Echo Caves is situated in Limpopo, South Africa in the Northern region of the Drakensberg range. The Caves are 15km West of the Strydom Tunnel (Abel Erasmus pass) and 26km North of Ohrigstad on the R36 Lydenburg/Tzaneen road.
Echo Caves lie in a ridge of dolomite hills at the head of the Molapong Valley. This underground wonderland was stumbled upon in 1923 by the owner of the farm called Klipfonteinhoek, A J Claasen, when he was searching for a source of water and some of his cattle which had mysteriously disappeared. After exploring the cave it was discovered that this dark underworld carried with it the most beautiful gems of nature. Middle stone age implements and artefacts of later date found in the Echo Caves have given these subterranean chambers considerable historical significance.
After the completion of the Abel Erasmus Pass and the Strijdom Tunnel in 1959 the cave was opened as a tourist attraction. These are some of the oldest caves in the world and were declared a Historical Monument. The name Echo was given to the cave, as a certain stalactite formation produces a distinctive echoing sound when tapped on. This echo can still be heard on the outside of the cave today.
One of the rooms of the cave has a height of 60m. Guided tours through 2km of tunnels viewing impressive stalagmites and stalactites. New discoveries include the Madonna and the Crystal Palace. Cannibal Cave is a sanctuary for bats and is not open to the public. Access to it is through a vertical shaft connected to a complex series of passages and chambers inhabited by millions of bats.
Echo Caves are the least well known of the limestone caves. The advantage is that fewer people visit them and you may be lucky enough to enjoy this underworld with just your guide. The caves are so called because the local people used one of the stalactites as a drum to warn of any approaching Swazi. As these caves extend for some 40 km (24 miles), the sound travelled for surprisingly long distances and the people could take refuge in the caves.
From an archaeological point of view, the caves are fascinating as finds here corroborate the legend that, long ago, strangers in long white robes came to look for gold and to barter with the inhabitants. Some of the finds are exhibited at the Museum of Man on the turn-off from the tar road to the Echo Caves.
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