Cango Caves are one of the natural wonders of the world and a leading tourists attractions in Cape Town’s region.
Sculpted by nature through ages, Cango Caves suits everyone, be it a nature lover, a sightseer or an adventure lover!
Situated about 30 km away from Oudtshoorn, the Cango Caves are one of South Africa's popular tourist spots, attracting a large number of local and overseas visitors. Although the tunnels and chambers extend to 4 km, only a quarter is open to visitors, who may venture in the cave accompanied by an experienced guide.
The Cango Caves consists of a sequence of hidden chambers cut deep into a thick limestone layer offering glimpse of a wonder world with some real visual treat of ancient stalactites and spectacular drip-stones. The main chambers in the Cango Caves are Cango 1, consisting of numerous drip-stone formations and Van Zyl's hall, named after its discoverer.
Unveiling the Cango Caves’ history
According to legend, the Cango caves are 20 million years old and were first discovered in 1780 by a local farmer, Jacobus Van Zyl. It is believed that people used to live in the entrance of the cave during the Middle and Later Stone Age.
The early visitors to the caves had to brave the pitch darkness. In fact, the Cango Caves is the oldest South African tourist destination. As time evolved and with the help of today's modern technology, all the wonders of the cave are skilfully illuminated for the benefit of the visitors.
Cango Caves Tours
2 types of tours are offered for visiting the caves:
- Heritage tour (60 minutes)
- Adventure tour (90 minutes)
The Heritage Tour is less challenging than the Adventure tour. The Adventure Tour has the same starting point as the Heritage Tour (easy cave routes) but continues to lead deeper into the cave.
Option 1: The Heritage tour
Hold your breath and get ready to plunge in the thrilling historic caves!
The Heritage tour is the easy tour to be enjoyed with your loved ones, family and friends under the guidance of experienced and accredited guides. Come, discover and let yourself be mesmerized by the natural beauty of Cango caves!
The Heritage Tour takes approximately one hour and takes the visitors through easy-going portions of the cave
The key sections of the caves that you will wind through as part of this Heritage Tour are:
At the entrance of the cave itself, you are instantly hit by the increased humidity and enjoyable warm temperature. You will also feel the presence of a colony of bats which still inhabit the cave.
Van Zyl's Hall
As you head inside the cave, you will catch your breath at the first sight of the Van Zyl's Hall. Named after its discoverer, the Van Zyl Hall contain ancient stalactites, aptly called “the dried tobacco leaves of Oudtshoorn” which adorn the grey-blue of the limestone ceiling.
This vast hall is over 90 metres long, 50 metres wide at its widest point and between 14 and 18 metres high. The cave is separated from the ridge-crest above by nearly 100 metres of solid limestone.
The most impressive structure in the hall, the giant Organ Pipes is a spectacular drip-stone combination. You are hardly able to absorb the grandeur of the place that your eyes are drawn to a 10-metres tall and slender stalagmite, which rises imperially towards the ceiling-Cleopatra's Needle. Still active and growing, the Needle is believed to be more than 150 000 years old.
Close to the staircase stands a distinguished formation known as The Pulpit of a Great Cathedral, filled with angel's wings, beautifully sculptured by nature's own chisel. At the base of this formation, imaginative eyes can distinguish the shape of the Kneeling Camel, against which a singular stain-The Moses Figure can be found, portraying the biblical Moses in a flowing brown robe with his arms outstretched in blessing.
Moving beyond the Van Zyl Hall, you reach the spectacular Botha's Hall. Here lies the ancient formation of 500 000 years old, The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Beyond it rises a column of 13 metres high and about 250 000 years old.
On your right, you can see the famous formation, The Madonna and Child, representing the birth of Christ. Mary cradles a baby in her arms while the Three Wise Men and two shepherds kneel in silent admiration to her right.
To complete the scene, to the left of the main staircase is a trio of formations known as The Temple Presentation, depicting Joseph, Mary with head bowed and the haggard figure of the prophet Simeon. Further left and high in the alcove, you get a glimpse of the grim figure of a crucified man.
Moving through Botha's Hall, you come across an open platform in between 2 formations: The Heavy Stage Curtains on the right and The Petrified Weeping Willow Tree on the left.
In front of you is The Throne Room, with the huge dominating stalagmite known as the Throne. Dried up rim stone pools soar from the floor to join the richly fluted walls, resplendent in iron-oxide colours of ochre, russet and brown. To the right of the Throne Room, you can find The Frozen Victoria Waterfall-an exquisite white flowstone formation.
Other relatively smaller formations in the Throne Room are The Bust of an ancient Cave Man, Hairy Mammoth Elephant behind the Throne, and a terrified fish swimming against the ceiling above the throne
Out of the Botha's Hall, crossing a staircase, you pass by a stalagmite known as The Pulpit and you walk through a narrow passage to the Rainbow Chamber.
In the dimly lit chamber, you can figure out the head of Old Nick, the tame Cave Devil, posed in profile.
Immersed in soft blue light is the cavern's Biblical Section.
An open Family Bible can be seen high against the wall.
Next to it, one sees the Outstretched Lost Wing of an Angel and below, facing the viewing platform, is another hollowed-out stalagmite-The Christening Font.
