Added by Bryan Young
Experience the magic of camping in caves, wandering through high altitude fields of wildflowers, stunning sunrises under the gaze of the dramatic Drakensberg mountain border of Lesotho and South Africa.
Sehlabathebe National Park is one of the most remote areas of Lesotho. It is also one of the most unique places in the entire country. Due to its isolation the park does not see vast amounts of visitors and you can find solitude quite easily. However, don’t let it’s remoteness deter you, this is one of the prettiest parks I have been to in the world!
Upon your arrival to the park, check in at the newly constructed lodge. Instead of parking here, or staying here if you arrive in the late evening, drive the final couple of kilometers on the dirt road to the old Jonathan Lodge and leave your car there. From there venture left away from the lodge toward the field of magical rock formations and the iconic “Knuckles” of the Drakensberg Mountains.
The hike to Tarn Cave is relaxing as it meanders around the boulders and tarn pools that the park is known for. As your follow the main trail, about 1 mile from Jonathan Lodge, see if you can spot the natural arch. This arch gives you a great picture as you can “frame” the Knuckles within the formation. In general, this area is almost like an adult playground where you can explore and climb all over the rock formations. But as tempting as it is to stay here, keep going, as there are more treats throughout the rest of the massive park.
From the rock formation field, continue to venture on the trail, making sure to keep the Knuckles to your left. With the rock formations to your back you will cross a wide field and begin a short but steep ascent where you will have to pass through a old and rusted barbed wire fence. Pass through the fence to the top of the hill. From here you will walk beneath the ridge to your right and descend upon a field with a large tarn pool. To your left will be cliffs. As your near the tarn pool keep your eyes to your left and you will see a trail that splits the rock cliff and heads toward the Knuckles.
Head down this trail and you will discover the beautiful Tarn Cave!
Similar to the cave dwellings of the ancestral Pueblo people who lived in Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, you will find a stunning campsite with plentiful places to sleep and a view that is beyond words. The cave provides the perfect frame for beautiful pictures of the Knuckles and the defining features of the park, especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.
One final note: This is not a long, nor a strenuous hike, so take your time and enjoy the park. Once you reach the cave feel free to set up camp, fetch water and also adventure all around the area. Just like the rock formations you passed through earlier, the surrounding area has lots of wonderful nooks to explore. But just be sure to be back in the cave for the beautiful sunset pictures and to set your watch extra early for the sunrise!
- Sleeping pad / bag
- Tent (not needed, but will fit inside the cave if you want)
- Water filtration
- Full tank of gas to get to / from the park (fill up in Qacha's Nek)
- GPS can be helpful to find the caves easier (but we did not require one)
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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