Gcwihaba Caverns

Drotsky's Caves


Useful Information

Location: Northwestern Kalahari. 650km (400mi) north-west of Gaborone, 50 km south east of the Aha Hills.
Near the northern/western Namibian border.
From Maun, take the main tar road to Shakawe and Namibia, turn west 2km after Tsau. Travel to the 144km point and turn left up the Nxainxaidum fossil valley for another 27km to the caverns. Drivers need 4WD, high clearance and long range tanks.
(S 20° 01.302', E 21° 21.275')
Open: no restrictions.
[2020]
Fee: free.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave. Dolomite.
Light: bring torch
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided/part of safari
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Dandurand Gregory, Francis Duranthon, Marc Jarry, Dominic Stratford, Laurent Bruxelles (2018): Biogenic corrosion caused by bats in Drotsky's Cave (the Gcwihaba Hills, NW Botswana) Geomorphology. 327. 10.1016/j.geomorph.2018.10.027. researchgate
Address:  
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1932 Martinus Drotsky is the frist European visitor of the cave.
1974 first scientific research by Cooke and Ballieul.
OCT-1992 !Wa Doum cave discovered nearby.
2001 listed as national monument under the Monuments and Relics Act.
27-MAR-2003 stamp depicting Gcwihaba Caverns from Botswana, value P3.30 issued.
2010 on the UNESCO WHL tentative list.

Description

Gcwihaba Caverns is a huge system of dolomite caves, located in a low outcrop of rock in the dry northwestern Kalahari. Its only accessible with a 4WD, and there are no facilities at the cave, so take care about the necessary equipment. Enough to eat and drink for several days, wellingtons to wade through bat droppings, two electric torches and plenty back-up batteries are a must. Several Maun safari companies organize trips which include Gcwihaba Caverns. The trip will take at least three days. The safest way to visit them is on such a safari with a guide. Just do not turn off your brain, they do not care if you get ill after the safari is over.

This is not a tourist cave, although it is listed in numerous tourist directories and guidebooks like Lonely Planet. We would not have listed this cave, if it was not already listed on numerous other pages. So the main purpose of this page is to warn (again) about the dangers of cave trekking trips. A visit should be planned with much care, visitors should have some caving experience. And by the way: you should get informed about histoplasmosis before you visit the cave.

The cave is inhabited by a large population of bats, Commerson’s leaf-nosed bats and common slit-faced bats. They are completely harmless, even if you are so rude to make loud sounds and they flee in force, its unlikely they will even touch you. Bats flying into your hair is a hollywood legend and not real. But they are dangerous nevertheless, the bat guano contains histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis has symptoms similar to an influenza and may be deadly if not treated appropriately. You should definitely wear a very good mask while in the cave, that's what cavers do. You do not want to get sick while you are on safari. And if you get symptoms afterward, be sure to tell your doctor about the histoplasmosis. If diagnosed correctly a pack of the right antibiotics will cure it.

Gcwihaba Caverns has two entrances. The cave is mostly horizontal, but there are some steep precipices, as it has two levels. The noteworthy stalagmites reach 10m in height.

The cave was long known to the local !Kung people (San). They named it Gcwihaba which means "the hyena's lair" in !Kung. They first showed the cave to an European, Martinus Drotsky, in 1932. A strange story about the cave tells about a late 19th century treasure which is said to be hidden somewhere in the caves. The fabulously wealthy founder of Ghanzi, Hendrik Matthys van Zyl, is said to have stashed a portion of his fortune here.