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Echo Caves of South Africa

4/13/2014


This is definitely not recommended for the claustrophobic! We stopped at the Echo Caves in the afternoon after spending the morning driving around the Panorama Route. The Echo Caves are a bit off the beaten track,  located about 26km from the small town of Ohrigstad, and therefore a lot less touristy than other caves in the area.

These caves, which are some of the oldest limestone caves in the world, were discovered in the 1920s by a farmer who stumbled upon them after noticing that his cattle were mysteriously disappearing. They are thought to extend 40km into the mountain although this remains uncertain since many parts of the cave are unexplored due to lack of oxygen.

The caves were inhabited by the Pedi people who used them to hide from Swazi attacks. The caves got their names because the inhabitants used the stalactites and stalagmites to communicate to each in the dark. When you strike a certain formation it echoes. Each formation has a different sound and therefore a different meaning.

Probably the creepiest part of the tour was when the tour guide stopped and casually mentions "some people died in the caves and [pointing to a spot directly next to us] this is where they put them." Strangely the "graveyard" was located directly next to the bedroom area, definitely not a place where I would enjoy sleeping. Apparently they placed them there so that any invaders entering the cave would see the bones and assume that everyone was already dead.

The tour was led by a volunteer and our group was very small (6 people total). We were led deep into the depths of the musty earth with many low, tight, and slippery passageways. Apparently there are more chambers that can be toured, but at the time were very dangerous to enter because of the recent rainfall. The Echo Caves definitely make you appreciate the wonders of nature, but at the end of the tour I was definitely grateful for fresh air and the bright sun on my skin.

Cost: R60 per person (but you are also expected to tip the volunteer tour guide at the end)

What to avoid: The small restaurant outside the caves. Although the scenery was nice for relaxing after a long day of driving, the service was pretty bad. The milk in the milkshakes had gone off, the waitress was very slow, and the credit card machine was broken which was made worse by the fact that they also didn't have any change. 

The elephant formation

The organ formation

The ostrich formation


The bedroom area

Looks like hieroglyphics but just nature doing its thing 

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