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Gcwihaba Caves and Aha Hills
Certainly one of the wildest and most remote destinations in Botswana, Gcwihaba is a fascinating underground labyrinthe of caverns and pits, linked passages, fantastical stalagmite and stalactite formations, and beautifully coloured flowstones that appear like waterfalls of rock.
Moving from the more commonly used northern entrance, you’ll first come across thousands of bats hanging upside down from the cave walls. The most common species are the commerson’s Leaf-nosed Bat – the largest insectivorous bat in Southern Africa, the tiny Dent’s Horseshoe Bat and the Egyptian Slit-faced Bat. They are harmless, but as you approach, be prepared for a possible mass exodus– clouds of screeching, fleeing bats winging through the dusty darkness.
Some caverns are up to 10 metres high, some are so tiny that one needs to squeeze, or crawl on the belly, to get through them; and some stalactites measure up to six metres in height, meeting their cousin stalagmites to form organic columns that seem to support the entire cave roof.
The main cavern is called ‘Drotsky’s cavern,’ named after the Ghanzi farmer Martinus Drotsky, who was the fi rst European to be shown the caves by the !Kung San in 1934.
Situated on a sand ridge set amongst undulating dunes, Gcwihaba has been part of the Kalahari ecosystem for almost three million years. It was formed during the pleistocene Age when the area was much wetter. There have been dramatic climatic variations alternating very wet with very dry periods.
Unique ecosystems of flora and fauna have been recorded at Gcwihaba. These include the Namaqua Fig, only found at these hills and easily recognisable by its long trailing roots, the endemic aloe, tent tortoises, barking geckos, Ruepel’s parrot (also unique to this region) and barn owls which live in the caves.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the area was inhabited by foraging peoples thousands of years ago. Late Stone Age tools, burnt ostrich eggshells, animal bones, even a fossilised primate skull, have been unearthed in the region. Indeed the caves hold important clues to the way prehistoric peoples related to their environments.
Gcwihaba is a designated National Monument and a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Straddling the Botswana/Namibia border, the Aha Hills lie about 50 kms northwest of Gcwihaba, and are visible from it. The Aha Hills are mostly rough and jagged, having been split by weathering into numerous faults and fractures. They cover an area of approximately 245 sq kms, mostly in Botswana.