A Backpacker's Guide To The

NATAL DRAKENSBERG

 

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Rat Hole Cave

Rat Hole Cave - Courtesy of P Hilder     Rat Hole Cave - Courtesy of P Hilder     Rat Hole Cave - Courtesy of P Hilder     Rat Hole Cave accommodation - Courtesy of C Sommer

Location:

Mnweni, Northern Drakensberg.

GPS Coordinates: WGS 84

S28 51.401 E28 56.634 at 3 015 metres (C Sommer)

Description:

This has to be one of the most interesting caves in the Berg. It is a deep, narrow tunnel some 7 m long, 1 m wide and about 1 m high, becoming slightly lower but wider at the back. Lying between Mbundini Pass and Fangs Pass it looks onto the Mbundini Abbey and the Madonna. It is situated in a rock band above the valley that comes up from below Mbundini Abbey and is directly across from Skylight Cave. Up to four people can be accommodated though this becomes an interesting exercise in efficient use of space. Even though this cave may be too cramped for some parties, if you appreciate Berg caves this one is worth the experience.

Comfort:  2/5

The single factor making this cave uncomfortable is that it is very cramped. One can only crawl into it without a pack on. The packs have to be left at the mouth of the cave, especially when there are 3 or 4 people. If you suffer from claustrophobia you should not sleep right at the back. The roof is even lower at the back and you have to wait for those lying in front to move out the way if you want to go out. The back portion also bends slightly away from the entrance which means that the entrance is not always visible and that it is extremely dark at night. In order to accommodate four people two have to sleep next to each other at the back in alternate formation because it is slightly wider. The other two have to sleep head-to-toe in a line with the packs right at the entrance which can be used to block off the entrance in really bad weather. The entrance does get wet in summer so a ground sheet is needed for the fourth person.  On the other hand, the floor is perfectly flat and the cave can feel very cosy. It offers extremely good protection from the weather and is noticeably warm inside.

Water:  3/5

During summer there are small pools very close to the cave where water can be obtained. In the drier months one may have to walk up to 500 m to the perennial stream in the main valley.

Pools:  1/5

Some shallow pools may be found along the stream forming the main valley.

Shelter:  5/5

This caves offers excellent protection from the weather because of it's depth and small entrance. Backpacks can even be used to close off the entrance for even better protection and to increase the warmth inside.

Outlook:  4/5

The Mbundini Abbey and the Madonna can be seen directly from the cave. Sunrise produces a spectacular silhouette affect on the Madonna. A 5 minute walk to the escarpment edge will provide some of the most spectacular views in the Berg especially at sunrise. The view includes Mponjwane and the Mweni Needles in the distance, Fangs Pass and a full blown view of the Madonna  and her worshippers, as well as Mbundini Abbey.

Overall Rating:  15/25

History:

The name is a very apt description for a cave that is a deep, narrow hole. It should not be interpreted to mean that it is dirty or unpleasant inside. Information about this cave was supplied by C Sommer.

Last modified on 2011/11/10