When one thinks about Namibia, one inevitably conjures up images of what the country is most famous for, such as the Namib Desert, Etosha National Park, Spitzkoppe, the Skeleton Coast, or perhaps Sossusvlei. And this short contains only a fraction of all there is to see in this amazing country, which is why you should put aside enough time to get to everything if you plan on visiting. Especially if you want to buck the trend and are willing to discover a few of Namibia’s hidden gems and less-visited – but no less amazing – natural wonders.
Amongst these are the caves of Namibia. Interestingly, the majority of Namibia’s caves are found in the Otjozondjupa Region, which is in the north-eastern part of the country, adjacent to the Kunene Region to its west. Thanks to an abundance of limestone and lots of subterranean leftover prehistoric water, impressive caves have formed over the millennia in Namibia and we will briefly look at four of them.
However, there are also some caves in other regions of the country and if you are flying into Windhoek, the closest one to visit first is Arnhem Cave, which is just 80 km (50 mi) from Hosea Kutako International Airport and 120 km (75 mi) from Windhoek. The Arnhem cave system is notable for being the longest in Namibia at 4,5 km (2,8 mi). It was discovered in the 1930s and was once used to harvest lucrative bat guano, which was a popular fertiliser at the time. The cave system is also home to the giant leaf-nosed bat, the largest insect-eating bat in the world.
Ghaub Cave is another must-see stop amongst Namibia’s caves and is just 50 km south of the town of Tsumeb, virtually on the border of the Otjozondjupa and Oshikoto regions. It was also discovered in the early 20th century and is the third-biggest of Namibia’s caves, with a system of passages extending to 2,5 km (1,55 mi). It houses several unusual geological features, chief of these being a remarkable stalactite formation called The Organ (referring to the musical instrument). Also notable are its underground waterfalls and San rock engravings. Be warned that one has to crawl and climb in places and the claustrophobic should perhaps avoid it.
Dragon’s Breath Cave
Dragon’s Breath Cave is just around the corner from Ghaub Cave, a mere 3 km (1,8 mi) away and special for quite another reason. In fact, it is only to be explored by seasoned, professional cavers and cave divers with the right equipment and is not accessible to the general public because of this. If you’re the former, you’d be in for a treat and if you’re the latter, read on to learn more about what is truly a fascinating natural phenomenon that you might not be able to experience first-hand.
First of all, Dragon’s Breath Cave is home to the largest non-subglacial underground lake on earth. Most underground lakes are subglacial, meaning that they are found at the boundary layer between sheet ice or a glacier and the bedrock below, where the pressure is high enough to decrease the pressure melting point of ice, resulting in a lake of liquid water. However, Dragon’s Breath’s is underneath the desert landscape of Namibia and it’s big. Discovered in 1986, the lake on the cave floor was found to cover an area of nearly 2 hectares (almost 5 acres). The lake itself is situated 100 m (328 ft) below ground level and is at least this deep too.
Even just getting to the vast cavern above the lake surface is fraught with difficulty and requires clambering through tunnels and on ledges. The main shaft alone drops 84 m (275 ft) vertically before reaching the first sloping ledge. Several pitons and karabiners are required to lay the ropes to get to the lake’s surface. The first expedition divers descended into the lake’s crystal-clear depths in 1989 and discovered that the water offers incredible visibility of 50 m (164 ft). This made it possible to film the entire dive.
The Aigamas Cave is on the Aigamas Ranch in Otavi, about 100 km (61 mi) west from the Dragon’s Breath and Ghaub caves and one of Namibia’s most remarkable caves. Cave divers can also dive this cave’s lake and it’s a boon that access to the lake is quite easy, making it ideal for first-time divers. A huge reward for the dedicated cave diver is the possibility of glimpsing a golden cave catfish (Clarias cavernicola). Reportedly, this species was only discovered in 2013 and it is believed that this critically endangered air-breathing catfish occurs nowhere else on earth than in the Aigamas Cave. They lack pigmentation and can grow over 16 cm (over 6 in) long. Their eyes are small and covered with skin and it is believed that they are blind.
Stay with Us
From Aigamas Cave to Ohorongo Safaris is about 300 km by road, so come stay with us after all your caving adventures in northern Namibia. We are centrally located in Kunene and the ideal home base if you plan to visit the above-mentioned caves, as well as Etosha to the north and the Skeleton Coast to the west. Kunene is a treasure trove of unique landscapes, fauna, and flora and if you are going to criss-cross this region, you are bound to agree that Ohorongo is the ideal epicentre. Stay in our comfortable lodge with dinner, bed, and breakfast included and choose from various options, such as game drives and guided walks. If you stay at our luxury tented camp, your lunch and game drives are all included in the price! We are off the beaten track and only our guests gain access to the 35 000-hectare Ohorongo Game Reserve, so your privacy and solitude are guaranteed and you will never be overrun by tourists. Have your ideal Namibian getaway with us.