The series of caverns called the Sudwala Caves are one of South Africa's major attractions. The caves are believed to be about 2 000 million years old and contain not only stalagmites and stalagtites, but also the fossilised remains of 'collenia' a form of algae that it is believed life on earth evolved from. These 'stromatolites' were alive when the earth's atmosphere was composed of nitrogen and carbon dioxide.
Over a period of approximately 2,000 million years, water, percolating from above has eroded the dolomite of the hills, forming large caverns with strangely fashioned stalactites and stalagmites. Legend has it that there is no end to the Sudwala Caves and that they may extend for more than 40km under the mountains, as far as Lydenburg!
The awe inspiring Sudwala Caves contain the largest dolomite chamber in the world. This chamber, the Owen Hall (named after the owner of the farm) is a natural amphitheatre of about 70m in diameter and 37m in height. Interconnected chambers with a floor surface of 14,000 m square over a distance of some 600m are open to the public. The tallest stalagmite in the caves is about 11m high.
Prehistoric man used the Sudwala Caves for shelter and although there is a constant flow of fresh air in the caves, no one knows where it comes from. The caves were discovered in the early 19th century during a Swazi succession melodrama. The find was made by Somquba, son of Swazi king Sobhuza I, who, with his followers, fled here in fear of his brother Mswati. The dispute also involved substantial numbers of royal cattle.
Somquba and his people built a village next to the entrance to the caves, where they hid every time Mswati and his punitive parties arrived on the scene. Several times Mswati and his men vainly made huge fires in the entrance to smoke out his quarry. One day they struck unexpectedly and killed Somquba and many of his tribesmen. Those who survived stayed on under a headman or Induna by the name of Sudwala, hence the name - Sudwala Caves.