Have you ever been in such a dark space that when you hold your hand right in front of your face, you can’t see it? When the tour guides in the Cango Caves switch off the lights underground, a heavy blanket of darkness falls and nothing is visible.
Hearing becomes your next best sensory aid. Surprised intakes of breath, nervous giggles and exclamations are made around you as people adjust to the absolute darkness. When the lights come back on, the sighs of relief are instant.
Located on the outskirts of the town of Oudtshoorn and in the shadow of the Swartberg mountains, the Klein Karoo’s Cango Caves are considered to be one of South Africa’s heritage jewels. The caves are known for their limestone formations, grand chambers, winding underground routes and ancient rock art by the San people.
A tour through this majestic underground world should be on every vacation bucket list. Seeing this historical gem up close is astounding for young and old, local and international.
Ancient stalactites drip from the ceiling, stalagmites tell a story from the ground up and wide passageways lead visitors through several chambers, each with its own tale. For example, when you visit the Bridal Chamber on the Heritage Tour, guides will tell you the story of rock formations that resemble a weeping bride, crouched over her brandy bottle. Why she’s crying, we’ll never know ...
The Adventure Tour will embrace you gently and take you a lot closer to the walls and floors than the Heritage Tour does. Expect tight squeezes as you leopard-crawl through the Devil’s Post Box, and grunts and giggles as you squish yourself through the Devil’s Chimney.
Besides being an excellent morning or afternoon, the tour gives visitors a look into one of the continent’s biggest show caves, and one of South Africa’s oldest natural wonders.
Do I have to book a tour or can I wander around on my own?
All tours into the caves are led by experienced guides. Because of increased visitors to the caves around holiday periods, booking is essential. Tour guides are accredited and will give you thought-provoking information while walking deeper into the caves.
Tours are operated in English, Afrikaans, German or French (if you require a different language, please check if your language option is available when booking your tour).
The Heritage Tour and Adventure Tour
You have the option of joining two tours while at the caves. The Heritage Tour is a standard tour experience that will see you following a guide through the underground cave system. The whole family can take part in the easy-going 60-minute tour as it winds through underground chambers. If possible, try to spot the colony of bats that live in the caves, or ask the guide if they are still there.
Or you can put your fear of small spaces aside and take on the Adventure Tour. An experienced guide leads you through an intricate tunnel system that’s not for the faint of heart. People with claustrophobia, asthma, high blood pressure or those who suffer from muscular ailments should not take part in the Adventure Tour, as there are several tight squeezes from one section of the caves into another. Children under the age of eight are not allowed on this tour, while pregnant women are advised not to take part either.
Before you begin either tour, make sure to use the restroom as there is no toilet pitstop. Strollers and wheelchairs, unfortunately, cannot be taken into the caves. The Heritage Tour takes around an hour, while the Adventure Tour lasts around 90 minutes.
What should I wear?
It’s advisable to wear comfortable and cool clothing when visiting the Cango Caves. Underground, temperatures are a steady 18°C (67°F).
You may also feel warmer on the Adventure Tour – this tour will see you crouching, reaching and squeezing through tight areas underground, and comfortable clothing helps with easy movement. Trainers or hiking shoes are a good option for both the Adventure and Heritage tours.
For more information and reservations, contact Cango Caves here.