Sudwala CavesEnquire Now
38km from Mbombela
+27 83 446 0228, +27 79 205 1688 www.sudwalacaves.co.za
The ancient caves of Sudwala are estimated to have formed at a time when this area of Mpumalanga was covered by a shallow inland sea. Scientists say they formed over a period of 3 000-million years. This network of caverns, carved from dolomite rock, is filled with still-forming stalagmites and stalactites.
Once shelter for pre-historic man, the caves have been used as a fortress by a Swazi kings, as an armoury by the Boers and a source of fertiliser (bat guano) by local farmers. Rumours persist that the missing Kruger millions might be found in its depths, but fortune-hunters have been disappointed.
The most spectacular chamber is the Amphitheatre, officially named as the PR Owen Hall after the man who once owned the farm on which the caves are found. About 70 metres in diameter and up to 37 metres high, it has a source of natural air conditioning and has been acclaimed by opera singers for its acoustics.
The horseshoe species of bat are happy residents in these caves, living in sizeable numbers. They head out to feed at night, returning having consumed their full body weight in insects, usually mosquitoes.
Two tours of the Sudwala Caves can be booked. The Cave Tour takes one 150 metres underground for an hour, offering interesting information on the geology and history of the site. There are regular departures throughout the day. The five-hour Crystal Tour is for the more adventurous, going down about 2 000 metres into the Crystal Chamber, with its sparkling aragonite crystals. It involves some tunnel-crawling. Numbers and departures are limited.
Tourists might also enjoy a dinosaur park adjacent to the caves.
The Lowveld-Legogote region is the urban hub of Mpumalanga. It is home to the dynamic capital city Mbombela/Nelspruit and KaNyamazane township. It also contains the towns of White River and Hazyview, known for their arts & crafts, their good living and bonhomie.
All roads round here lead to the Kruger National Park (KNP) which is the region’s border and its biggest attraction. Another big attraction is the amazing Sudwala caves - the world’s oldest dolomite caves and the geological highlight of the Lowveld.
To the west of Mbombela/Nelspruit is the Blyde (Motlatse) River Canyon, the third-largest green canyon in the world and highlight of the Panorama Route. This is a scenic route along the escarpment edge, taking in the mountain towns of Graskop, Sabie, Pilgrim’s Rest and Lydenburg. To the east of Mbombela/Nelspruit lies the region dubbed the Wild Frontier. It is known for its lively gold rush history and mysterious stone ruins left by early indigenous people.
The Lowveld-Legogote region has strong ties with neighbouring Mozambique and Swaziland, offering an intriguing mix of culture, language and style.
The Lowveld is sometimes referred to as the ‘Slowveld’ –and it’s not hard to see why. It’s hot, subtropical, laid-back and friendly. This is a region that has always worked alongside the rhythms of the wild.
The word ‘legogote’ means ‘place of the skins’ and refers to the leather makers who once lived here in the Legogote Mountains. They were known for their skill in crafting leather thongs supplied to early ox-wagon travellers.
The Lowveld has long been a trade route and trading post. Explored by early hunters and pioneers, it developed on the back of the discovery of gold. From old Delagoa Bay (present-day Maputo) to Mbombela/Nelspruit and on to the Panorama Route, you will encounter colourful tales of early adventurers, prospectors, bootleggers, gamblers, traders, chiefs, kings and shysters.
Mbombela/Nelspruit is a big, busy city that includes historic Nelspruit, ever-growing residential developments, and the vibrant, sprawling township of Kanyamazane. Cutting right through the centre of the city is the Lowveld Botanical Garden. Popular among residents and tourists, the garden is set on the banks of the Nels River and is a delight of indigenous greenery. It has a large cycad collection and an African rainforest.
