Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea


Bothongo WonderCave: A historic reopening beckons adventure seekers

The Bothongo WonderCave has reopened its ancient gates to eager adventurers and curious explorers.

After much anticipation, the Bothongo WonderCave, a subterranean marvel brimming with billions of years of history, has reopened its ancient gates to eager adventurers and curious explorers.

Nestled within the Bothongo Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve – situated in the valley known as the Cradle of Humankind in Kromdraai, Krugersdorp – this geological treasure has long been hailed as one of South Africa’s most captivating destinations, and a Unesco World Heritage site.


The reopening of the Bothongo WonderCave, surrounded by plenty wildlife and animals on the border of the Lion and Rhino Park marks a momentous occasion for geology, history and adventure enthusiasts.

Bothongo Group Hospitality’s Shandor Larenty, said the event marked a significant milestone in the commitment to conservation and education about the planet’s natural and historical treasures.

Believed to be at least five to 10 million years old, with dolomites dating back 2.4 billion years, this natural wonder – which is SA’s third largest chamber – has withstood the test of time, bearing witness to the ebb and flow of geological epochs and the evolution of life on Earth.

Discovered by Italian miners in the late 1800s, it measures 125 metres long, 64 metres wide and 60 metres deep, with a volume of 46 000 cubic metres.

Guide Joseph Mithi inside the Bothongo WonderCave in Kromdraai, west of Joburg. The Unesco heritage site has been reopened after renovations. Pictures: Michel Bega

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To this day, the legacy of those miners still remain in the form of spacious tunnels and caverns, inviting exploration without the “need for crawling or squeezing through narrow passages”.

Miners left their tools and equipment

Apart from man-made caverns, “they [miners] have also left their tools and equipment which allows us to determine what happened during those times,” said cave guide Joseph Mithi.

It is said the Italians left the cave sometime during the Second Angl-Boer War, and the mine was not discovered again until 1991 when it was opened to the public.

Mithi said based on its rich history dating back to the dawn of time itself, the Bothongo WonderCave stands as a testament to the enduring power and beauty of nature, “apart from the history of the miners, the rocks, their formation tell their own story – from the praying Mary to the sand heaps which formed after heavy rains”.

He added: “When you go inside, you walk down 87 stairs at a 45-degree angle, and it takes about 22m. When you get to the bottom, there’s a lift which goes down another 18m into the big open cave.

“So our guests are invited to descend about 60m beneath the surface, where they’ll be greeted by a mesmerising landscape of towering stalactites and stalagmites, formed over a billion years.”

A natural rock formation resembling a praying Mother Mary at the Bothongo WonderCave. Pictures: Michel Bega

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Mithi said another of the most striking features of the cave was its rimstone pool – “a shimmering mirror that reflects the intricate beauty of the cavernous chamber, when it’s full it really looks like there’s a mirror in there”.

He added: “Visitors can also marvel at the delicate formations of cave pearls, created drop by drop over centuries, and explore spacious tunnels and pathways that wind through the depths of the cave.

“The cave clearly shows a fort line which drags for about 127km running through the cave from Centurion, Pretoria to Carletonville.”

History shown in and around cave

Mithi said part of the history is shown in and around the cave from the oven the miners used to bake the limestone which can now be used to make cement, extract gold and even purify water.

However, “back in the day it was also used to make toothpaste after two weeks of baking”.

With its reopening, the cave also offers new amenities, including picnic areas and kiosks, for visitors to enjoy a leisurely meal amid the breathtaking scenery.

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