Cape, South Africa
|Earth's Natural Wonders in
Mr. Johnny van Wassenaer, the
cave’s first official
guide is purported to have walked
29 hours to find the end of
the caves in 1898. When there,
he is said to have calculated
that he was 25km from the entrance,
and 275m under ground. His route
apparently followed an underground
river. So far, no caves have
been found to support this story
33° 23' 34.8 S, 22° 12'
The Cango Caves are located in Precambrian
limestones at the foothills of the
Swartberg range near the town of Oudtshoorn
in the Western Cape Province of South
Africa. The principal cave is one
of the country's finest, best known
and most popular tourist caves and
attracts many visitors from overseas.
Although the extensive system of tunnels
and chambers go on for over four kilometers,
only about a quarter of this is open
to visitors, who may proceed into
the cave only in groups supervised
by a guide. Tours are conducted at
regular intervals on most days - there
is a "Standard Tour" which
takes an hour and an "Adventure
Tour" which takes an hour and
a half. The "Adventure Tour"
consists of crawling through narrow
passages and climbing up steep rock
formations guided by small lights.
The caves contain spectacular halls
and grand limestone formations (on
both tours) as well as some rather
small passages on the Adventure Tour.
The smallest passage that tourists
will have to pass through on the Adventure
Tour is just under 30 cm high at the
The first rough survey
was done in 1897, mapping out the
first 26 chambers. In 1956 the South
African Spelaeological Association
was tasked to draw up an accurate
mapping of the Cango Caves, and look
for alternative entrances.
There results indicated
that the caves were 775m long in a
single line, and that they never rise
nor fell more than 16m. These were
called Cango I. The nearest point
to the surface in the caves is at
the top of the shaft in the Devil's
Kitchen, 52.6m from the floor.
In 1972 James Craig-Smith,
Luther Terblanche and Dart Ruiters
widened an obstructed passage to discover
Cango II. It stretches 270m beyond
the end of the Devil’s Kitchen.
At the end of Cango II there is a
shaft that descends 20m to a chamber
filled with water. This water flowed
in the direction of Cango I.
In August 1975, during
a symposium on cave biology, an exploration
team lead by Florus Koper drained
the chamber of most of its water and
crawled through what was previously
an underwater passage. This lead to
the discovery of more caves, called
Cango III. Altogether these caves
are about 1000m long. The biggest
of the chambers, stretches about 300m.
Digby Ellis and Dave
Land added 290m to Cango III when
they discovered a crawlway in December
1977. A further 90m was added in June
1978. All these extensions were surveyed
in August 1978 by Dave Land, Charles
Maxwell, Brian Russell and Doug Crombie.
A peek inside the Cango
Caves in South Africa