Sterkfontein Caves (Cradle of Humankind)
Overview of the Sterkfontein Caves
The Sterkfontein Caves is about an hour's drive away from Pretoria and Johannesburg, and is famous for the fossils that have been found at the caves. After an extensive face-lift in 2005, the Sterkfontein Caves now offers a top-notch restaurant, conferencing facilities, improved access into the caves with new walkways, and a boardwalk past the excavation site where the world-acclaimed fossils have been discovered.
The Sterkfontein Caves are owned by the University of the Witwatersrand, and their scientists have been credited with many of the famous discoveries, including the world famous "Mrs. Ples" and "Little Foot".
A small but informative "self-discovery" scientific exhibition is available to visitors prior to their underground Sterkfontein tour.
Inside the Sterkfontein Caves
Scientists have discovered many hominid and other animal fossils inside the Sterkfontein Caves, some dating back as far as 4 million years ago!
The Sterkfontein Caves are located in the Cradle Of Humankind world heritage site, and seeing as some of the the world's oldest fossils ever has been found in the Sterkfontein caves, the site's location is aptly named.
Scientific finds inside the Sterkfontein Caves also includes 2 million year old stone tools.
Sterkfontein Caves underground tour
Inside the Sterkfontein Caves visitors will see evidence of real fossils, still sitting in their rocky hiding places. Visitors also get a chance to glimpse at the entrance to an excavation site that scientists are actively busy excavating.
If you are lucky, and the water level is right, you may even get the chance to see the clear underground lake with its only inhabitants, the blind shrimp. The true dimensions of this lake is not known yet, but be sure to ask your tour guide about it.
It is advised to wear comfortable shoes, and to leave handbags and other luggage behind, since there are a number of tight spots and pathways to negotiate.
Review of the Sterkfontein Caves
The Sterkfontein Caves is not nearly as beautiful as the Wonder Caves, but are much more interesting and rich in history. The tour through the caves are also a lot longer and at places the pathways are much more difficult to navigate.
Definitely give the Sterkfontein Caves a skip if you are seriously claustrophobic! A number of stairs and enclosed spaces also pose a problem to visitors suffering from acute asthma or chest problems.
But enough about the health-hazards! I truly enjoyed my visit to the Sterkfontein Caves. What was very interesting to note is that due to the lack of oxygen, you get tired and sweaty much quicker inside the cave than you would outside... Especially after climbing down the almost 90 degrees stairs, sliding down another passage on my bum, and then literally crawling through another! A bit tough for some visitors, but definitely a lot of fun.
What a surprise was the underground lake! The cleanest, most pristine water I have ever laid my eyes on, and I even met one of "residents" - a blind shrimp. These shrimps are very, very small, and if it wasn't for our excellent tour guide pointing it out, we would never have seen it.
I think that it is a major privilege to be able to tour through the Sterkfontein Caves, and to imagine our ancestors doing the same perhaps.
If you enjoy caves, you will love the Sterkfontein Caves!