeping Willow Tree. Just ahead is the Throne Room, dominated by a huge tapering stalagmite known as the Throne.
But there’s so much more of this historical wonder to explore! Next stop is the Rainbow Chamber. After ascending a staircase, you’re led past a hollowed out stalagmite known as the pulpit, and through a narrow passage leading to the rainbow chamber. Against the back wall, we can see the head of Old Nick, the tame Cave Devil, posed in profile. Above the viewing platform, is the cavern’s biblical section.
The Bridal Chamber is next, with it’s 14 post bridal bed. The bride may be spotted in the kitchen to the rear sitting on a low stool as active stalactites drip from the low roof above.
Fairyland chamber is next, providing fantasy for the young folks. Colored lights illuminate the Fairy Queen’s palace. The first helictites can be observed twisting against the ceiling in frozen motion.
Last up is the Drum Room. 500 meters from the entrance, it provides the first major turn back point on Heritage Tour. In the chamber there is an awesome example of a translucent formation. Alongside it is a stalagmite resembling a Bushman hut lending fantasy to the presentation of “Sunrise and Sunset over darkest Africa”
This is just one of the two tours available they offer, and already rich with history and plentiful things to see that will allow you to feel the ancientness of the earth around you as you explore it’s many sections. If hiking among incredible cave formations has managed to make your “Must Do” list while on holiday, staying at Wilderness on Sea will put you right into the thick of the action, and give you a warm and cozy place to sink into when your long day’s hikes are done.