Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sudwala Caves, Mpumalanga

Hasn't Mpumalanga Province been absolutely breathtaking?

Looming above the beautifully wooded valley of the bustling mountain torrent known as the "Houtbosloop", there is a majestic massif known as Mankelexele (Crag on crag / Rock upon rock). In the great massif dolomite rock there is one of the most astonishing caves in Southern Africa, and as yet unplumbed complex of passages and giant chambers extending into the mysterious heart of the mountain........

Sounds cool huh?

Can you believe that the Sudwala Caves, set in Precambrian dolomite rock, was first laid down about 2500 million years ago, when Africa was still part of Gondwanaland??

We are taking a cave tour....let's see what out tour guide has to say......

Hmmm, the caves have a natural air-conditioning system, the temperature being maintained at a constant 18°C throughout the year. Even at a distance of about 457m from the entrance, cool fresh air from an unknown source permeates the subterranean passages.

The caves were used for shelter in prehistoric times, probably due in part to a constant supply of fresh air from an unknown source in the caves.

In more modern times, the caves were discovered by Somquba,one of the son

s of the Swazi king Sobhuza I, who was fleeing from his brother Mswati II. Somquba and his followers used the caves as refuge, until Somquba was killed in an unexpected attack. Survivors stayed on under the leadership of an inDuna (headman or leader) named Sudwala, thus the name.

During the Second Boer War, in 1900, the caves were used by the Boers to store ammunition for their 94-pounder Long Tom guns.

It was thought that the caves may have been used by President Paul Kruger to store the legendary "Kruger Millions", gold bullion which reputedly disappeared somewhere between Waterval Onder and Nelspruit during Paul Kruger's flight from Pretoria to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo).

In 1914 a company was formed to excavate huge amounts of bat guano; this was sold as fertilizer to farmers

The Sudwalaskraal farm that is home to the caves was purchased in 1965 by Philippus Rudolf Owen, and he opened the caves as a tourist attraction.

After crawling through some really narrow passages we have reached the Amphitheatre, the major chamber in the Sudwala Caves.

Wow, the P. R. Owen Hall is 70 metres in diameter and 37 metres high, with a constant temperature of 17°C!

In July 1970 the famous Russian singer, Ivan Rebroff, tested the suitability of the big hall for concert purposes. His remarkable voice, with a range of four octaves, resounded gloriously through the caverns in a series of songs.

Afterward he gave his considered opinion that the acoustics were "at least equal, if not positively superior to those of any concert hall or opera house in Europe!". For concert purposes more than 500 people could be seated in this dolomite chamber.

There are a number of
calcium structures in the cave.

Curtains and walls of stalactites and stalagmites can develop if the water drips along the length of a crack in the ceiling.

The growth rate for a stalactite at the Sudwala Caves is approximately 2,5cm in a hundred years!!

Wow, there is the "The screaming monster" which is approximately 160 mill
ion years old!!

The age of these formations are geologically determined by the "Rhebedium Stronptium" test, which measures the radio active decay of formations.

One can clearly see in the different layers and textures in the rock a reflection of the result of the different weather patterns taking place in the building of an ancient seabed.

There are also microbial fossils of a cyanobacterium (first oxygen producing plants on the earth) known as collenia in the rock; these formed 2000 million years ago!!

In the Pre-cambrian, all the early animals were soft bodied and thus did not fossilize well at all. However there are primitive plant fossils called "collenia" to be viewed in the Sudwala caves. They were a type of blue-green algae that used to float on the ocean.They were tubular shaped and approximately 2 m in length. It got compacted in the rock, because at high tide sand and silt would get washed over it and get caught up in it, another layer would grow and the same process would occur.

The Caves have been illuminated and spotlights placed in strategic positions, bringing into proper relief the strange shapes of the Speleothems (the name given to these cave formations) created by nature through the centuries......oh, wow, isnt "Fairyland" just so beautiful?

Hey Nopi, did you know that these caves are even believed to have inspired world famous author Rider Haggard to write his classic, King Solomon's Mines??

Wow, the Dinosaur Park next to Sudwala Caves is really cool!!

btw, guys South Africa is home to several other caves ......

  • Baboti Caves
  • Blombos Cave
  • Boesmansgat
  • Cango Caves
  • Coopers Cave
  • Echo Cave
  • Gladysvale Cave
  • Gondolin Cave, North west Province, South Africa
  • Klasies River Caves
  • Kromdraai Fossil Site
  • Makapan's Cave (Makapansgat)
  • Motsetsi Cave
  • Onmeetbarediepgat
  • Pinnacle Point Caves
  • Plovers Lake
  • Sterkfontein
  • Sibudu Cave
  • Sudwala Caves
  • Wonder Cave Kromdraai
  • Wonderwerk Cave


    Parag said...

    The Sudwala Caves are the oldest known caves in the world, and as such, are a `must-see' on the itinerary of any visitor to Mpumalanga. These incredible caverns lie in the Drakensberg escarpment which separates the Highveld from the lowlands of Mpumalanga. The caves are situated in Pre-cumbrian dolomite rocks of the Malmani Group, formed over a period of some 3000 million years, capturing in stone a time when the area was covered by warm shallow in-land seas. These are amongst the second oldest known sedimentary rocks on the earth, and represented in the cave are fossils of the first oxygen producing plants on the earth, Collenia. One can clearly see in the different layers and textures in the rock a reflection of the result of the different weather patterns taking place in the building of an ancient seabed. Besides the awesome rock displays the caverns also boast an array of calcium formations, aged but active, anciently and patiently still growing.

    Parag said...

    Prehistoric man used the Sudwala Caves for shelter and although there is a constant flow of fresh air in the caves, no one knows where it comes from. The caves were discovered in the early 19th century during a Swazi succession melodrama.