All you need to know about the route, fauna, flora,
how to get fit, what to pack and more.
25th May 2019
Weekend 24 – 26 May 2019
Challenge yourself and hike the Cavern’s Big Five – Hlolela, Battleship, Sugar Loaf, Cold Hill, Camels Hump.
All proceeds from this hike go to the Royal Drakensberg Education Trust.
The Big 5 Hike summits the 5 peaks that surround the Cavern and it is approximately 18 kms and takes most folk 8 hours. Hikers need to raise R7000 and they have the weekend on us.
If you would like to bring husbands, children or partners along they are welcome at a reduced rate of R1120 per adult sharing per night and children paying a percentage depending on their ages.
18km – 8hours – 5 Drakensberg Classics
The Big5Hike covers 18km and takes approximately 8 hours in a group. Individual hikers can do it comfortably in 5 ½ hours (and we even had one participant run it twice).
1. Hollard Hlolela – A kind of beautiful
The hike begins on The Cavern front lawn, ascends up a steep incline via the Rustler’s Gap and Scillia Gulley to Hlolela meaning “a kind of beautiful” and is 2,127m above sea level. From here you contour along the summit of Hlolela and climb to your second peak.
2. Dezzo Roofing “Battleship” – The name conjures the shape
At “Battleship” you will find an old rusted fence which marks the boundary between KwaZulu-Natal and The Free State and from which you look over the enormous dam, Metsi Matso which once held the South African trout fishing record of 16lbs. Descending from Battleship, past Venus Bath where a collection of natural pools create a majestic bathing stop in summer, one reaches the next peak.
3. Out in Africa Sugar Loaf -an iconic shape and half way
Sugar Loaf is perched high on a point with unrestricted views over the valley below. This is approximately your half way mark and a great place to take a moment to fill the heart with breathtaking vistas.
Lunch: Mooney Ford Cannibal Cavern
From Out in Africa Sugar Loaf you make your way down to our lunch stop at Mooney Ford Cannibal Cavern where you will enjoy a welcomed feast!
4. ClucasGray Cold Hill – Isolation makes for a great view point
This is your next peak from where you will see magnificent views of the Amphitheatre including the Sentinel and Eastern Buttress. After a steep descent down Devil’s Staircase and Cavern gap where even the faithful bullmastiff Moya had a whimper and had to be assisted down, you will hike through a forest of thick bracken and deep green moss covered trees to reach Cannibal Cavern, home to the ancestors of the Amazizi tribe and our resting place for picnic lunch. A gentle meander will take you along Surprise Ridge to your last peak.
5. INCE Camel’s Hump – Home Jeeves and don’t spare the…. um Camels?
Shaped like a hump this final peak is tougher than it looks (maybe because it’s your last obstacle before home) but the 360 degree views make it well worth the climb. Your final downhill will take you back via the stables where you will be welcomed by a sea of supporters, chariot’s of fire bellowing from the speakers and a cold beer on offer!
** NEW **
Little5Hike – As spectacular, less challenging
Departing 9:30am – Approximately 10Km
In 2017 we have added the Little5Hike as an option for hikers who are looking for less of a challenge. This hike reaches the cliffline at Echo Cave, drops back to Msonti and then meanders along a contour to include Lone Rock before ascending to the Cannibal Cavern. All hikers meet for a festive celebratory lunch in Cannibal Cavern. Hike from Cannibal to Surprise Ridge and then home to the Front Lawn.
1. Echo Cave
The hike begins on The Cavern front lawn, ascends up an incline to reach Echo Cave where hikers can enjoy a wonderful view back over the valley. From here you drop via a beautiful yellowwood forest to your next way point.
Msonti – The Yellowwood
Catch your breath in the cool of this solitary yellowwood tree above the small band of stonestone cliff which is the site of the original quarry. Sandstone was blasted here and then taken by ox & sleigh to build the main lounge at The Cavern. Then meander along the contour to Lone Rock.
3. Lone Rock
Not a lone rock but the only rock adorned with Bushman Paintings, giving us a glimpse into the life of the hunter-gatherers so long ago.
4. Lunch: Mooney Ford Cannibal Cavern
Meander and then a small climb into Cannibal Cavern where you meet up with all the other hikers for a festive celebratory lunch..
5. Surprise Ridge
From Cannibal Cavern the walk is an easy meander to the top of Surprise Ridge. Take in the view of the Amphitheatre before descending via Cowslip Falls and then be welcomed home by Total Gateway on the front lawn.
Take time to stop and smell the flowers
En route one can often catch sightings of bushbuck, eland, or the common Chacma baboon as well as protea, wild dagga, streptocarpus and any number of wild flowers, grasses and ferns.
