The Echo Caves is situated on the escarpment of the Molapong Valley, north-east of Ohrigstad on the border of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, South Africa.
The Echo Caves is in an area of great tourist interest in the northern region of the Drakensberg range.
The Panorama Route, along the Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, is arguably one of the most beautiful and popular travel destinations in South Africa. It leads through the rugged mountain range of the northern Drakensberg. Here, in the north-Eastern part of the Great Escarpment, the inland plateau declines abruptly and steeply and opens fantastic views of the plains of the Lowveld up to a thousand metres below.
The views are most reliable in the dry winter months. At other times, the spectacle is often impaired, since the escarpment is a barrier for the clouds coming from the east, rising at this point and bringing a lot of mist and rain.
There are numerous legends about the caves, one of them explaining the name. The local people, Sipedi’s used stalactites as a drum to warn of approaching Swazi.
The caves, extending for some 40km, were transporting the sound for exceptionally long distances, resounding an echo. As a result, the people were warned and took refuge in the cave. From there the name Echo Caves.
This underground wonderland was stumbled upon in 1923 by the owner of the farm Klipfonteinhoek, while searching for a water source. Great was his surprise when he realised that some of his cattle had already mysteriously disappeared into the cave.
Upon exploring the caves, it were soon realised that this dark underworld carried with it the most beautiful gems of nature.
He was not the first to discover it, the cave contained numerous archaeologic remains, implements and tools from the Middle and Late Stone Age, and the earlier Iron Age. Many of the findings are on display in the museum near the cave entrance which is called Museum of Man.
After the completion of the Abel Erasmus Pass and the Strijdom Tunnel in 1959 the cave was opened as a tourist attraction.
The Caves consist of many stalactites (a type of secondary mineral that hangs from the ceiling or wall of limestone caves) and stalagmite (a type of cave formation that rises from the floor of a limestone cave due to the dripping of mineralised solutions and the deposition of calcium carbonate) formations, which can be viewed from walkways with electric lights, railings and staircases that have been installed in the cave for safety and convenience.
The limestone and dripstone structures inside the natural caverns make interesting imaginary figures which can be seen in chambers throughout the cave as it winds through the mountain, the most recent discoveries include Madonna and Crystal Palace chambers.
The Madonna Chamber at the Echo Caves is a gigantic theatre of stone, decorated by natural formations like the statue of Madonna formed by the combination of stalagmite and stalactite, hence the name of the Chamber. When you enter the Chamber, you come across a giant stone wall, called flowstone with the appearance of a frozen waterfall.
From the vantage point of the Madonna Chamber and the frozen waterfall formation, the path takes you down to a rock formation that looks like an upside ostrich head. Then you will be walking on the seasonal riverbed towards the old cave.
There you will find the Elephant Chamber, where you will see the African elephant formation with its big ears and trunk. The roof of the caves, which is dolomite looks like the skin of the elephant. Further through the caves you will find the Crocodile Chamber and later on Samson’s Chamber. The pillars in this Chamber looks like the columns of the temple which Samson from the Bible, a very strong man, broke.
The Crystal Palace Chamber is one of the most beautiful chambers in the Echo Caves with crystallised stalactites and stalagmites.
That brings you to the end of the tour, but not the end of the caves which extends into numerous passages.
The Echo Caves is an underground wonderland on the border of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, South Africa, waiting to be explored. The caves, today declared a National Monument, are situated near Ohrigstad and were opened as a tourist attraction in 1959. We offer Guided Tours and Accommodation and have an on-site Curio Shop and Restaurant.
Visit us and see the natural beauty and unspoiled heritage of one of South Africa’s longest caves.