Wondergat is one of South Africa’s most popular inland dive sites, but also potentially one of its most dangerous.
Wondergat is a dolomite sinkhole in the North West Province, about 30km south of Mahikeng (Mafikeng).
Despite being one of South Africa’s most popular dive sites, diving here is not for the beginner or lone diver. It’s a dive destination for groups of advanced divers. It is also a training site for dive instructors and technical divers.
A water filled cavern with a roof until the roof caved in, Wondergat still has some deep overhang areas on the sides that can make it a lethal dive if you try to surface in the wrong place. It has also claimed the lives of free divers who have dived too deep.
The hole is getting shallower though. In the 1970’s it was 70 meters at its deepest point and now it is 58 meters as the ‘hole’ slowly fills itself. Still, Wondergat still has many years of being a wondrous ‘mystery hole’.
Some unique features are underwater Stromatolites and an endemic species of Tilapia, found nowhere else. There are a number of other fish species to be seen and the water is clear, typical of dolomite.
Diving is done along buoy lines on two grids – one north (38m) and one south (36m). Features of the dive include the Memorial Stones – commemorating those who have died, and the Taskforce Board warning you not to go deeper. There is also a cave dive for very experienced divers.
It is essential to dive with torches – one per diver is enforced for safety reasons. Water temp. can get to 14 degrees near the bottom, and rules are strict to prevent more of the fatalities that marked the 70’s and 80’s, and so ensure an unforgettable fresh-water diving experience. Emergency Oxygen is available, the site has limited cell reception and there are medical facilities and emergency services in Mafikeng and Lichtenburg.
There is very basic camping accommodation at Wondergat, but with electrical points and ablution facilities featuring hot and cold water.