The Sudwala Caves, situated 35km outside Nelspruit/Mbombela, is a popular tourist attraction in the earth’s oldest known cave system. Dating back over 3000 million years, the Sudwala Caves was formed by natural acid in groundwater, seeping through faults in the dolomite rock and dissolving over time to create massive chambers and narrow passages.
While only opened to the public in the 1960s the caves offered shelter to Homo habalis, an early ancestor of modern humans. In the mid-1800s the caves played a role in sheltering Somquba (brother to Swazi King Mswati II) and his followers during the struggle for power of the Swazi Kingdom. The caves were named after Sudwala, one of Somquba’s indunas and the appointed guardian of the caves.
More recently, during the second South African War (1899 – 1902), the Boer army stored ammunition, including shells for the “Long Tom Cannon”, in the caves. It has also long been believed that the mystical missing Kruger millions were hidden in the caves.
Exploring the caves on the one-hour cave tour is relatively easy, with no special skills or extreme fitness required. You will venture about 600m into the central chamber, 75m in diameter and 35m high, as large as a 500 seater concert hall, a purpose for which it is occasionally used. The chamber is naturally ventilated with its temperature a constant 17oC from an unknown source. The caves are open daily from 08h30 to 16h30.
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