To Register, To Room, To Relax
Registration is open between 2pm and 6pm on the Friday evening before the hike. To register please go to reception where you will be asked to confirm the balance of your donation (or more if you have been particularly successful in raising funds or are feeling super generous). You will receive your room key, welcome map and a printed schedule of the weekend.
You will then be directed to the registration room where you will be given your fabulous goodie bag and hike essentials. All details of the hike will be provided and you will be asked to register for your preference of departure times. Should you be attempting the hike more than once in one day please ensure you discuss this with the event organisers who will be available during registration or email us before.
Welcome drinks and official event opening begins at 6:30pm followed by a delicious three course meal.
Saturday – Hike Day
To accommodate all our hikers we have three departure times. All groups are accompanied by experienced Cavern guides. Refreshments are provided in your goodie bags and at several points along the hike. All groups depart from the lawn in front on reception after breakfast.
6:30am – Frivolous and frail – For the young, the old and the not so fast.
8:30am – Fit and fabulous – Most of our hikers depart with this group. We will stagger the departure of this group in 10 minute intervals to avoid bottlenecks on major climbs and at refreshment stops. We also want to make sure our photographers get to see you all!
9:30am – Fast and furious – For the super-fit and super fast or those attempting to complete the hike more than once. Our hike sweepers are also included in this group.
On completing the hike, you are welcomed home with beers and cheers at our finish line. Celebrations follow at 6:30 with cocktails, speeches and another fabulous dinner.
Sunday – Relax and Enjoy
Visit the school at 10am after another delicious Cavern breakfast. Relax and rest in our spa or enjoy some fishing, cycling or any of the other facilities at the Cavern.
To book at The Cavern Drakensberg Resort for longer either before or after the Big5Hike, please contact Reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org
Be comfortable, safe and able
Packing is quite a personal thing and it is something that you master with experience. If you are confused or concerned about what to pack then speak to us or friends who are experienced hikers.
As a basic rule of thumb:
- you want to be prepared for changes in weather (sun, rain, wind)
- have good footwear
- the ability to remain hydrated
- sufficient equipment to remain safe
Those four points are key on pretty much any hike. Since this is a day hike and you will be in a group and relatively close to your home base, The Cavern, you can pack quite light.
We recommend the following:
- Hiking boots
- Hiking socks – some people will use thin socks or stockings underneath a thicker pair to help with preventing blisters
- Windbreaker jacket – one with air vents and a hood is best.
- Layers for warmth – e.g. a fleece, warm jersey, a shirt or t-shirt. Specialist fabrics are best as these tend to remain dry when you perspire and prevent you getting wet and cold.
- Comfortable long pants and shorts if you generally get hot
- Sun hat, sunblock, sunglasses
- Gloves and a beanie if you tend to get cold
- A torch
- A water bottle or two
- A walking stick if you like (extendable is best)
- A costume and towel if you are likely
PLEASE NOTE: The weather can be cold as we will be hiking in winter. We will provide, compliments of our corporate sponsors, beanies, T-shirts and a soft shell jacket that you are asked to wear during the hike. TOTAL SA is providing day packs and a water bottle to carry with you during the hike.
For at the Cavern
You might light to pack your usual weekend get-away gear and also:
- smart/casual evening wear for dinner
- comfy wear for before and after the hike
- umbrella & torch for getting to and from rooms
Get the most out of the hike
Preparation will depend very much on your current fitness level. While you don’t need to be a top athlete to participate we do recommend that you do some preparation so that you can enjoy the hike.
We think the best way to prepare for the Big5Hike is regular walking preferably with an incline. We recommend that you try to do 5kms three times a week.
If you can get away to the Berg before June a great way to test yourself is to spend 4 nights at The Cavern doing the group long walk and even one of the Big 5 Peaks. Some recommended Cavern walks to do as preparation are:
1) Sugar Loaf. This walk takes about 3hrs at a good pace. Leaving the front lawn one climbs up behind the Resort passing Top dams towards Sugar Loaf gap. Once on top of the escarpment it is a nice contour to the foot of Sugar Loaf with a final climb to the peak. The descent takes you back on the same route down Sugar Loaf and back to the Hotel. Alternatively, one can lengthen this walk by adding Cold Hill and descending via Cavern gap to Cannibal Cavern or straight back to the Hotel via Cowslip Falls Dam.
2) Hlolela. This walk takes about 3 1/2hrs at a good pace. One ascends up a steep incline via the Rustler’s Gap and Scillia Gulley gap to the top of Hlolela. After a short contour walk you climb up Battleship and down past Venus Bath until you reach Sugar Loaf gap. The descent from Sugar Loaf gap is fairly steep but will take you all the way back to The Cavern front lawn in time for lunch.
