Wondergat

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By Amilda Boshoff
Photo's by Johan Boshoff
Map by Izelle Hickey

We dive Wondergat because we can

Approximately 60km from Lichtenburg and 30km from Mafikeng in the North West Province at an altitude of approximately 1440m above sea level, one will find an unbelievable natural dolomite sinkhole called Wondergat. Wondergat is the deepest natural hole in the interior of South Africa, and is used for advanced scuba diving as well as a training ground for instructors and technical divers. It is a very popular dive site in South Africa and there is a saying that you haven’t dived until you dived at Wondergat…

Thousands of years ago, Wondergat was a waterfilled cavern until the roof caved in and left a magnificent hole filled with water. In the early 70 ‘s the deepest point at this dive site was more than 70 meters and today it’s only 58 meters.

ImageWHAT AQUATIC LIFE CAN YOU FIND IN WONDERGAT?

This is the only place in South Africa where Stromatolites were found under water and are still in very good condition. The other place where similar Stromatolites were found is in Sharkbay, Australia. The Banded Tilapia (Tilapia sparrmanii) is endemic to Wondergat and won’t be found at any other fresh water hole in the world. Other fish to lookout for are the Sharptooth Catfish (Clarias garipinus), Southern Mautbrooder (Pseudocrenilabrus philander) as well as fresh water shrimps and crabs.

DIVING AT WONDERGAT

ImageWalking down the 35 irregular steps fully kitted up is no joke and balance is of utmost importance, but remember the walking down is forgotten when you have finished your dive and have to make your way back up the 35 steep stairs! So remember that being fit is a great advantage! Don’t forget the bends. This is a location for the advanced and higher qualified divers because the bottom of this hole is approximately 36 meters (first stop). There are two buoy lines, a north and south grid from where one can descend. The north grid is approximately 38meters deep and the south grid 36meters deep. There is also a white bell chamber at the bottom that has an interesting slogan on it – try to remember the whole slogan when you reach the surface…

When venturing into the cave to the Memorial stones and to the Taskforce board, it is better to descend from the South grid as it is the closest - to save bottom time. Torches are always recommended, as the bottom can be very dark when you reach the grid. The entrance to the cave is approximately 5 meters from the south grid and guide ropes connect the different areas of the hole for safety reasons. The water temperature ranges between 14 – 21 degrees Celsius so it is best to wear enough protection as the bottom of the hole can become really cold and heighten the effect of nitrogen narcosis. If you are diving here for the first time, it is best to do it with someone who has dived here before and knows the hole quite well, as the depth and darkness can be unnerving for a first time visitor. This tranquil hole must never be under estimated – check your air, check your bottom time, and check your buddy!!

The different areas in the hole that can be dived are:
  • From north grid to south grid using the guide ropes.
  • From either of the grids to the Bell.
  • From the south grid to the Memorial stones and to the Taskforce Board.
  • From the south grid to the back of the cave – for trained cave divers only!


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Accommodation at Wondergat includes ablution facilities (hot & cold water) and electricity is available to campsites. Bring along own light sources as well as extension cords. Some tented accommodation can be provided for on request. Camping takes place in a small area fenced off from the stock farm fields. There is a braai area at every camp site but do bring along tables, chairs, umbrellas and everything else that you might need.

(There is a canteen stocking most of the basics for those who have forgotten something at home!). It is essential to pack insect repellent, sun block and hats as it can become scorching during the summer and icy cold during winter.


The nearest medical facility is a hospital at Mafikeng, 30km away and Lightenburg Provincial hospital, 60km away. Emergency oxygen provision is on site if needed. All cellular networks cover the dive site and DAN is just a phone call away!

DIVING SERVICES

  • There is a huge Sulzer compressor and an air bank with a capacity of over a 672 000 litres of free air, being able to fill up to 300 bar.
  • There is also a blending panel for those wishing to dive on Nitrox at Wondergat.
  • Cylinders can be oxy-cleaned on request.
  • Trimix available on request & prior arrangement.
  • There is a dive shop for hiring of BC’s, DV’s and cylinders.
  • Mr Willie Halgrijn is the master gas blender and manager on site and can mix any gas with prior arrangement.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Lichtenburg, on the Mafikeng road (R503); shortest road from Johannesburg, Klerksdorp, Vereeniging, Freestate etc. +- 47 km past Lichtenburg, turn right at the roadsign ‘Buhrmansdrift’, at the almost empty shop on the lefthand side just before you enter ‘Rooigrond’. After +-7km turn right at the ‘Molopo-oog’ turnoff and after another +- 7km turn right at the TDA Wondergat sign.

From Zeerust, on the Mafikeng road (R49); shortest road from Pretoria, Rustenburg, Botswana, Namibia and the Northern Province. +- 15km before you reach Mafikeng, turn left at the ‘Rooigrond’ turn off(there are big silo’s on the right hand side. After +- 7km turn left at the second ‘Molopo-oog’ sign. (The first sign is a bad dirt road with lots of sharp turns). After taking the second turn off drive another +-8km and turn right at the TDA Wondergat sign.

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Author: Amilda Boshoff