Photo by: Marv Gillibrand

Some of the most famous caves on earth can be found in the Middle East and Africa. The earliest traces of civilization, not to mention the numerous biblical references to caves, can be found in this huge region. War, jungle, and political instability have blocked efforts to explore many of these cave systems, but slowly they are being revealed and tourism is a big part of that.

  1. Echo Caves, South Africa These caves in Mpumalanga extend for more than 25 miles and were used by the locals to hide from approaching tribes. Fewer spelunkers make their way to this limestone complex, so you’ll likely have the place to yourself.
  2. Sudwala Caves, South Africa The Sudwala Caves, near Mpumalanga, are the oldest in the world and several series of chambers and passages remain unexplored. The biggest showcave operation in Africa.
  3. Cango Caves, South Africa Some of the largest stalagmite formations in the world set in Precambrian limestone. Many series of dripstone cavers that open into vast halls.
  4. Kebara Cave, Israel This rock shelter on the western side of Mount Carmel has evidence of habitation by early humans dating back tens of thousands of years.
  5. Sorek Cave, Israel The only showcave in Israel has impressive stalactites, stalagmites, speleothems, helictites, and cave coral. The temperature controls and lighting have disturbed the natural processes however.
  6. Wadi Sora, Egypt This is the real Cave of Swimmers, not the one featured in the movie the English Patient. Located in southwestern Egypt, along the western edge of the Gilf Kebir plateau, these small caves reveal dozens of small cave paintings and traces of human habitation.
  7. Matmâta, Tunisia The dug out homes of the Berber’s for more than a millennium and was the setting of the first Star Wars movie scenes at Tattoine.
  8. Ayalon Cave, Israel Only recently discovered, this 1.5 mile limestone cave is hidden from the surface under a layer of chalk impenetrable by water. Numerous undocumented animal species have been discovered here.
  9. Grottes d’Andranoboka, Madagascar Grottes d’Andranoboka is the collective name of several cave systems in this region that includes the Grottes d’Anjohibe, a 3.1 mile long cave with 13 different entrances.
  10. Musanze Cave, Rwanda The 1.25 mile long cave is home to a large bat colony and was the site of genocide and littered with bones until recently.

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