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IIf you’re visiting South Africa’s 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 the hour-long guided tour on foot into its biggest cavern to marvel at the amazing rock formations. Fitter, more adventurous visitors will want to venture on the 6-hour Crystal Tour, with narrow squeezes, wet stretches and occasional low ceilings that require you to take to your hands and knees. 

Although the caves were formed over a period of some 3 000-million years, they’ve only been accessible to the public since the 1960s. Early human ancestor Homo habilis, however, lived and worked in part of the caves some 1.8-million years ago. See the display of their tools at the caves entrance. 

You dont need to be an expert caver or an athlete to 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 one of the finds in these caverns are fossils of collenia, the first oxygen-producing plants on Earth. 

Youll venture 600m into the caves and travel 150m underground. You wont 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 chambers temperature at a constant 17C. 

Your guide will point out the fantastic natural sculptures and rock formations that adorn the grand cavern. Look out for the 150-million-year-old stalactite/stalagmite column the Lowveld Rocketand the 160-million-year-old Screaming Monster – mere youngsters compared to the venerable 200-million-year-old Samsons Pillar. 

Adventurous and dont mind getting wet? Then opt for the 6-hour Crystal Cave Tour. You must be over 16, have average agility and not suffer from claustrophobia or any serious health problems. Then walk, scramble, wriggle and climb around the oldest caves in the world – now thats something to write home about. 

Did You Know?

TTravel tips & Planning  info 

Who to contact 

Sudwala Caves 
Tel: +27 (0)83 446 0228 

Pierre’s Mountain Inn 
Tel: +27 (0)72 437 1067 

How to get here  

From Johannesburg take the N4 to Mbombela (formerly called Nelspruit). About 35km before Mbombela, take the R539 turn-off to Sabie. The Sudwala Caves are 8km along this road. 

Best time to visit  

The caves are open daily from 8.30am to 4pm. 

Around the area  

Mpumalangas scenic attractions include the Blyde River Canyon, God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a cluster of gorgeous waterfalls, the Kruger National Park and much more. 

Tours to do 

The Cave Tour or the Crystal Tour 

Get around 

On foot. On the Cave Tour the going is easy, but it can get slippery in places, so take care. On the Crystal Tour you’ll crawl, wriggle, scramble and climb. 

What will it cost? 

The Cave Tour: adults (over 16) R100; pensioners (over 60) R80; children (5 to 15) R55; children 4 and under free. The Crystal Tour: R450 per person. 

Length of stay 

The Cave Tour takes an hour. The Crystal Tour lasts 6 hours. 

What to pack  

For the Crystal Tour, pack old clothes and comfortable boots or shoes with a strong grip. Avoid jeans, as they are cumbersome when wet. Bring your own torch, a towel and change of clothes. 

Where to stay  

Pierre’s Mountain Inn is right next door to the caves. 

What’s happening? 

The Race of the Screaming Monster in May is an annual 21km half-marathon – the only marathon in the world run through a cave. 

Related links 

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