The Drakensberg’s Top Overnight Hikes

Words and images by Haidee Visser

For avid hikers and explorers, here are a list of four exceptional overnight hikes in the Berg.

  • Wonder Cave

The cave itself is one of the finest in the Central Drakensberg, not only for its unhindered views through Wonder Valley, made doubly beautiful in the summer months when the Proteas are in full bloom, but also the quality of the cave and perfectly level floor -making for comfortable sleeping arrangements.

One the most popular routes to access the Wonder Cave, is via Van Heyningen’s Pass from Injisuthi hutted camp. After a steep climb through the pass, you will come to a plateau and be greeted by the sprawling escarpment with views of Champagne Castle, Monks Cowl and Cathkin Peak on a clear day. After catching your breath, follow the moderate contour path to reach a lower tributary of Wonder Valley, where the cave is located.

Length: 16km, round trip

Difficulty: 5/10

GPS Co-ordinates: WGS 84; S29 05.201; E29 25.594 at 1852 metres

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Wonder Valley outlook from the cave.

 

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Cave outlook: the Drakensberg escarpment silhouetted against the sky at dusk.

 

  • Gxalingenwa Cave

Undoubtedly one of the best lower Berg caves to be found in the entire Drakensberg range, Gxalingenwa Cave closely resembles a true cave, versus many of the overhang caves found in the region. After a short, steep climb to the cave’s entry point, the secluded and well sheltered sleep area and panoramic views over the valley below make this an overnight rest point to remember. In summer, a steady stream of water flows over the lip of the cave, offering instant access to free-flowing water.

Head to the Cobham Wilderness Area of the Southern Drakensberg and hike the Cobham via Emerald Stream and Pinnacle Rock route. The hike will take you through truly breath-taking scenery, including large, rolling plains littered with fascinating rock formations.

Length: 28km, round trip

Difficulty: 6/10

GPS Co-ordinates: WG 84; S29 38.161; E29 21.746 at 2066 metres.

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Massive rocks and boulders litter the landscape on the hike to Gxalingenwa Cave.

 

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The gorgeous landscapes of the lower Drakensberg.

 

  • Marble Baths

This hike and cave stay has earned its reputation with thanks to the perfectly formed pools or ‘baths’ that have been cut into the sandstone bedrock of the river, found just below the cave. Marble Baths is a popular spot for hikers of all capabilities, including children (8 years and older), most especially during the spring and summer months, as hours can be spent laying on the rocks and goofing about in the refreshing pools of water.

Found in the Central Drakensberg, the cave can be reached from Injisuthi hutted camp, via the Injisuthi River or the Grindstone Caves route, making for a circular route. The hike itself is a spectacular one with sweeping views of the escarpment through Leslie’s Pass and includes a few steep climbs along the way.

Length: 18km round trip

Difficulty: 7/10

GPS Co-ordinates: WGS 84 (unknown)

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The natural, rock-hewn pools and chutes at Marble Baths.
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Panoramic views of the Drakensberg escarpment through Leslie’s Pass.

 

  • Vaalribbokkop Cave

Nestled within the spectacular Monks Cowl and Mdedeleo Wilderness Area in the Northern Drakensberg is the impressive Vaalribbokkop Cave, once closed off to overnight visitors due to the ancient San art found in this dwelling. Sadly, these paintings have been badly damaged over time, and as such, the cave is now open for overnight stays. One the best routes to access the cave is via Jacob’s Ladder – a slightly strenuous uphill climb, but surrounded by some of South Africa’s most gloriously un-touched scenery.

Though the cave appears as more of an overhang, it is well sheltered and even offers a private waterfall and easy access to plenty of water. With lovely views over the valley, this cave has a warm, homely feel and is relatively easy to find with thanks to a 30-metre dome on the hill, just behind the cave – a good landmark for reference.

Length: 26km, round trip

Difficulty: 8/10

GPS Co-ordinates: WGS 84; S28 59.646; E29 20.777 at 1831 metres.

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The towering mound, known as Vaalribbokkop, after which the cave is named.
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The Vaalribbokkop Cave stretches for metres overlooking a rolling valley of hills.

 

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