Get back to your roots at Sudwala Caves, located an hour’s drive west of your Dullstroom accommodation, along the scenic Highlands Meander route in Mpumalanga. Here you can take an interesting trip back into the history and legends surrounding the caves as well as take a tour of the mysterious caverns within.
The Sudwala Caves are estimated to be 3 000 million years old, the oldest known caves in the world, carved out of the dolomite rocks of the Malmani Group by a shallow inland sea. Further evidence of their ancient past are the fossils of the first oxygen-producing bacteria on earth, called collenia, a bacteria known to have existed 2.2 billion years ago.
The Sudwala Caves were first opened to the public in 1965, but they have been used by man in various capacities since time immemorial. The original inhabitants were Homo Habilis, who left a collection of stone age tools behind 2.5 million years ago. These implements and others dating from the Late Stone Age are displayed at the entrance to the caves.
Much later, the caves were an important hideout for Somquba, fancier of the Swazi crown, and his followers, who came into constant conflict with, Mswati, the rightful heir to the crown, and his troops. The caves were thus the scene of many bloody battles between these warring factions until Somquba was eventually killed in one of these skirmishes.
Sudwala was long believed to be the hiding place of the Kruger millions, which vanished nearby during the Second Boer War, and futile attempts to unearth this treasure resulted in the discovery of so called Black Gold instead. This valuable resource, bat guano, was harvested from the caves and sold to the farmers of the Crocodile Valley for a small fortune instead.
Additional intrigue revolves around the fact that modern science can’t account for the mysterious breeze that wafts through the caves constantly. It is believed, but not proven, that this air is drawn into the caves by an opening on the other end of mountain range at Lydenburg some 40 kilometres distant. Rock falls, mud slides and underground streams have made further exploration into the cave system impossible.
You can, however, venture further into the caves than the usual tourist route if you book a guided tour of the Crystal Chamber for a fascinating insight into this vast complex of stalactites, stalagmites and ancient history.