Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
In the Gansbaai suburb of De Kelders, just a short drive from Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, lies a cavern called Klipgat Cave. It’s one of the many massive caverns lining this coast, and even though it’s the most popular, we were one of only two groups visiting the afternoon I went. Call it luck. Call it off-season. For whatever reason, visiting such a spectacular locale with so few tourists was one of the highlights of the natural landscape of South Africa during my visit.
These caverns formed millions of years ago from erosion caused by underwater “aquifers” — saturated rock through which water can easily move. Although hidden for centuries, the caverns revealed themselves over time, no match for the relentless pounding of waves. The caverns now make up part of the Walker Bay Nature Reserve.
Excavations in the caves in 1969 unearthed tools and pottery over 2000 years old. Further digging in 1992 revealed bones and human remains from the Stone Age over 70,000 years ago. Most people don’t come for the bones though. They come for views like this.
The hike down to viewing boardwalk is relatively easy, although you do need to be reasonably fit and agile to make your way over the rocks into the actual cave itself. It can also get quite windy here, so sturdy shoes and a firm grip are a must.
It’s hard to believe this area was once 5 kilometres from the sea, but that’s what time and global warming will do to you.
Our guide Clayton from the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve runs these tours several times a week, so he knows the history well. It’s one of the most important archaeological finds in the Western Cape. The rare remains found here have been found in only two other places in South Africa — Klasies near Humansdorp, and Blombos Cave near Still Bay.
Klipgat Cave is far more spacious inside than I had anticipated, it’s easy to see why those Stone Agers made it home. I’m sure they even took plenty of requisite photos like the one I took below.
The Walker Bay Nature Reserve where the cave is located is also prime stomping ground for whales, so don’t be surprised if you see a few on your way down.
Klipgat Cave a great way to spend a couple of hours during your visit to the area. Just remember to make your way back to the viewing platform before high tide — as you can see above, we may have gotten out just in time.
Note: I was a guest of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve during my time in Gansbaai, South Africa, but all views are my own. You can book it (or any other hotel in the area) through Accommodirect when planning your travel accommodation in Gansbaai.