Drakensberg’s San Rock Art

Drakensberg’s San rock art represents a core reasons why this spectacular mountain range received world heritage site status . Drakensberg’s San rock art is represented by more than 30 000 examples of San Rock Art in the Drakensberg. Good examples of San Rock art open to the public:

Drakensberg's San Rock Art. The world's largest repository of rock art.
The World’s largest repository of rock art.

Firstly, Battle Cave

Drakensberg's San Rock Art
The most significant Fresco at Battle Cave

The tour to Battle Cave is a guided hike. Book in advance through the Injisuthi Camp of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.  The telephone number for this camp is 036 431 9000.

Battle Cave, with its wide sandstone overhang, is one of the best-preserved San rock art sites in southern Africa.  The distance to the cave is 5.7 km. The fenced cave is not accessible without a guide. 

The most significant “fresco” shows two opposing groups, women trying to restrain their menfolk from entering the fray, arrows flying in all directions, and wounded and dying warriors. An exquisite painting on the right top side shows a warrior in full stride, with his bow and arrow poised and a full quiver of arrows. It is far more detailed and delicate than others in the panel, so one wonders if it might represent a spiritual presence. Paintings in other caves often depict intricate abstract figurines, which possibly represent the spiritual facet of Bushman life. Shamans painted when in a trance-like state.


Secondly, MAIN CAVE

Main Cave, near the Giants Castle Camp of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, is one of the most important sites of San Rock Art in South Africa. It is a substantial sandstone cave, with an estimated 500 examples of their rock art. What is important is that:

  • It is not only a shelter but a museum, with displays that depict the traditional way of life of the San;
  • It is fenced to protect it from vandalism;
  • Also, the site has guided tours, open to the public; and
  • Lastly, it is easily accessible; the walk to Main Cave is gentle and only takes between 45 minutes to one hour to reach Main Cave.

The tours take place every hour between 09h00 to 15h00 daily for a small fee.
One of the most critical ‘frescos’ in the cave is two huge figurines with animal like heads. There are two interpretations of this painting. Firstly, there is a theory that the San used to wear masks when they were performing spiritual dances or when they hunted. Secondly, there is a belief that their Shamans could morph with animals. These manifestations were known as anthropes.

It was close to this site that in 1873 the Hlubi leader, Langalibalele, made a bid to escape to Lesotho just over the high Drakensberg through “Langalibalele’s Pass” . The Colonial government regarded him as an ‘outlaw’.

It is also close to this site that the world-renowned Vulture Hide exists. This attraction offers the bird-enthusiast a unique opportunity to view and photograph various raptors and vultures, such as the endangered bearded vulture or Lammergeyer, the Cape vulture and Verreaux’s eagle.

San Rock protocol

  • Firstly,only AMAFA registered open sites may be visited;
  • Also, visits are with the approval of the custodian of the site. Custodians are the landowners or other appointed bodies (e.g. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) who have a responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the site.
  • Thirdly, visitors must be accompanied by an AMAFA registered guide; and
  • Lastly, no more than eight people may enter the site at a time