Clay and stone huts dot the floor of South Africa’s Motouleng Caves, one of the largest rock overhangs in the Southern Hemisphere. Tepees made from straw and grass are scattered throughout the ramshackle dwellings.
A large number of pilgrims journey to be healed by its resident sangomas, or shamans. The healers live within the caves for weeks, months, or even years at a time. Non-healers, too, will sometimes stay for extended periods, often with animals like cats, goats, and chickens in tow.
As the holy caves is a sacred pilgrimage destination for women hoping to get pregnant, some refer to Motouleng as the “Fertility Caves.”
People of all religions are welcome at this sacred site. You’ll find practitioners of traditional African religions praying and performing rituals alongside Christian ministers. People dance, sing, and make offerings to appease the ancient ancestors.
There’s a fountain at the entrance of the cave, where you can drop a coin into its depths for good luck. Water from the river that flows in the valley below is sometimes included in the ceremonial rituals.
The cavern is part of a broader network of sacred caves within this region of South Africa. People have been journeying to these subterranean chambers for thousands of years, leaving rock paintings behind in their wake. Even dinosaurs once passed through, as evidenced by the footprints found on some of the caves’ floors.
Know Before You Go
As this is a sacred place, be sure to dress appropriately. Entry is free. It is a short and beautiful walk alongside the sacred Caledon River, which flows through the valley leading up to the cave.