Exploring the Stadsaal Grotte (“City Hall Caves”) & Rock Art Paintings
We have driven past the entrance to the Stadsaal Caves many times before – always on our way to a camping weekend or back home. But now, we decided to make time and pay a visit to this unique place … and it was breathtaking beautiful!
Keep in mind that you will need a permit to visit the caves and rock art paintings. It can be obtained from the nearby farms (Kromrivier and Dwarsrivier) or Cape Nature’s Office at Algeria (40km from the Stadsaal Caves). There is a locked gate at the site and you will receive the code for the padlock on your permit to get access to the area.
Where did the name originated from?
The name “Stadsaal” was officially given to the cave after the National Party held a planning meeting there just before coming to power in 1948. However, it was used as a community meeting place well before that. (Source: Cape Nature)
Besides the main cavern area, there are many smaller openings and unique formations to be seen – all of which are accessible thanks to a trail that goes around the entire rock formation (starting and ending at the parking area).
It will take you about 30 minutes to walk around at a leisurely pace … but it might take you much longer when you start to take photo’s of the unique rock formations (something we did, only to leave the Stadsaal Caves after about 2 hours).
As always, we were trying to figure out what figures/animals we see in the rock formations … and had much fun in choosing names for all the rocks!
This cavernous dome has been carved out of the rock by thousands of years of wind erosion and other weather factors.
Memories of a visit back in 1986:
I must confess, this was not my first time visiting the Stadsaal Caves. When I was in secondary school in Clanwilliam, our class visited a classmate’s farm for a weekend in 1986 (a mere 8km from the Stadsaal Caves) … for the sole purpose to witness Halley’s Comet, arguably the most famous comet in history.
To see stars (and comets) clearly, you obviously need little or no cloud cover and very little light pollution – which makes the Cederberg star-gazing heaven! So, back in 1986, I saw Halley’s comet and the Stadsaal Caves for the first time … now, 36 years later, the Stadsaal Caves are even more beautiful than back then (and if I’m lucky, I may see Halley’s Comet again in 2061 on its regular 76-year journey around the sun ☺️).
As the previous day, today was another hot day. Which made this visit perfect, because we could find shelter in the cool caves.
After our walk through the main cave, we walked onto a big flat rock to look back at the caves and rock formations – it is indeed a beautiful sight.
On our way back to the parking area, we found another partial cave. We walked through the narrow openings and once again marveled at the formations inside the cave.
We were truly blown away by the beauty of this place … and bonus, we were lucky enough to have the caves to ourselves to explore! The colour of the rocks (against the blue sky) were really unbelievable beautiful. Don’t miss this when you’re in the area!
Rock Art Site:
When we left the Stadsaal Caves, the road went pass a Rock Art Site and we made our final stop of the day here. The rock paintings were made by the San people (Bushmen) and is very well preserved.
It is a bit of climb to get to the paintings, but nothing too serious. We could actually see the paintings from the parking area, but scrambled over the rocks to the top to see them from closer.
The San’s more ancient ancestors lived in the Cederberg Mountains for over 500,000 years. They began painting on the walls of the shelters in the Western Cape at least 5,000 years ago.
It is believed that rock paintings like these were inspired by San religion. This painting shows three rows of people and a group of elephants and it is likely that this is an illustration of a San ritual.
We walked around the area and noticed another tree growing between the rocks – that is quite astonishing! We also had some lovely views from the top of the rocks.
Now, you’ll remember that I mentioned earlier that I last visited this area in 1986 as part of a school outing. I remembered, while putting this post together, that a group photo was taken then and I had to search for quite some time to find it … but I did! This picture was taken right here at the Rock Art Site which Berto and I visited today, 36 years later.
We had a great day of exploring caves and seeing some amazing rock formations, as well as rock art paintings. Our next excursion, will be the highlight of our trip … a hiking trip to the Maltese Cross. We will see you there.