Drakensberg Caves & Huts Database

Irish Cave


Sehlabathebe National Park

This cave is situated about 2 km from Tarn Cave, across the border in Lesotho.  The border can be crossed from Tarn Cave over a flattened, rusty old fence, but since doing so would place you in Lesotho - and a national park at that - you should have your passports stamped at the Bushman's Nek Police Post and get the necessary permission from the Lesotho authorities to enter their park.  The best way to see Irish Cave is to include a visit during a trip to the Sehlabathebe Lodge, but this does mean that you will not be able to overnight in the cave.

Co-ordinates (WGS84 / dd mm.mmm):

at metres


Accommodation: 8

Irish Cave is unusual in that it has been hollowed out from bedrock which projects above the grassland and has a gaping big hole where one would expect to see a roof.  The edges of the hole are undercut and it is this circular overhang which can provide adequate shelter for about 8 people.

A cave with a large hole in its roof has to be named after the Irish who - as jokers would have it - are not renowned for their intelligence!  A more respectful version of how the cave got its name is that the patch of soil directly beneath the hole is covered in soft, velvety, bright green grass which would make any true Irishman homesick!


The sleeping areas are level and smooth, but may be muddy in high summer.


In summer the tarn outside the cave may be so full that you will have to make use of the purpose-built elevated stone walkway to gain entry to the cave.  There are several other large tarns within a few hundred metres of the cave as well, and some of these seldom dry up completely, even in winter, although it would be wise to boil the stagnant water before drinking it.  There is also a small stream in the little valley on the escarpment side of the cave which can normally provide drinking water even in winter.


In summer there are plenty of shallow tarns with nice rock beaches to provide sun-worshippers (and frogs) with all their needs, but in winter most of these dry up almost completely.  Take care, however, not to damage the delicate water plants with their little white flowers which, though endemic to the area, are found nowhere else on the planet!


The entrance to the cave is recessed behind some large mounds of bedrock, and also faces away from the weather side.  This would make any other cave very sheltered, but remember that this one has a hole in its roof!


The view from the cave is nothing spectacular, except that on a cloudless night you can look up at the stars through the hole in the roof!  However, if you clamber onto one of the many mounds of rough bedrock that surround the cave, you will have a spectacular view of the Devil's Knuckles and much of the southern Drakensberg escarpment on a clear day.  The rock formations in the vicinity of the cave have been shaped into weird and wonderful sculptures by the passage of time, and you can indulge yourself in a short excursion from the cave, over flat ground, to explore these outcrops.  There are also many early Basutho kraals in the area, with their little stone huts nestled into the overhangs which provided both protection and one wall of the goat kraal that each one overlooks.


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Last updated: 2009-08-17 16:11:25 | Report Listing Report Listing
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