The Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park and its cave paintings

The Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is one of the best kept treasures in the South African territory. A space where the wildest nature and the most remote history go hand in hand. Thus, before the visitor a splendid spectacle opens up based on unique forests and cave art that is among the most valuable heritage of the entire African continent.

In the heart of the Great South Cliff

The Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is located in the heart of the Great South Cliff Mountains, a spectacular mountain range. here awaits you a broken landscape with peaks that exceed 3000 meters. The highest peak, Thabada Ntlenyana, reaches 3,492 meters in height.

That’s why, In winter, this area is a good place to practice sports such as skiing or snowboard. And those same landscapes, with the heat of summer, are ideal for hiking, horseback riding or adventure sports such as canyoning or paragliding.

However, today we want to talk about the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg park from another point of view. Due to its heritage value, We invite you to discover its valuable cave paintings.

The prehistoric art of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park

In total, scattered throughout the extension of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg park, Up to 35,000 cave paintings have been counted. They are spread over countless shelters and caves carved naturally into the slopes of this sandstone rock landscape, easily eroded by constant weather action.

This has been an ideal landscape for settlement since time immemorial, since it has provided habitat and shelter to man since distant prehistoric times. At the same time, its exuberant nature allowed both the hunting of wild animals and the gathering of wild fruits.

In this sense, Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg is a space that has many similarities with other places in the world where vestiges of rock art have been found. This is the case, for example, of the Dordogne in France or Cantabria in Spain.

Paintings of the San people in Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park

Rock art scholars attribute it to the San ethnic group, who lived in this territory about 4000 years ago. That is the dating that has been applied to the vast majority of the 600 shelters and caves where the paintings and engravings have been found.

It is a very extensive archaeological complex. In fact, it is the largest in the entire southern area of ​​Africa and one of the most important in the entire continent.

It is true that more recent paintings have also been found, made by the Bantu people, the following settlers in the area. However, the vast majority are from the San people and tell us how those tribes lived thousands of years ago.

Guided tours of the park

Currently, there is the possibility of taking guided tours inside the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg park. Itineraries range from off-road vehicle routes through these rugged lands to hiking. Without a doubt, this is the best option to enter this territory as beautiful as it is enigmatic.

It is the most practical to not get lost and also to reach the most interesting places. Like, for example, the area of ​​the Ndedema river valley. There the guides will show us some of the most spectacular cave ensembles and will explain in detail what can be seen there.

Interpretation of African rock art

Those explanations are what is most appreciated and what helps to understand this artistic ensemble. A) Yes, we will see how the hunting scenes are represented or what plants they used to collect fruits or have fibers with which to make their different tools, from clothes to ropes.

These types of scenes are the easiest to understand, but there are other paintings that are more difficult to understand. They are the ones that tell us about the beliefs or the organization that governed the life of these San tribes. Something that is surprising, like verifying that there is no distinction in power between men and women.

In short, discovering the mysteries of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg park and going through its guided itineraries is an activity that not many tourists know about. And instead, it is one more example that There is much more to South Africa than exciting photo safaris.

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