Drakensberg Caves & Huts Database

Nkosazana Cave


Monk\\\'s Cowl Wilderness Area

Monk's Cowl / Mdedelelo Wilderness Area, Northern Drakensberg  This is a high berg cave, located on the escarpment behind Gray's Pass and about 4 km north of Ship's Prow Pass.  In summer it is a muddy mess, but in winter, with less water around and the rest frozen solid in the mud floor, it provides a cosy, sheltered alternative to a wind-blown tent.  For those who prefer tenting, though, there are plenty of campsites along the nearby stream, and some very fine lawn in front of the cave can prove useful when the whole party cannot fit into the cave.  The main problem with high berg caves is that they cannot be booked with any surety, since parties doing longer traverses from other areas often work on the assumption that these high altitude caves are seldom used, and they may get there before you.  However, common sense dictates that hikers planning to stay overnight on the escarpment should always carry sufficient tentage for situations like this, and it is the first party to arrive which has right of way under these circumstances.  The same does not apply to lower berg caves, though!

For those who know where to look, the cave can easily be seen from the top of Gray's Pass in clear weather.  Under misty conditions it is best to head from the top of the pass towards the Nkosazana  River and the campsites.  If one then works upriver about 400 metres, keeping to the right of the river at the height where the level grassland meets the rocky base of the hillside, you will eventually arrive at the entrance to the cave which can very easily be missed otherwise.  The small entrance can instantly be recognised by the stone wall which has been built across part of it to keep out some of the weather.

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

S29 04.532 E29 19.191 at 3081 metres


Accommodation: 4(S) or 10(W)

Nkosazana Cave is almost a true cave, being  rather more deep than it is high at the entrance.  There are many large rocks strewn around inside, but in winter there is sufficient floor area for about 8 to 10 hikers.  In a dry summer, allowing for drips, there may be sufficient space for 4 hikers, but usually the cave is so damp that only a masochist would want to stay overnight in it!  During the summer months herd boys frequent the area with their cattle and goats, and it is not uncommon to see livestock, especially horses and donkeys, at other times during the year.  The Gray's Pass area is notorious for its summer thunderstorms which can be frightening in their violence, and this part of the escarpment is best avoided during the height of summer.

In Zulu, nkosazaan is a young child.  Nkosazana Cave gets its name from the fact that it is best suited to a young child who can stand upright under the low roof.


The sleeping areas are mostly nice and level, but the one near the entrance gets the brunt of the weather and is best avoided under inclement conditions.


The Nkosazana River, actually no more than a stream, meanders through the flat alpine grassland in front of the cave.  Water can usually be found quite easily, but the distances required to get to it may be deceptive!  In winter there is always at least a trickle running down past the main campsites on the edge of the river towards Vultures Retreat.


There are several shallow pools in the bedrock of the river as it passes the campsites.


Because of its depth and low roof, Nkosazana Cave can provide excellent winter shelter for a small group of hikers.


Nkosazana Cave overlooks a gently sloping hillside towards the back of Champagne Castle.  This view is not awe-inspiring, but the fact that this is a high berg cave with large expanses of manicured lawn and alpine heather in front of it, curious little rock formations and other points of interest, adds appeal to what would otherwise be an un-noteworthy shelter.  A strenuous walk to the top of Champagne Castle provides spectacular views over the edge of the escarpment and towards the north and south, while a fairly level walk to Vulture's Retreat rewards one with a fine view of Dragon's Back, a tumbling waterfall and the possibility of spotting some Cape vultures.


+27 (036) 4681103


Last updated: 2009-08-20 10:17:39 | Report Listing Report Listing
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