The Table Bay, 1st Pinelands and Kanonkop Rovers recently carried out a pretty fun and interesting day-hike, visiting the some of the caves above Kalk Bay, Cape Town. The route is not too strenuous (trust me, some of us haven’t been hiking in years) and for the most part the caves are all open and large enough to be easy to get into and navigate.
This is a circular route that starts and ends at the Echo Valley path, with convenient parking on Boyes Drive, just above Kalk Bay. It seems easy enough for first time cavers, even if you don’t have someone with your group that has found these caves before, and can accommodate everyone – with the exception of Boomslang (Upper Aladdin Cave), all the caves can be bypassed by potentially claustrophobic or well-nourished hikers.
The hike begins on the Echo Valley path (if you arrive early morning there is convenient parking right at the trails start on Boyes Drive). You’ll pass a convenient sign to let you know you’re on the right track. The initial ascent is quite steep, with uneven stone steps, which can get quite damp due to a few small streams crossing it. Continue along this path, and do not take the and of the smaller, rougher side trails you may encounter. Eventually you will reach a fork in the path, with a stone map and a sign saying “Weary Willy’s”. Take the left/straight path, but take note of the path on the right – this will be the trail you return on.
The gradient of the path should be much shallower and you will be entering the small ‘Echo Valley’. Continue along this path until the second major fork, where you will see a sign indicating “Boomslang Cave” to the left. Follow this steep path up to the rocky crags, the path is quite hard to follow in some places, but if you feel like you’ve gone off the path, just backtrack a little and have a look around, it should be relatively clear.
At the top of this path, you should find yourself at the edge of vertical crags. There are a number of smaller caves in the vicinity of the Boomslang Cave, which you are welcome to explore, but the main attraction is the gorgeous Boomslang, with is bat-filled chambers. The entrance to Boomslang cave should be into the rocks on your immediate left on the top of the path – it is a large entrance that you can walk into, before going through a short stretch on your hands and knees.
The cave inside is quite spacious, and there are plenty of smaller side chambers for the adventurous. small Rhinopophus bats roost high in the main chamber, so try not disturb these little guys. This cave has no natural lighting, so remember your well charged head torch! You emerge from the cave to a short, steep crevice with a nice clearing at the bottom, a great place for a rest stop, with a picturesque view out over Fishhoek. This section took us 2 hours from the cars, at a very leisurely pace.
After leaving Boomslang, take the path to the immediate right as it heads up the ridge. You’ll have a great view into the Noordhoek Valley to your left, which will gradually be obscured as you reach the top of the ridge and the path begins to turn to the right. Almost immediately after this sharp, right-hand bend in the path you will see a prominent outcrop of rocks on your left (there is clear evidence of people walking hear, so its quite clear) and you will see a large gap in these rocks that allows you you climb down into Oread Hall. This climb is only 3m, so if you find yourself looking into a hold so deep that you cannot see the bottom, then you have gone too far and are looking into the Oread Hall Skylight or Devil’s Pit (which is not safe to enter without climbing equipment).
The climb down is a bit awkward for those with bigger posture, but easily doable. Once inside the cave you will need to explore on your haunches as the ceiling is quite low. You will notice a low crawlspace branching off of the cavern directly in front of you as you enter the cave, and will need to squeeze through here to get into the main chambers. A natural stream flows through this space, so bare in mind that it may be very wet, and potentially blocked with sediment in winter months. After exploring these caves you will need to exit the same way you entered.
Amphitheatre & Robin Hood’s Cavern
Continue following the same path past Oread Halls and Devil’s Pit towards the Amphitheatre. You will reach a T-junction where to turn right, and should continue north across Echo Valley. The path is well signposted, and you will eventually find yourself in a large sandy clearing, The Amphitheatre. Its quiet exposed, but there’s a nice lunch-spot in the shade of a huge boulder just west of the clearing.
The entrance to Robin Hood’s Cavern requires some light bundu-bashing. To get there, follow the small path heading off from the north-east corner of the clearing. AS this path gets near to the large rocky crags, bushwack up to the rock wall – you will find a small gully with some beautiful yellowwood trees growing in it. Just past the small clearing in the gully, you can climb down between the boulders and you will find a sign indicating that you have located ‘Robin Hood’s Cavern’. To explore this cave system, you need to be a little skinnier, and may need to bring along someone that’s visited the system before as a guide.
At just after 1PM we left Robin Hood Cavern, by heading back onto the path we bushwacked from and continuing north, uphill. THis path should be followed over the ridge and into the Spes Bona valley, which should be clearly signposted. Once in the valley, you’ll turn right and continue down hill – this path is beautiful, with well constructed wooden walkways winding down through the indigenous forests. A fantastic path, leading down to the bottom of Spes Bona, with views opening up to False Bay again.
The route back to the car park, via the Weary Willy’s junction is well signposted, and we were finished the hike by 3PM, despite many protracted ‘lunch breaks’. This was a great time to head down to Kalk Bay for a meal – we recommend stopping at Kalkies for a hake a chips and enjoying some fresh sea air!
We’d like to thank the guys at Awesome Walks who provided us with route advice when planning this hike, and also this great article. The cave maps on this page are attributed to the Darlkife website, this is unfortunately not live at the time of writing this article.