Take some steps and reach The Bridal Chamber with its fourteen-post bridal bed. The bride can be seen in the kitchen at the back, sitting on a low stool and shedding tears. A clue to her tears can be found in the Peach Brandy Bottle, particularly noticeable on a rock mantlepiece. The active stalactites continuously flowing from the low roof above is a real delight.
The younger generation is really fascinated by the next chamber, Fairyland. The Fairy Queen's Palace (or Cathedral), The Fairy Castle, an inverted Sunflower, and even the 'upper plate' of an enormous set of dentures are brightened by colourful lights. Even here, the first helictites, frozen and twisted against the ceiling can be seen.
At a distance of 500 metres from the entrance, the Drum Room is the turn-back point in the Heritage Tour. There is also a striking example of a translucent formation in this chamber. Siding to it is a stalagmite resembling a Bushman hut lets the imagination wander to the presentation of "Sunrise and Sunset over darkest Africa".
Option 2: The Adventure Tour
Looking for something of an adventure? If the Heritage tour covers a relatively easy route, the Adventure Tour is for the more active visitors and adventure seekers!
This adrenaline-packed tour promises once-in-a-lifetime experiences to the visitors, taking them further from the Heritage tour to more challenging tunnels and pathways. Of course, well-trained and experienced guides accompany the visitors on this journey. The following are the sections that the Adventure Tour will pass through:
- Van Zyl's Hall
- Botha's Hall
- Rainbow Chamber
- Bridal Chamber
- Fairyland Chamber
- Drum Chamber
- The Grand Hall
Reaching the end of the Grand Hall you pass Lot's Chamber, where a group of stalagmites depict the biblical Lot, his two daughters and wife, who turned into a column of salt. Another hollowed-out stalagmite, known as King Arthur's Throne, is next to the viewing platform.
Continue further and you reach Lumbago Alley which is 85 metres long. Most of the roof is low and for 28 metres of the Lumbago Walk, the roof height rarely goes beyond 1,2 metres.
Coming out of the tunnel you can view exquisite roof crystals and some of the lovely smaller grottos.
Crystal Palace's roof is adorned with "Hanging crystal gardens", beautified with ice-like crystals and strangely twisted helictites.
A light to the left discloses a translucent crystal wall. Proceeding to the next chamber, you pass an active candle-wax column in delicate golden hues.
King Solomon's Mines
Take steps down into the cellar-like chambers of King Solomon's Mines. The cavern has derived its name from a formation high up near the roof, similar to a plump king with a bearded face, wearing a crystal crown. His throne is built on an inverted Protea, South Africa's national flower.
The Devil's Chimney
An iron ladder moves up from King Solomon's Mines into the distinctive caving adventure of The Devil's Chimney portion. First you have to crawl through The Tunnel of Love, a low passageway about 74 centimetres high, shrinking at one point to about 3O centimetres, where sturdy cavers are likely to receive an affectionate squeeze!
This tunnel takes you to The Ice Chamber, with its engrossing shelf stone ledge high around the outer wall. This ledge is indicative of the level of a cave pool from ancient time. The pool's level at length diminished, leaves only a shallow pool in the cavern today.
The Coffin is a hexagonally-shaped hole in the shelf-stone, which is the start and end of the last circular route. The cave opens out again as we pass through the Ice-cream Parlour into the vivid beauty of the Devil's Workshop. The ceiling with bright colours is decorated with many delicate helictites.
Move forward, step over a hump and you will find yourself the Devil's Kitchen, known for its Devil's Chimney. Here you will be shown a narrow crack in the wall, which is in fact the Devil's Chimney.
Peeping in, you see a sharp shaft about 45 centimetres wide which goes up for about 3,5 metres. There is a light at the top. In the midst of laughter, you slither forward to another larger chamber only to come face to a smaller opening.
Devil's Post Box
Use the “Leopard Crawl” to squirm and move forward to the only exit route which is 27 centimetres high. Some guides recommend a head-first 'posting', which is more like a rebirth experience, since one comes out from the narrow crevice.
The other option of feet-first engenders in quite an easy descent (depending on girth or chest-size) down the smooth, sloping wall and finding yourself on the flowstone floor below. This is the furthest point of the tour.
After this adventure, a short crawl takes you back to the Coffin, passing through the ice Chamber and Tunnel of Love, climbing down the iron ladder into King Solomon's Mines and back along the way that you earlier took, emerging to the welcome light at the cave's entrance.
Some practical info
The Cango Caves is open 364 days of the year and remain closed only on Christmas Day (25th December)
Heritage tours of one hour are available from 09h00 to 16h00.
Adventure tours of one and a half hours are available from 09h30 to 15h30.
All guided tours are offered in English but Afrikaans, French, German may also be available upon request.
- Pregnant women and people suffering from claustrophobia, high blood pressure, asthma or any muscular ailments are not recommended to go on an adventure tour to the caves.
- The minimum age to visit the caves is 6 years and children under 12 must be accompanied by at least an adult.
- The cave temperature remains a constant 18 degree Celsius.
- Wheelchair Friendly Areas: Only in Cango Caves Building. The Tours are not wheelchair friendly.
- Facilities at the Cango Caves include a Restaurant, a Curio Shop and an Interpretive Centre, scientifically designed to explain the Caves, and particularly their geology and history, in great detail.