Drakensberg - Bushman
The Drakensberg offers a large selection of Bushman Rock Art site.
Ancient Bushman rock art, both cave paintings and petroglyphs chipped into
iron-hard dolerite boulders and pavements, can be found scattered all over
the Drakensberg region some
dating back thousands of years.
Bushman art was first noted in the Draklensberg by white settlers about
350 years ago, but for the most part were seen as crude scribblings of a
savage, barely-human society. But over time their artistic sophistication
and clearly deep meaning were slowly appreciated – at least by some – even
as the Stone Age Bushman culture was swept aside by white colonization.
The Drakensberg area is a rich source of Bushman Rock art
with some caves containing several hundred of these beautiful works of art
offering a large activities and attractions for you to part take in. The
Central Drakensberg mountains contain thousands of Bushman Rock Art
sites, evidence of the small, primitive San people who practiced a prehistoric
life style in the area long ago. The earliest of these paintings are about
3000 years old, and the golden age of the painters was between 400 and 200
Caves at Giants Castle . The Main Caves is a large sandstone cave
containing prehistoric San rock art. This cave is one of the biggest and
best preserved painted sites in southern Africa. This cave is an easy 30
minute walk from the camp office and regular guided tours are taken through
this unique exhibition from 09h00 to 15h00 daily for a small fee. A visit
to Giant's Castle offers the privilege of entering the world of the San
as well as the opportunity to study a varied and exciting range of habitats.
Pass Shelter at Kamberg .
The Game Pass
Shelter is commonly referred to as the "Rosetta Stone" of
southern African rock art, for it was here that archaeologists first uncovered
a vital key to understanding the symbolism of San rock art. This site is
special for so many reasons. It was one of the first sites ever to be seen
by Europeans and appeared in the Scientific American in 1915. It was the
first South African rock art site to be known in other parts of the world,
and revealed the meaning of San rock art- it, in a sense, "cracked the code".
The trail to Game Pass Shelter is a two-and-a-half, to three hour guided
walk, via the spiritually moving Waterfall Shelter. It is nothing short of
a world-class experience in Khoisan rock art and living Zulu and San culture.
Rock at Highmoor .
Highmoor Wilderness Area, southern central Drakensberg. This non-descript
rock lies just off the contour path below Caracal
Cave and could easily be missed except for the rickety old fence which
once protected the paintings from vandals. the hike to Fulton Rock takes
roughly five hours.
Godess at Giants Castle .
rock art in the Northern
Drakensberg is more shamanistic, including mainly
hallucinatory motifs, e.g. "ropes to God", magnificent dream images such
as the "Moon Goddess" and the "Sorcerer" of Sorcerer's Rock. Images of
bees, ladders and a butterfly scene (a rare depiction at Eland Cave) seem
to be limited to the Northern Drakensberg.
Cave at Injasuti .
There is a daily guided walk to the Battle Cave, famous for its bushman
rock art. There is a spectacular bushman rock art panel depicting a spiritual
battle scene. The walk is about 4 hours and starts at the reception office
at Injasuti Camp. Bookings required the previous day.
Leopard Cave: This cave lies on the edge of the Didima gorge half
way between Monks
Cowl and Didima/ Cathedral
Peak. There is a single painting
of a leopard chasing a man and by the closeness off the encounter it is
definitely not a self portrait.
Cave:This extensively painted cave, one of the best painted sites
in the country, is situated on the South Eastern side of the Didima valley.
It can either be accessed from Monks Cowl or from the Didima / Cathedral
Peak side. It is an extremely long hike from either side and should be done
as an overnight trip. The paintings are well preserved and are numerous and
varied. This cave is the last recorded contact with Bushmen and is the site
where a bow and quivers were found in 1931.
Cow Cave:This cave is accessed from The Oaks Supermarket in Dragon Peaks
Park and is a guided trip leaving most mornings at 9.00 am. The path goes
through private property and the paintings are on private property so a guide
is essential. It is a pleasant round walk of approximately 3 hours. The panels
are well preserved and depict several buck species and a painting of a cow,
probably indicating contact between the Bushmen and the Inguni tribes..
Ox shelter:This delightful cave, the beauty of which has been marred by alien
vegetation encroachment, is situated on the way to Wonder Valley. Follow
the track from above the S Bends almost opposite Falcon Ridge to the Cathkin
Estates fence, just before their dam, and circumnavigate the dam in a southward
direction. You will pass a small kraal and follow the track for about a kilometer
to a small dip in the track. A path leads to the right up to this almost
obscure site. Remember you need an AMAFA registered guide to visit this site.
Maartens shelter:This small site is situated on the path between Champagne
Castle Hotel and The Sphinx path at Monks Cowl . It is well marked and is
a small set of paintings of Mountain Reed Buck on the underside of a large
fallen rock. Afriquest:This development is along the road to Bell Park Dam.
The paintings are a short distance west from the main farmhouse. The large
cave has been somewhat trashed by soldiers who occupied it in the early 1900’s
. But this is a history in itself as there is a carving of the regimental
badge in one of the rock faces. Access by permission of the owners.
cave:There are 2, possibly 3, painted caves at Fernwood lodge of which one
is easily accessible. It is fairly extensively painted with several panels
of buck and some human figures, although they are very faded. Nevertheless,
it is worth a visit but as it is on private property permission from the
management is necessary.
Cayley Lodge:About 4 km north of Cayley Lodge above
the Ama Swazi settlement is an extensive rock ledge where 2 small streams
enter the valley below. On the South side of this ledge is a small overhand
with some reasonably well preserved paintings comprising of a few Eland some
other antelope, human figures and a very faint therianthrope (half human
half animal drawing).
Arthur’s Seat: There is a small painted panel
on the Eastern side of Arthur’s Seat. Access is through private property
so permission is required and they are hard to find so a guide would be necessary.
Wonder Valley:This valley lies between the Champagne Valley and Injasuti
and can be accessed after a long walk from the R 600 just below Champagne
Castle Hotel. This is private property so access is only by permission of
the owners. There are reputed to be some good paintings but their location
is a closely guarded secret. I have seen a few small paintings below the
sandstone cliff on the Southern side of the valley. uKhahlamba Park-
Cowl: A number of sites can be accessed from the Monks Cowl Entrance to the
Ukhahlamba world heritage site. Generally however these are hard to find
as none of the modern maps show the painted caves ( in an attempt to restrict
access), and it requires a long walk. Remember you need to have an IMAFA
registered guide to access these sites.
Cat Cave:This painted cave is close
to Zulu Cave. It requires a long walk up the Sphinx path to Breakfast Stream
and on to Blind Man’s Corner and the contour path. Turn right at the
contour path to Hlathikulu Neck taking the Keith Bush Camp turnoff. The path
to Zulu Cave turns off to the right on the Keith Bush Camp path. An overnight
stay is suggested as it is a long way.
Anton’s Shelter:This small shelter
on top of the Little Berg overlooking the valley has a few good paintings.
It is on the path past Stable Cave and is a long walk starting either at
Monks Cowl or from above Berg View taking the Jacobs Ladder path.
Cave: This painted cave lies beyond Stable Cave, a long walk probably requiring
an overnight stay.
Didima Valley: Rock Art Interpretive Centre. The conservation authorities
have established Rock Art Interpretive Centre at the Didima Camp and a top
class audio visual shows are presented on a daily basis. These offer a good
insight into the life of the Bushmen and their Rock Art. The center opens
at 8.00 am and closes at 4.00 pm and presents shows every hour. (however
phone beforehand to check times 036 4888000)