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Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Sudwala Caves

How wonderful it was to meet with Gaelyn and go on tour with her. She was the ideal traveling companion and turned out to be everything as interesting as her blog Geogypsy. This was our second stop as she wanted to visit the Cradle of Humankind first. As I have already done a post on it, I did not take more photographs.

Looming above the beautifully wooded valley of the bustling mountain torrent known as the "Houtbosloop", there is a majestic massif known as Mankelexele (Crag on crag / Rock upon rock) In the great massif dolomite rock there is one of the most astonishing caves in Southern Africa, an as yet unplumbed complex of passages and giant chambers extending into the mysterious heart of the mountain.
The Sudwala Caves are the oldest known caves in the world, and as such, are a `must-see' on the itinerary of any visitor to Mpumalanga. These incredible caverns lie in the Drakensberg escarpment which separates the Highveld from the lowlands of Mpumalanga.
The caves are situated in Pre-cumbrian dolomite rocks of the Malmani Group, formed over a period of some 3000 million years, capturing in stone a time when the area was covered by warm shallow in-land seas. These are amongst the second oldest known sedimentary rocks on the earth, and represented in the cave are fossils of the first oxygen producing plants on the earth, Collenia.
One can clearly see in the different layers and textures in the rock a reflection of the result of the different weather patterns taking place in the building of an ancient seabed. Besides the awesome rock displays the caverns also boast an array of calcium formations, aged but active, anciently and patiently still growing.
INTRODUCTION
In past ages these caves were formed when gigantic stresses cracked the dolomite. Rainwater percolated into the cracks, carrying carbon-dioxide and dissolving away the limestone in the rock, forming in the process a subterranean dreamland of vast caverns and passageways decorated with stalactites and stalagmites in all manner of weird fanciful shapes.
It is as though nature, in the privacy of these dark vaults has directed some leisure moments in eternity and created a gallery of fantastic shapes and forms, and exhibits them to mankind with a sly smile. The dolomite is a carbonate sedimentary rock consisting mainly of the mineral dolomite CCa Mg(CO3)2.
PRE- HISTORY
The caves were used as shelter by Pre-historic man in the form of "Homo-Habilis" / "Handyman." approximately 1.8 million years ago. Habilis has smaller cheek teeth, larger front teeth, a relatively large brain and skeleton more like that of modern humans.
They mainly used the cave entrance as shelter during bad weather. Excavations are still in progress and have thus far yielded a fine collection of stone-age tools which are on display at the cave entrance.
"THE AMPHITHEATER":
Early in the development of the Sudwala Caves as a South African tourist attraction, it was discovered that the "P.R.Owen hall" had natural air-conditioning and it was also suggested that this, plus its other attributes, would make it splendidly suitable for opera and other drama.
In July 1970 the famous Russian singer, Ivan Rebroff, tested the suitability of the big hall for concert purposes. His remarkable voice, with a range of four octaves, resounded gloriously through the caverns in a series of songs. Afterwards he gave his considered opinion that the acoustics were at least equal, if not positively superior to those of any concert hall or opera house in Europe.
FOSSILS
In the Pre-cambrian, all the early animals were soft bodied and thus did not fossilize well at all. However there are primitive plant fossils called "collenia" to be viewed in the Sudwala caves. They were a type of blue-green algae that used to float on the ocean.
They were tubular shaped and approximately 2 m in length. It was one of the first oxygen producing plants that produced oxygen safe enough for us to breath.
It dates back 2000 million years when these plants were formed.
It got compacted in the rock, because at high tide sand and silt would get washed over it and get caught up in it, another layer would grow and the same process would occur.

30 comments:

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

So many wonderful memories, it seems a million years since I last saw Sudwala. Amazing colours in the photos. Thanks for the memories. Diane

春天來嚕 said...

pleasure to find such a good artical! please keep update!! ........................................

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Diane. The problem with taking pictures there is that it is so dark you cannot focus the camera so I have some "not-so-good' shots. It was lovely seeing the caves again.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting 春天來嚕

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Joan: Oh so beautiful, a great view of nature in the caves.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Tom. It is hard to imagine that there formations have taken millions of years to get where they are today. It makes one feel small and insignificant.

Jochen said...

@Joan: geez.
Is there anything, any natural feature whatsoever, that southern Africa does NOT have??!??

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

We advertise that we are a world in one country Jochen and it is true. We have EVERYTHING here!! :)

Diane AZ said...

Fascinating pictures and I enjoyed learning about the fossils and the acoustics.

Sandy said...

Joan this is fascinating and what a treat it must have been to visit these caves!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

You are welcome Diane. Glad you enjoyed it.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

It sure was Sandy. I get there so seldom as it is 5 hours drive away but I love going there when I am in the area.

Krista said...

How interesting, fun, and beautiful. This is such an informative post, I really enjoyed it!

I'm glad that you and Gaelyn had such a fun time together! :o)

Rambling Woods said...

That is amazing and you always provide interesting info with your posts. I do wanted to shrink myself down so you and Gaelyn could tote me around on your adventures. But I am not a good walker or camper anymore. lol... Michelle

Kenneth Ramos said...

Aren't caves beautiful, so mysterious, a time machine within themselves, a portal to a past long forgotten...(sigh*) I think I'll have some ice cream. I got a half gallon of Eddys "Chocolate Brownie Fudge Swirl" hidding in the fridge somewhere. : )

blog with no name said...

What an awesome tour! I'm glad the you two had things that you are both interested in to see. Thank you for taking care of her while you were together!

Becky and Gary said...

Most unusual Joan, and SO interesting. A million thanks! I'd love to visit there.
B.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Krista. Yes, it was an excellent trip but today it is back to work for me. :( I wish I could have been able to make it longer with her as she is an excellent traveling companion.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

You are welcome Michelle. Thank goodness both Gaelyn and I like camping and we stayed at some wonderful places along the way.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Hello Ken. Walking in places like this cave, I always wish the walls could talk and tell me about events which have taken place there during the years of its existance. What stories it could tell!!

This is our second largest cave we have. There is one further south which is even more spectacular.

I hope you are going to share your ice cream with me. LOL!! You will only get fat if you have it all by yourself. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Mike. Knowing of Gaelyn's interest in such places, it was a must to take her too.You are welcome, it was wonderful to be able to spend the time with her and show her around. I wish I could have taken a longer vacation and done more.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Becky. Come on over and I will take you there too. :)

JM said...

The oldest caves in the world! Wow! Amazing post!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Jose. Did you go there when you were in SA? They are right next to Kruger.

Anna said...

Joan this so so cool. Nature can also build opera houses. Excellent photos and information. Thanks for sharing. Anna :)

Gaelyn said...

Wow, you should have been our tour guide. I just learned even more about Sudwala. My pics didn't turn out the best either, but sure glad we went. Cango is even cooler, especially doing the adventure tour and crawling thru tight holes. Thanks for being my guide.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

You are welcome Anna. This was a delightful place to go back to again.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

LOL!! Musa did quite a good job too. :) I cant wait to see those on the Cango Caves as they are even more impressive than Sudwala. It would have been fun to do the rest of your trip with you too.

Mary said...

Wonderful!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Mary. I hope you are enjoying your vacation too.