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IIf you’re visiting the Mpumalanga province, don’t miss the opportunity to go caving at the Sudwala Caves, the oldest known caves in the world.
No special skills are needed for caving at the Sudwala Caves. Take the hour-long guided tour on foot into its biggest cavern and marvel at the amazing rock formations in the oldest caves in the world, or dig into your more adventurous self and get on your hands and knees for the delightfully dirty six-hour Crystal Tour.
Although the caves were formed over a period of some 3000 million years, they’ve only been accessible to the public since the 1960s. Early human ancestors, Homo Habilis, however, lived and worked in part of the caves some 1.8 million years ago. You can even see the display of their early tools at the caves' entrance to really get a feel for how our early ancestors got things done.
TThere’s certainly no need to worry, you don't need to be an expert caver, athlete or expert at anything when you go caving at Sudwala. All you need are your legs and a sense of wonder.
As you begin the one-hour Cave Tour, your guide will tell you that in these awesome caves there are fossils of collenia, the first oxygen-producing plants on Earth – that on its own is worth the journey.
YYou'll venture 600m into the caves and travel 150m underground. You won't feel claustrophobic because the central chamber of the cavern complex – 70m in diameter and 37m high – is as big as a 500-seater concert hall! To this day, no one has discovered the source of the steady stream of fresh air that keeps the chamber's temperature at a constant 17ºC.
Sudwala Caves, Mpumalanga
YYour guide will point out fantastic natural sculptures and rock formations that adorn the grand cavern. Look out for the 150-million-year-old stalactite/stalagmite column, The Lowveld Rocket or the 160-million-year-old Screaming Monster – mere youngsters compared to the ancient 200-million-year-old Samsons Pillar.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and don't mind getting wet, then you need to opt for the six-hour Crystal Cave Tour. If you are going to tackle this, remember you must be over 16, have average agility and not suffer from claustrophobia or any serious health problems. If you fit the bill, then you’re ready to walk, scramble, wriggle and climb your way around the oldest caves in the world – now that's something to write home about.