3) Camel’s Hump. This walk takes about 3hrs. Leaving the front lawn one can walk down past the stables to ascend directly up to Camel’s Hump. Alternatively, one climbs up behind the Resort past Cowslip Falls dam towards Surprise Ridge from where you will get a magnificent view of The Amphitheatre. Turning left, you contour along the ridge towards the ascent to Camel’s Hump. From the top of Camel’s Hump it’s a 30minute descent back to the Hotel via the stables.
1) I am 75 years old. Am I too old to do theBig5Hike?
No, last year we had a 70 year old complete the hike and this year we have two entrants over 70 already enrolled. If you would like to join for the weekend and would like to hike but are worried that the Big5Hike will be too strenuous then you can always join us on the Little5Hike (see above for details) or join as a non participating guest.
2) Can my children walk with me?
Yes, we encourage families and this year the whole Bedingham family will participate in the Big5Hike aged 8,10 and 12. All adults must raise the stipulated minimum but children under 18 are asked to raise only half the minimum.
3) I have hiked before but am not currently fit. Will I cope?
Yes, the hike is challenging but taken at a very slow pace with many stops for tea, juice and lunch. If Moya the resident Bullmastiff can do it, so can you!
4) How do I get there?
The Cavern is situated 3hrs from Johannesburg and Durban on the R74 north of Bergville. There is no public transport so you will need to arrange your own transport. Please have a look at our Contact Us page for a detailed description of how to get to the Cavern as well as GPS co-ordinates and a map. (Opening our website on your mobile phone will allow you to open Google Maps and navigate from there).
Should you require a taxi service please get in touch with the Cavern who will be happy to assist you.
5) When should I arrive?
Complimentary accommodation is provided by The Cavern for the first 75 entrants who raise the required sponsorship and Gold Corporate Sponsors for the Friday and Saturday night. All hikers must register by 6pm on the Friday before the hike. To book at The Cavern Berg Resort for longer either before or after the Big5hike, please contact reservation at email@example.com
6) What if I can’t raise the full donation required?
Unfortunately all hikers must contribute the stipulated minimum in order to participate in theBig5Hike. Non-contributing spouses or children who are not hiking are welcome to come for the weekend at a discounted rate offered by The Cavern. Please visit their website at www.cavern.co.za to find out more.
7) I own a business and would like to do theBig5Hike as a team building event. Is this possible?
Yes. The Big5Hike is a fantastic opportunity to bring a team or family together by completing a hike that is challenging but not insurmountable. We have a few Corporate Sponsors who are contributing funds to the event and have enlisted a number of employees each raising at least the minimum amount for this exact reason.
8) What accommodation is provided?
The Cavern is offering free accommodation including all meals and teas for the two nights over theBig5Hike to the first 75 hikers who contribute the minimum amount. Additional accommodation is available at nearby resorts including:
– Montusi Mountain Lodge: www.montusi.co.za 036 438 6243
-Sungubala Eco-Camp: www.sungubala.co.za firstname.lastname@example.org
– Alpine Heath: www.alpine-heath.co.za 0861 310 000
– Royal Natal National Park (chalets at Tendele & camping): www.royalnatal.info 036 4386303
9) What will I receive to enable me to raise funds?
The Cavern will email you a sponsorship form together with “The Story” on The School and some photos to inspire you. For more information including a photo gallery and references please visit The Cavern website at www.cavern.co.za
10) How do I know the funds will be well spent and not mismanaged?
The School was founded in 2007 to provide education for Megan’s own three children as well as uplift the children of the Amazizi community. The Carte family has owned The Cavern for three generations, employs many people from the local community and has a vested interest and a strong social commitment to uplifting and helping to develop the community around them. The Royal Drakensberg Primary School Society is an approved Section 18A public benefit organisation audited annually by ASH HELLBERG & VAN ROOYEN.
11) As a Corporate Sponsor will I be able to expense my donation thereby claiming the full tax benefit?
Yes.The Royal Drakensberg Primary School Society is an approved Section 18A public benefit organisation (PBO Reference number: 930030293) and donations will be tax deductible. All individuals and companies can receive donation receipts if requested. The School also qualifies as a BEE initiative helping sponsors fulfil their social responsibility and BEE Commitments.
12) What should I wear on the Big5Hike?
The weather can be cold as we will be hiking in winter. We will provide, compliments of our corporate sponsors, beanies, T-shirts and a soft shell jacket that you are asked to wear during the hike. Sponsors are providing day packs and a water bottle to carry with you during the hike. Otherwise, you will need a good pair of hiking boots, thick socks and a light windbreaker jacket. Read our “Pack List” section above for more details.