Mbombela/Nelspruit was a host city for the 2010 FIFA World CupTM. Its beautiful stadium is an icon of the city’s progress - along with the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, with an innovative design reflecting a modern African spirit. In Mbombela/Nelspruit you’ll find excellent hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. It is home to a mix of peoples and cultures, with an Afro-chic flavour. From Mbombela/Nelspruit you can do artists’ routes and township tours, visit casinos, nightclubs, and artistic and historical spots. And yet within a short time you can be right in the middle of the KNP gazing out onto the ancient African wilderness.
Incredible mountain scenery and excellent outdoor action - that’s the spirit of Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route. From Mbombela/Nelspruit the route heads east through subtropical foothills and farmlands, into the mountains of the Blyde (Motlatse) River Canyon. The route takes you along a series of historic mountain passes to the towns of Pilgrim’s Rest, Sabie, Graskop, Mashishing/Lydenburg and Orighstad. Scenic highlights include God’s Window, the Three Rondavels and the Bourke’s Luck Potholes. The Blyde River Canyon Reserve is also there - home to plenty of wildlife and birdlife and some of the best views in South Africa.
Pilgrim’s Rest is where gold was first discovered and is a heritage town. Graskop and Sabie are timber centres, and renowned for their adventure activities. There is a wide choice of things to do here, from gorge swinging, rock climbing, abseiling, and hot air ballooning, to river rafting, bungee jumping, quad biking, fishing, sailing and 4x4-ing.
Look out for
The Kruger National Park - Flagship of Mpumalanga, the Kruger National Park has good infrastructure and services, with routes, game drives, guides, camps, watering holes and other animal viewing spots. Your chances of a lion sighting are the highest in the central Kruger Park, where nutritious grasslands support a diversity of creatures. There are great spots for humans too, from luxury lodges to remote camping hideouts.
Mbombela/Nelspruit - Mpumalanga’s capital city is a friendly and fast-moving mix of cultures. These include Tsonga, Pedi, Swazi, Mozambican, Afrikaans, English, Dutch, German and French. The city is a central place from which to access the Lowveld and Panorama regions. You can take a cultural tour of Kanyamazane township, and visit arts & craft centres, traditional healers and shebeens. You can see an excellent collection of South African art at the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature buildings, or spend a quiet hour or two in the Lowveld Botanical Garden in the heart of the city.
Sudwala caves - The world’s oldest known cave system, said to be nearly 3 billion years old, the Sudwala Caves are completely surreal. In the heart of the Mankelekele mountains lies this vast subterranean city of passages, tunnels, caverns and chambers. There are timeless dripstone formations and eerie bottomless lakes. The highlight is the Crystal Tour – a five-hour 2km hike into the heart of the caves culminating in a cavern containing incredible stalactites and stalagmites.
Outdoor action - Sabie is the adventure capital of the Lowveld and Panorama, offering just about everything you can think of in an incredible canyon and mountain setting. Experience the adrenalin rush of the world's highest cable gorge swing with a 68m (18-storey) freefall. You’ll go from 0-160km/h in 2.3 seconds! The hiking is exceptional, and there are excellent rock climbing, paragliding, and abseiling opportunities.
The Artists Route - The beautiful setting and laidback lifestyle of the Lowveld has long attracted artists and creative souls. In the White River/Hazyview area you can visit the studios and showrooms of some of the country’s foremost artists. These include potters, weavers, candle makers, glass-blowers, sculptors and even taxidermists. Both these towns are hip and happening, offering charming eating spots and great rural retail therapy. For good shopping head for Casterbridge Centre on the edge of White River, and Perry’s Bridge in Hazyview.
Kaapsehoop village - Explore the misty heights of this historic gold mining village. It is popular for its quaint coffee shops, pubs, bistros and more than a hundred wild horses.
Innibos Cultural Festival - A music and arts festival held in the Nelspruit/White River area in June and July. This is a cultural ‘must-do’. For 14 days the Lowveld rocks. This arts festival is held at over 60 theatre and music spots across the province and features everything from big stage concerts to assorted theatre and cultural activities. There are also more than 400 craft stalls to explore.