Drakensberg Caves & Huts Database

Leopard Cave


Cathedral Peak Wilderness Area

Leopard Cave can be reached from the Cathedral Peak office via Solar Cliffs, or via Mike's Pass and Phillip's Folly.  In fact, the nicest weekend route is the circular one which takes in both Solar Cliffs and Mike's Pass.  The route up from Solar Cliffs passes through an exceptionally fine patch of indigenous forest, which includes a large pool and waterfall.  In summer there are plenty of opportunities for swimming, but both the Ndedema River and Mhlwazini River come down in flood regularly and very great care and discretion should be used when trying to cross these rivers under these conditions, especially with children.  Several hikers have lost their lives while trying to cross these flooded rivers.  The best time to visit is between March and May, when the rivers are usually lower and the water may be warm enough to be enjoyable!

Leopard Cave, Poachers Cave, Gravel Cave and Schoongezicht Cave lie on a major dagga smuggling route which originates on the escarpment above the Tlanyaku and Organ Pipes passes and follows the Ndedema valley to the settlement below.  The smugglers show no consideration for the environment, making fires, leaving litter along their entire route and taking short cuts which have produced many new major paths which will be the ruin of the gorge.  Please do not behave like these criminals by making use of their paths - stick to the original, carefully contoured paths no matter how tempting it is to take their shortcuts!

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

at metres


Accommodation: 12

This fine cave is officially closed! The main reason for this is to protect the Bushman rock art adjacent to it.  However, the increase in dagga trafficking and theft in the Ndedema Valley is a good reason to avoid it.

Leopard Cave is a fairly deep, low overhang.  Only the front section is high enough to be able to stand upright, so care must be taken not to scratch one's back or bump one's head when moving around the cave, especially when carrying backpacks in and out.  The very back section of the cave imparts a feeling of homely security and comfort even in the worst of weather.  The main cave can easily accommodate 12 hikers, especially in winter when the terrace near the front of the cave is not too damp from drips.  There is another small overhang just round the corner from the main cave suitable for one or two insomniacs or snorers - whichever is in the minority!

The sandstone cliff into which Leopard Cave has been carved continues around on the escarpment side of the cave, and has provided an easel for Bushman artists.  The cave is named after the painting of a leopard chasing a very athletic-looking Bushman.  From the humour captured in this painting, one assumes that the lucky Bushman lived to not only see another day but also to laugh about and paint the event!  Unfortunately the paintings have faded rapidly over the last 20 years and unless the light is just right it can take some patient searching to find this particular painting.  There are no leopards in the area anymore to worry about, but beware of the night adders which seem to like the indigenous forest below the cave.  The whole Ndedema Gorge area is rich in rock art, and for those interested in this art form, a visit to nearby Eland Cave is an absolute must.  Nearby Poachers Cave also has some interesting paintings.

Beware of theft!


The floor of the main sleeping area is perfectly flat and smooth, but as a result of the good shelter it is usually bone dry and therefore dusty. However, during a wet summer the roof can develop several drips, making the sleeping areas less appealing.  Less supple folk may find getting in and out of the cave quite a challenge, but little people will enjoy one of the few advantages of being closer to the ground than the rest of us!


A small stream runs below the cave in summer, and can be reached by walking out to the right of the cave along a short contour path, or by venturing down the steep, grassy slope in front of the cave.  In drier weather you will have to find water in the small gorge which you pass through en route to the cave.  This involves quite a steep climb back up to the cave.


There are several pools in the small gorge, some jaccuzi-sized and others with muddy bottoms.  There is also a fine section of bedrock and pools hiding in the gorge a little further downstream for those who are willing to go the distance, bearing in mind that at the end of a hot summer's day you will have scored nothing by the time you get back up to the cave!


Because of its depth and low roof, Leopard Cave provides excellent shelter from both wind and rain, and stays relatively warm in the coldest weather.  However, in an exceptionally wet summer season it may be necessary to do some shallow trenching to direct water run-off from the sleeping quarters.


Leopard Cave is at the top end of a narrow, forested Gorge, and overlooks on one side a gently sloping hillside covered by some fine young protea treas.  Further in the distance one can see the opposite side of the Ndedema Gorge, and just beyond the mouth of the cave it is possible to view a small section of the escarpment on a clear day.  The main attraction of the cave is its location overlooking the Ndedema Gorge with its accompanying indigenous forests, steep hillsides and proteas.


+27 (036) 4881880


Last updated: 2009-08-20 16:58:39 | Report Listing Report Listing
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