The Dragon’s Breath Cave

World’s largest underground lake

Right out of Game of Thrones comes The Dragon’s Breath cave. Not really, but it is really cool and contains a massive underground lake. It has been named the largest underground non-sub-glacial lake in the world.

Found in Namibia[1], Southern Africa is known for soft desert sand and harsh waterless landscapes. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the south and east.

The lake’s area is about 4.9 acres and was discovered in 1986 and named for the moist air rising from its entrance. It is roughly about 28.6 miles north of Grootfontein and was found by the South African Speleological Association[2].

Along the Kalahari Desert, there is a cavern, which slants slightly down for almost 17 feet, ending at a small choke point. From here there is a vertical drop of almost 23 feet, which comes to a sudden halt onto a ledge, leading to another drop of 40 feet and a further descent of 120 feet, ending with a massive underground lake.

The total depth of the lake was measured at 673 feet. Martyn Farr records in his book “The Darkness Beckons” the exploration of the cave by a team of divers and cavers organized by Charles Maxwell the year after the cave was identified in 1986 by cavers. Due to a combination of zero-sunlight conditions, little wave-action to kick up sediment, and the stable temperatures of the cavern, it has allowed for the world’s rarest and most isolated species to find a home…

the Golden Cave Catfish, or Clariascavernicola. This unique species is endangered and may have a population of as little as 200 catfish.

At least 16 invertebrate species, and one bat, Hipposideros caffer[3], inhabit the cave. This cave supports a detritus-based system, with all input to food coming from allochthonous sources, largely from dried bat guano.

  1. Namibia has 2.55 million people and is a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, tourism, and the mining industry – including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, and base metals – form the basis of its economy, while the manufacturing sector is comparatively tiny. The large, arid Namib Desert from which the country derived its name has resulted in Namibia being overall one of the least densely populated countries.
  2. The Speleological Exploration Club is a founding member of South Africa’s national caving body. The club was founded in September 1954 when the cavers of the Transvaal and the Cape came together to form the Speleological Association of South Africa (SASA). In the mid-1990s another group collaborated with SASA to establish SASA as a governing body to look after the interests of caving groups throughout South Africa.
  3. Hipposideros caffer is a hipposiderid bat commonly called Sundevall’s leaf-nosed or roundleaf bat. H. caffer is a medium-sized insectivorous bat with a horseshoe-shaped nose leaf and 2 color phases in adulthood.


Gondwana Collection Namibia
Speleological Exploration Club (SEC Caving)
Terra Nova

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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