Approximately 60km from Lichtenburg and 30km from Mafikeng in the North West Province at an altitude of approximately 1,440m above sea level, one will find an unbelievable natural dolomite sinkhole called Wondergat.
Thousands of years ago, Wondergat was a water-filled 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.
This is the only place in South Africa where Stromatolites have been found under water and are still in very good condition. The only other area 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.
Walking down the 35 irregular steps fully kitted up is no joke and balance is of the utmost importance, but remember that by the time you have finished your dive you may have forgotten the walk down and you'll unfortunately have to make your way back up the 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 which bears a rather interesting slogan - 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 fi rst time visitor. This tranquil hole must never be under estimated - check your air, check your bottom time, and always check your buddy.
Accommodation at Wondergat includes ablution facilities with hot and cold water and electricity is available to campsites. Bring along your own light sources as well as extension cords. Some tented accommodation can be provided 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, which stocks 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 the 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.
Mr Willie Halgrijn is the master gas blender and manager on site and can mix any gas with prior arrangement.
Wondergat has a full time manager:
Willie Halgrijn 082 484 7887
Article by Amilda Boshoff
Photos by Johan Boshoff
Reproduced: Courtesy of The Dive Spot and "The Dive Spots of Southern Africa"