BUSINGATHA:

SINGATHI CAVE TRAIL

BUSINGATHA LIES PARALLEL TO OBONJANENI AND BORDERS ROYAL NATAL NATIONAL PARK (THE LATTER NOW INCORPORATED INTO THE MALOTI-DRAKENSBERG WORLD HERITAGE SITE). BUSINGATHA AND OBONJANENI ARE PART OF THE AMAZIZI TRADITIONAL AUTHORITY AREA.

thandanani

Arrangements for a cultural visit can be made through BAWINILE MTOLO (074 724 7826). Bawinile is the facilitator for the AmaZizi Wilderness Group and the Mdlankomo Cultural and Rock art Group.

Arrangements for a guided trip that will enable hikers to familiarise themselves with the general area and routes can be made through AmaZizi local guide ELIJAH MBONANE (073 1374 690).

For overnight hiking trips the mountain register should be filled in at Thandanani Craft Centre, just past the turnoff to Busingatha, on the road to RNNP. Thandanani is a co-operative of 55 local women who produce outstanding crafts and who also supply overseas markets.

Trail Description

Singathi Cave is perfectly situated for both overnight hiking or as a base for multiple nights with day hikes from the cave exploring the surrounding area. The location of the cave, the ease of access, the scenic beauty of the immediate area, as well as the grand, unique views of the escarpment and the great swimming pools below, make this Little Berg cave potentially rival the best out there. It is perfect for a relatively easy weekend hike too.

Singathi Valley
Views while hiking up the Singathi Valley

The cave is reached along a relatively easy trail in the order of about 5km, and is suitable as a beginner's hike. The trail, which is part of a general network if trails used by the locals, follows the southern slopes of the Busingatha Valley.

The trail commences from the end of the Busingatha Road. Vehicles should be left at a homestead where arrangements have been made by the guide. Avoid parking at homesteads where no proper arrangements have been made, since break-ins have occurred in the past where these arrangements were not made.

The Cave

Entering the cave from the downstream end, the first sleeping area is encountered in the bottom half of the cave. There is a sleeping enclosure, demarcated by stone walls, which could perhaps sleep four people. The area around it could easily accommodate more people. However the floor in that area is covered with a thick layer of powdery dirt.

The far, upstream-end of the cave is the preferred sleeping area. It is a bit less dusty and also has a sleeping enclosure in the corner. During the rainy season the enclosure can sleep 3-4 people, but in the dry months, provided there is no heavy rainfall, this corner of the cave could accommodate double that. There are more sleeping spots close to the enclosure, and a convenient spot for cooking is directly in front of it.

Unfortunately, as large as the cave may be, it does have potential shortcomings as a shelter in the event of heavy rainfall and windy conditions due to its high roof. In addition, parts of the cave show signs of considerable dripping from the edge of the roof to the extent that rivulets can at times run into the far corner of the cave limiting some of the sleeping area. The extent to which the cave offers reliable shelter, especially to those who go there without a tent, will need to assessed in the long term.

Options

Directly below the cave in the river is a delightful spot for swimming, complete with a sandstone slide into a pool. Beware of the abrasive action of the sandstone on clothes!

Singathi Valley pools
The pools make a summer weekend trip to Singathi Cave very worthwhile.

The cave can also be used as a base for exploring the surrounding valleys and ridges. Opposite the cave is the start of a sharp ridge which ultimately leads up to the base of the Eastern Buttress and becomes the South East Arete - a spectacular and worthwhile climbing route for those that have the expertise. There is a trail along the start of this ridge which can be used for a scenic hike.

Singathi Valley
Early morning vistas, just around the corner

Further up the Singathi Valley explorations are also worthwhile. Several smaller, but nonetheless beautiful sandstone pools may be seen, and if you wander up far enough, you will be rewarded with an unusual and spectacular view of Mount Amery. If you persist further still, the junction with the gully leading up to the Inner Tower will be reached - this is the Eastern Inner Tower Gully (the western counterpart being in Royal Natal National Park). This gully ultimately provides access to the escarpment, but it is only for experienced, adventurous who are properly equipped. Read more on this page.

Alternate Routes

Variations of the route along the valley to and from the cave are possible due to the existing trail network. One of these variations is indicated on the trail map below. The Mkosheni rock art shelter, offering some fine paintings, can also be visited as part of the route. Visitors to the shelter must be accompanied by a rock art custodian. Read more on the rock art in the AmaZizi region here.

Mkosheni rock art
The main panel at Mkosheni Shelter

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Trail Map (Click to enlarge)

A full-scale version of the map may be downloaded here.

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