There’s something special about camping under the stars … until it starts raining. A good compromise is to sleep in a cave or overhang and some of South Africa’s most popular hiking destinations, including the Drakensberg and Cederberg, are littered with such shelters.
The overnight camp on this two-day trail on Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve in the Free State is in a large sandstone overhang. It’s basic with water, a pit toilet, a few pots and three wattle-and-daub rooms. Magnifi cent sandstone formations, rolling grasslands, pretty gorges, wonderful swimming holes, abundant plains game and the option of scaling peaks are some of the attractions of this moderately difficult trail. Camping costs R120 a person a night. Jacana Collection, tel 0861-522-262, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.jacanacollection.co.za.
Unlike most of the overnight caves in the Berg, Sherman’s Cave is easily accessible, so makes a wonderful base from which to make an assault on Cathedral Peak. The path starts just below the hotel and leads across the river and up the steep slopes on the other side of the valley towards Cathedral Peak. As you near the cliffs you’ll see a less-travelled path heading down to the right, which leads to a wooded gorge with a natural pool. However, keep climbing gently on the main path and no more than two hours from setting out you’ll see the faint, steep path leading up to Sherman’s Cave (sleeps 10). Continue along the path to a stream for drinking water. Cost to camp is R50 a person a night. Tel 036-488-8000, www.kznwildlife.com.
This circular mountain trail on a farm in Voëlvlei Nature Conservancy, an hour outside Cape Town, starts at a picturesque Cape Dutch homestead or at a converted double-decker bus that serves as a base camp should you arrive a day early. It passes through wonderful fynbos to Ontongskop. The deep, wellprotected overnight cave at the six-kilometre mark is just below the summit. Fill your water bottles at the stream running down the kloof on the way up (about an hour into the hike) as there’s no other source until you’ve finished the descent. Dogs are welcome and there are a number of day trails on the farm. Camping is R75 a person and R25 a dog a night. Tel 079-500- 1906, email@example.com, www.silwerfontein.co.za.
This four-day trail in the foothills of the Baviaanskloof is the ultimate for cavemen (or women). Each night you sleep in a different cave, ranging from basic shelters to fully equipped guesthouse-style lodgings. Daily distances are short and there’s an option to have bags transferred between camps, so this is a rare opportunity for the whole family to enjoy. Meals can be arranged on request. Accommodation is R175 a person a night, and a guide is R120 (the cost of which is split among the group). Tel 044-934-1012, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.makkedaat.co.za.
You don’t want to get caught short in the mountains as bad weather rolls in, so pack a good waterproof jacket. New on the market is Columbia’s Compounder shell, a top-of-the-range, seamsealed jacket which will keep you dry in even the worst conditions. It’s also breathable, so you won’t get drenched in sweat. R2 999. www.columbiasportswear.co.za.
Do you have any recommendations for awesome caves to camp in?
Previous post by Fiona Mcintosh:« Five hikes and walks in Cape Town
Next post by Fiona Mcintosh:A guide to essential winter hiking gear »
Tags: Baviaanskloof, camping, camping in caves, campsites, Cathedral Peak, caves, drakensberg, Free State, Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve, Rietrivier Trail, Sherman’s Cave, Silwerfontein, Voëlvlei Nature Conservancy, Waterkloof Trail