Updated: Sep 27, 2020
Dating back some 100 000 years, the KwaXolo Caves, located inland of Margate on the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) South Coast, were once openrock shelters for indigenous San communities, with the history of these people echoed in the rock paintings evident today. Set atop the precipice of a deep gorge and boasting some of the region’s most magnificent views, these once-inaccessible caves are now a top tourist attraction following the launch of the KwaXolo Caves Adventures earlier this year.
“The area is renowned for its coastal activities but there are so many exciting tourism developments within the hinterland region,” said CEO of Ugu South Coast Tourism (USCT), Phelisa Mangcu. “We believe local tourism opportunities must be inclusive of all communities, and the establishment of the exciting and innovative KwaXolo Caves Adventures is just that. This is a fantastic fusion of cultural, natural and extreme sports’ tourism that gives visitors a unique experience of the KZN South Coast while empowering the surrounding communities.”
The caves are now accessible through the erection of a via ferrata system, which is a climbing route using steel cables and rungs fixed to rocks. Visitors are kitted out in safety gear and securely hooked to the cables, allowing them to walk safely along the precarious mountain path. This system of harnesses and a 300-metre cableway was designed by the same engineers tasked with creating the famous Wild Swing at Oribi Gorge – another popular tourism attraction on the KZN South Coast.
Led by experienced tour guides, visitors are taken along this incredible mountainside, attached by two safety lines on a fixed cable. These are then moved along as the hike extends towards the KwaXolo Caves, with expansive views of the waterfall and endless gorge providing a captivating backdrop.
Once inside the KwaXolo Caves, visitors can view the ancient San rock art that depicts the area’s rich cultural heritage. Similar to rock paintings found in mountainous regions throughout the province, the sites are believed to have had natural, cultural and spiritual significance to the San people. The paintings are said to represent journeys of shamans (medicine men) into the spiritual world in an effort to induce rain, heal sicknesses and ease societal tensions.
“The have been distinguished as being of extraordinary significance in terms of the South African Heritage Resources Act, and we believe this particular hiking experience is incredibly unique,” said operator, Shaun Makhanya. “In addition to the benefits for visiting tourists, the experience offers several benefits for the local KwaXolo and Dumezulu communities, including employment opportunities and community-development initiatives. Among these are entrepreneurial and skills’ workshops that will be hosted as soon as regulations allow. The increased tourism activity will also result in infrastructure development and maintenance, to the benefit of all.”
Originally launched in March this year, KwaXolo Caves Adventures was halted during the Covid-19 lockdown, but with new Level 2 regulations, the business is operational for day visitors. This is the ideal picnic spot for those looking to enjoy the fantastic scenery, but visitors are encouraged to bring their own picnics.
For more information about USCT, as well as events and activities on the KZN South Coast, download the free ‘Explore KZN South Coast’ app from Google Play and Apple stores or visit www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za USCT is also on social media - follow the ‘South Coast Tourism’ Facebook page, or @infosouthcoast on Twitter.