The Caves trail overlaps with Day 3 of the Great White Shark trail
There is no area in the world that can boast such excellent whale watching than at De Kelders, near Gansbaai, where these magnificent creatures come (between June and December) to mate and calve in the warmer waters of South Africa. This is but one of the attractions of the Caves trail that runs all along (and below) the high cliffs overlooking the Walker Bay whale sanctuary.
It is an area of unsurpassed coastal scenery where waves crash into the deep, narrow gullies. On calm days the bays with white sandy beaches and rock pools are wonderful for swimming. Huge caverns and passageways have been carved out of the limestone rocks which overlays the sandstone formations. In some of these remnants of stalactites and stalagmites adorn the caves. In others remnants of pre-historic cave dwellers are found that tell their stories of survival along the coast in millennia gone by. The ecology of the unique limestone fynbos which is under severe threat is an amazing feature in its own right.
It is also an area of historic value - the famous Birkenhead ran ashore at Danger Point (15 km away) in 1852 and en route on the trail you can visit ‘Die Stal’ (so-called after the legend that some of the surviving horses as well as a British officer actually washed out at this point).
Apart from the caves, the bird life – including the endangered Black Oyster catcher – is an evenly amazing feature of this trail. Hikers are bound also to see dolphins and seals playing in the surf.
This trail (which is part of the Great White Shark Trail) has been categorized by Fiona McIntosh of OUT THERE as being one of the ’best in the world’!
Caves we will visit:
The most impressive cave is the Drip Cave (‘Drupkelder’); the only fresh water cave along the South African coast, made famous by the visit of Lady Anne Barnard in the 18th century. Inside, only a few meters from the high water mark, there flows a remarkable strong underground ‘river’ which supplies the town of Gansbaai with fresh water. Stories of the removal of stalactites more than 2 meters high in the previous century adds to the interesting visit.
The most exiting cave is one in which you can only crawl in at low tide and when the surf is not high. After entering the narrow passage, a huge cave opens in front of you with crashing waves behind you in the entrance. This is not for the faint hearted but an exhilarating experience. Few people are aware of this well- hidden cave.
Walking ten minutes further you come across a low circular wall surrounding a hole of 20m deep. Also called ‘Devil’s Hole’, the sheer cliff in front of you feels quite scary but is perfectly safe. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous you can scramble down to the shore and enter the cave from the bottom. From here you can have a look from underneath the cave upwards. The sensitive sea weed growth inside the cave makes one feel guilty of tramping on it.It has an awesome atmosphere. The cave used to be called ’Duiwegat’ which means ‘ Hole of the Doves’. At times when you look down into the hole the birds nesting there flutter out and give you a real scare. It is told that many an animal has fallen down this cavity before the wall has been built.
In the photo to the right observe GEOCACHING, the real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online (www.geocaching.com). For this specific search see Duiwelsgat Geocache.
The 'Dry Cave' displays the layer of cemented cobblestone that occurs at the same height all along this part of the coast. At least 20 to 30 people can sleep with ease in this cave. From inside the view over the sculptured sandstone rock formations (including ‘The Arch’) alongside Walker Bay is awesome. There is another dry cave called ‘Pillar cave’ - See photograph on the left.
The most well known cave is the Klipgat cave. This is an internationally proclaimed heritage site that was originally a subterranean solution cavity, like the Cango Caves, that formed in the Bredasdorp Group Limestone millions of years ago. Much later, a rising sea level cut an opening into this and exposed the cavity, providing a dwelling place for the ancient ‘Strandlopers’. Evidence shows that later Stone Age sheep-keeping Khoi-khoi pastoralists were living here 2000 years ago. Still deeper deposits, uncovered the artefacts and some human remains are among the earliest in the world supposed to belong to Homo Sapiens. Such early remains have been found in only three South African sites. The view from the cave over ‘De Plaat’ is said to be one of the most beautiful in South Africa. An exhilarating swim at the cove will round off a perfect visit to the popular Strandveld coast.
Arrive early morning at a designated point in De Kelders, or accommodation can be arranged for the previous night at either a luxury B&B, standard B&B or in hiking huts. Depending on the tide and swell, the trail will start at 09h00 and the duration is approximately 4 to 5 hours.
It is suggested that a dinner at one of the many local restaurants be included after the hike; as well as a stay overnight to watch the sunset over Walker Bay Whale Sanctuary. If the weather is poor and the swell is not favouring the entry into all the caves, an evenly interesting visit to the quaint little Strandveld Museum at Franskraal may also be included in the trip.