DID YOU know that the Echo Caves, which lie 26 kilometres from Ohrigstad, a small town tucked away on
the Tzaneen/Lydenburg Road in the Sekhukhune district of Limpopo offer a great journey of discovery, not only
of the beautiful dripstones inside, but also of the historical significance of this national monument?
Tour guide Liza Maseko, undoubtedly knows the nuts and bolts of this historical site.
She confirms that: “There are exciting facts about these caves. But most importantly, there is a rich history behind this tourist attraction which visitors will find very fascinating. This is one of the many attractions worth visiting.”
Historical records suggest that this underground wonderland was stumbled upon in 1923 by the owner of the farm called Klipfonteinhoek when he was searching for a source of water.
Great was his surprise when he realised that some of his cattle had already mysteriously disappeared into the cave.
After exploring the cave, it was soon realised that this dark underworld carried with it the most beautiful gems of nature.
After the completion of the Abel Erasmus Pass and the Strijdom Tunnel in 1959, the cave was opened as a tourist attraction.
Later the cave was declared a National Monument.
Maseko says 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. Only by visiting will you be able to appreciate why these caves, some of the oldest limestone caves in the world, are today a national monument and a tourist attraction”
Although the caves may stretch for over 40km, nobody knows their full extent. There are two tours of 45 minutes and 75 minutes respectively which will give you a glimpse of this underground wonderland.
On the longer tour, tourists can explore the two kilometre cave network open to the public from well-lit walkways showcasing the beautiful dripstone formations.
The tourists are often afforded the opportunity to also visit the beautiful Crystal Palace and Madonna Room
and find out how the caves came by their name as there is a large stalactite that, when struck, makes a
sound that resonates even beyond the cave walls.
The caves have further historical significance in that prehistoric items and artefacts dating back to the Stone Age that have been found here.
These are now housed inside the nearby Museum of Man which is also worth a visit. If you stay in one of the rustic
rondavels on the farm you can also hike in the surrounding mountains which are part of the northern Drakensberg range and home to rare birds like the elusive blue swallow.
The caves are open from 8.30am to 4.30pm every day of the week while on Sundays they close at 4pm.
Around the area, there is Ohrigstad Dam Nature Reserve, Blyde River Canyon, Drakensberg Mountains, Panorama Route and the Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve.
There are numerous hiking trails in the area as this is part of the northern Drakensberg. A guided tour will cost you R60 per adult and R25 per child under 12.
The price is the same regardless of which length of tour you choose to follow. Accommodation for up to 140
people is available at the caves, including dormitory-style rooms and 11 chalets.
There are restaurants at nearby Ohrigstad or else bring a picnic basket. The accommodation is self-catering.