Exploring the Cango Caves
What are the Cango Caves?
The Cango Caves are Africa's largest show caves and one of the Seven Wonders of Southern Africa, which makes the Cango Caves the archaeological and historical highlight of the Klein Karoo.
It lies 29km from Oudtshoorn in the picturesque Cango Valley and is situated in a limestone ridge that runs parallel to the well-known Swartberg Mountains and here you’ll find the finest dripstone caves, with their massive halls and towering limestone formations in a variety of colours.
It was originally thought to be only about 1km long, but the caves have been discovered to extend naturally for well over 5km - however it could be even longer, larger and more mysterious than current estimates. You can visit approximately one-quarter of the entire 5km system of interlinking tunnels. The rest is closed for conservation purposes.
Experiencing the Cango Caves
As you enter the caves, you’ll be greeted by an instant rush of warm temperature and humidity. The chambers are illuminated, so you won't miss any of the natural beauty of any of the cave chambers.
From the entrance, a flight of stairs takes you down to the huge Van Zyl’s Hall, an amazing cave that’s 107m long, 54m at its widest and up to 17m in height. You can also look forward to seeing other formations like the 10m high Cleopatra’s Needle (estimated to be about 150 000 years old), the Organ Pipes, the Ballerina and the Frozen Waterfall.
The Cango Caves boasts a number of pioneering firsts:
- It’s South Africa’s oldest tourist attraction. The first tour was conducted in 1891 and it’s been a favourite tourist attraction ever since.
- It was the first to be protected by environmental legislation. In 1820 Lord Charles Somerset published the first Caves Regulation. It was the first law designed to protect an environmental resource in South Africa. It banned the collection of souvenirs and fined anyone caught damaging the cave’s formations.
- It’s the first to employ a fulltime tourist guide. Many of the most significant discoveries in the caves were made by its first full-time guide, Johnnie van Wassenaar, who served for 43 years, from 1891 until his retirement in 1934. He opened many side chambers and introduced thousands of people to the caves.
It's the first show cave to have a radio communication system that allows the guides to communicate with the outside world via these radios. This means that anything that happens whilst on tour is communicated to the outside and any actions that need to be taken can be done within seconds making the journey even safer and more comfortable.
The caves offer a variety of daily tours which are led by experienced, knowledgeable and accredited cave guides. Tours are offered in English but Afrikaans, German, French and other language options may be available (please check language availability when making reservations).
- The temperature inside the caves is warm and humid, so light clothing and comfortable footwear are recommended - especially if you take the Adventure Tour.
- Arrive at least 10 minutes before the next tour starts.
- The tunnel section at the back (Devil's Chimney) borders an extreme adventure, this should only be attempted by the fit and adventurous. Not advisable for small children.
- You're not allowed to walk alone in the cave, so if you wish to turn around you need to inform your guide and alternative arragements will be made to fetch you and walk you out safely.
- You’re free to take photos.
- When you’re inside the caves, please don’t:
- touch or climb on formations,
- tamper with light switches,
- leave your tour group and/or guide
- take food and drinking goods into the caves.
Visiting hours and durations
The Heritage Tour is a 60 minute moderate walk that includes several stairways through the first set of magnificent halls, and continuing to the “African Drum Chamber”.
- 9am to 4pm
- Depart every hour, on the hour
- Duration: 60 minutes
- Route: Van Zyl & Botha Halls
- Fee: R85 per adult and R50 per child
The Adventure Tour is a 90 minute tour which involves you to crawl through tight, tiny passages and climb up sheer (but safe) rock formations. You’ll see narrow passages and well-named tunnels like Lumbago Walk, Devil’s Chimney and the Letter Box.
Even though it requires decent degree of fitness, it’s an exciting tour and experience for the entire family.
- 9:30am to 3:30pm
- Departs at 9:30am, 11:30am, 13:30pm and 15:30pm
- Duration: 90 minutes
- Route: Entire Cango 1
- Fee: R105 per adult and R65 per child
- Rates are valid from 1 July 2015 until 30 June 2016.
- Children under 12 years to be accompanied by parents.
- Bookings are essential.
Cango Caves facilities include:
- an information bureau which provides in-depth tourist information,
- the Cango Caves auditorium where you can view a 19 minute movie about Cango 2, which is closed to the public,
- an interpretive centre where you can learn more about the history of the caves & geological background in great detail,
- a curio shop, and
- a restaurant.
For more information