And more caves!
The Uisib Caves are in the Karstveld dolomite formations west of Otavi on the farm Uisib, which is owned by the Schoeman family.
To reach the two most accessible caves – Uhlenhorst and Sprokiesgrot – the eldest Schoeman son, Kyle, takes me into the veld with dogs Sniffie and Beagles leading the way. We hike up the side of the mountain for about half an hour, while Kyle points out tree species like tamboti, marula, leadwood and sickle-bush.
When we get to the entrance of Uhlenhorst Cave, we climb down a chain ladder into a room full of stalagmites and stalactites. They sprout from the ground like cauliflower and hang from the ceiling like spears.
Kyle tells me about the explorer after whom the cave is named and explains the different layers of rock and how pools of water form in the cave during certain times of the year. It’s almost too much to take in. I’m happy just to marvel at the cave…
Kyle asks me to switch off my headlamp and we sit quietly in the inky darkness in the belly of the earth.
Sprokiesgrot is even more beautiful! We climb and crawl deeper into the cave, to a place where you have to slither underneath low-hanging stalactites if you want to carry on. This is the end of the tour and I’m a bit disappointed. After the wonders of this subterranean world, I’m in no rush to return to the sunshine outside.
The Bauers farm next door to the Schoemans and there is yet another cave to see on their property – Aigamas Cave. Aigamas has an underground lake, which is the only known habitat of the golden cave catfish. These fish are almost completely blind and eat bat droppings, insects and small animal carcasses that fall in the water. You can learn more about them on a guided tour that lasts about three hours.
Where? Follow the D3028 (the Etosha dirt road) from Otavi for 16,5 km and look for a farm gate with horses on it – this is Uisib. Aigamas is about 10 km further along the same road.
GPS: S19.55277 E17.21524 (Uisib gate); S19.46047 E17.18539 (Aigamas gate)
Cost: Uisib R200 per person for a morning tour (about four hours). Have a picnic (hot dogs, fruit and cooldrinks or beer) in one of the caves for an extra R150 per person. Aigamas R250 per adult; R150 per child under 12.
Contact: 00 264 67 234 250 or 00 264 81 223 1736 (Jeanita Schoeman, Uisib); 00 264 81 253 0947 (Axel Bauer, Aigamas);
For more accommodation options in the Tsumeb-Otavi-Grootfontein triangle, turn to page 118.