Namibia is well known for its striking geology, like the towering dunes of the Namib, the craggy Fish River Canyon, the granite mass of the Brandberg and the glistening pans of Etosha National Park, but it’s when you go deeper that you discover another dimension that proves that Namibia is unique both inside and out.
There are 120 caves currently registered in Namibia, and while most of them are either on private land or require special permits, there are a few that can be explored without too much red tape.
The longest in Namibia, and the most easily accessible cave tourist-wise, is Arnhem Cave, located on the fringes of the Kalahari Desert, 85km from Windhoek. The cave has 4 800 metres of tunnels which are negotiated with cave lamps and torches.
Six species of bat live here, including the largest insect eating bat in the world – the giant leaf-nosed bat.
The Ghaub Cave is Namibia’s third largest – 38m deep, with 2.5 km of chambers and passageways. This cave is found at Ghaub Guest Farm in the Otavi Mountains, south of Tsumeb.
Visitors may only explore this cave on guided tours and are issued with a miner’s lamp and safety helmet for their trip.
Ghuab Cave is filled with typical cave formations like stalactites and stalagmites as well as petrified underground waterfalls, an unusual organ-pipe grouping of stalagmites, interesting crystal formations and priceless san art.
Dragon’s Breath Cave
Dragon’s Breath Cave is one of Namibia’s best-known caves and the site of the world’s largest underground lake, with a surface area of almost 2 hectares.
The domain of the brave, experienced and well-equipped enthusiast, a permit is required to venture into this cave.
Those who do dare to brave these uncertain depths could get to see Golden Cave catfish, a species which was only discovered in 2013, but has lived here undisturbed for thousands of years.
One of Namibia’s most easily accessible caves, Phillip’s Cave is found in the Erongo Mountains near Karibib, at Ameib Ranch. Here visitors can see the unusual humpbacked white elephant san rock painting.
Several interesting rock formations are found close to the caves, like the aptly named ‘elephant’s head’ and ‘bull’s party’ which is a collection of remarkably round granite boulders precariously balanced on the earth’s surface.
If you are in the mood for an adrenaline high with a ‘spelunk’ or two during your next stay, you would be well advised to bring your own equipment and arrange permits and maps (from the National Museum of Namibia) in advance. Both Phillips Cave and Arnhem Cave are close enough to warrant a full day trip from your accommodation in Windhoek.