The Raptors Way

This newly launched slackpacking trail, enables hikers of moderate fitness, to explore a little traversed section of Northern Berg wilderness, and get a birds-eye view of one of only two Vulture colonies in the Drakensberg.

Starting out from the lovely Cavern hotel, the trail heads up and over the sandstone cliffs, summiting Sungubala peak, and across to Drak Mountain Lodge for two nights.

The trail days range from 10 – 14km/day with Cavern hotel providing the perfect starting point, and Drak Lodge, nestled up against high sandstone cliffs overlooking mountainous foothills, providing an unrivalled overnight location.

Being just 3-3.5hr drive from either Johannesburg or Durban, this Northern Berg slackpacker offers the perfect long weekend getaway for friends or families. With top notch catering, luggage transfers, and guide included – you’ll have all you need to escape responsibility for a rest and reset in the mountains.

  • Trip Duration3 Hike Days / 3 Nights – extra day options avail
  • Daily DistancesDay 1: 12km/ 5hr (940m Ascent)Day 2: 13.5km/ 5-6hr (563m Ascent)Day 3: 12km/ 4hr (426m Ascent)
  • Trail Grading3/ 5 - Fitness. As mountain trails go, this one has a moderate amount of climbing, but one still needs to be hiking fit.3/ 5 - Technicality. Some steep ascents on Day 1 & 2 but without a heavy backpack. Some tricky, scrambly sections.
  • Trail TerrainMountainous terrain. Starting at 1500m and climbing to 1700m at Drak Mountain Lodge
  • Accommodation1 Night at Cavern Hotel2 Nights in Mountain Log Cabins
  • Logistic SupportThis is a fully-catered, guided & luggage supported trail.Luggage transferred by vehicle
  • Group SizeFrom 2-12 persons / per group
  • PricingOn a group of 4 -5 persons: R7,700/pp
At a Glance

This 3-day hike is a great option to do as a long-weekend break. It's a nice option for family or friend groups as there is also an option for a transfer up to Drak Mountain Lodge for those that can’t manage the first day's harder hike. There is nearly 950m of ascent on the first day, but there is also a gentler alternative which contours below the cliffs.

Day two entails a visit to the vulture colony and along the ridge to a viewpoint overlooking Sterkfontein dam; whilst the third and final day is a gentler descent returning to the Cavern, through montane grassland and indigenous forests.

  1. Day 1Arrival Day

    Self-drive to Northern Berg (3-3.5hr) from Durban/JHB.

    Overnight: Cavern Berg Hotel (Dinner provided)

  2. Day 2Hike Day 1: Cavern Hotel – Drak Mountain Lodge via Top Ridge & Sungubala Mountain (12km/5-6hr/940m ascent)

    Today’s trail starts out through the indigenous Fern Forest, up Rustlers Gap into Sungubala Valley and on to Bishop’s Inkaba (belly button) - where you will find a small waterfall.

    From here, one needs to get above the sandstone cap via the Godfrey Miya Pass. Once above the cliffs, you’ll follow the contour to Sungubala Mountain (2133m) - with a summit to tick if you so inclined.

    From here you will stay on a north-easterly bearing, heading out to and down Stoney Pass, with Drak Mountain lodge nestled at the foot of the escarpment.

    Enjoy a gourmet dinner by candlelight and the relaxed tempo of this cosy off-grid mountain lodge.

    Overnight: Drak Mountain Lodge (Breakfast & lunch enroute. Gourmet dinner at Lodge)

  3. Day 3Hike Day 2: Drak Lodge – Vulture Colony – Babinonge (return) (7/13.4km return/3.5-6hr/563m ascent)

    After a hearty breakfast, we’ll start out from Drak Lodge visiting a well preserved San Rock Art Site before a gradual ascent towards the cliff line.

    The gradient increases markedly on the last pass to the top, but once summited, it’s a short stroll across the sandstone cap to a prime viewing site for the Cape Vulture colony.

    For those wanting an easier day, a return can be made after the viewing site (7km round-trip), or continue along the sandstone ridge through to Babinonge where one gets a splendid view across to Sterkfontein dam, on the other side of the mountain.

    You will return home to Mountain lodge by the same trail, for another cosy log cabin night.

  4. Day 4Hike Day 3: Drak Mountain Lodge – Descent return to Cavern (12km/4-5hr/426m ascent)

    The final day is the easiest with a gradual and mostly contoured descent along 4x4 tracks and hiking trail back to the Cavern. It contours well below the cliff-line through grasslands and small pockets of indigenous forest, passing through Top Lodge and Sungubala.

    You’ll visit the Silent Woman carving, and then head down Bushbuck ridge, through the Fern Forest and back to Cavern…maybe even in time for lunch.

  5. Extra Day OptionExtra Hiking Day from Cavern (14km / 10km options)

    If you keen for an extra hike day, we recommend spending 2 nights at the Cavern and doing our adapted version of the Cavern Big 5 or the Cavern Little 5.

Raptors Way - Day 2

Heading to the top of those sandstone cliffs to see the vulture colony.

1 Night at Cavern Berg Hotel – comfortable family-friendly hotel. Standard rooms costed for, with upgrade and extra night options available.

2 Nights at Mountain Lodge – log cabins nestled under the sandstone cliffs. A cosy communal lounge / dining room with central open fireplace and high altitude bar for post-trail celebrations.

Standard room at Cavern Berg Hotel - Night 1
Log Cabins at Drak Mountain Lodge - Night 2 & 3Framed by sandstone cliffs and spectacular views
  1. Do we carry our own backpacks?

    No. Your overnight luggage will be transported from lodge to lodge by vehicle. You just need to hike with small daypacks carrying your water & packed lunch.

  2. What type of footwear is appropriate?

    Worn in hiking boots for ankle support if you wish, otherwise a hiking or solid trail-running shoe will suffice.

  3. What is the best time of year for this trail?

    Autumn (Mar-May) and Spring (mid August - Oct) are some of the best months. For the most stable weather, winter months (June-July) can be the best: chilly starts but generally warm and dry days with a warm lodge to snuggle down overnight. The hottest months (Nov-Feb) tend to have heavy afternoon thunderstorms.

    Cavern will not accept 1 night arrivals on a Friday or Saturday, so its best to arrive on a Thursday to make it long-weekend trail.

  4. Can this hike be lengthened?

    Yes, and we recommend an extra night at Cavern where you can do another privately guided hike day.

  5. What else can we do?

    At Drak Mountain Lodge, if you don't wish to hike the second day, there is horse riding, flyfishing, chilling or swimming in the natural swimming pool with stunning views across to the Amphitheatre.

3 Day / 3 Night Hike

Based on a group of 4-5 persons: R7700/pp

Based on group of 6-9 persons: R7400/pp

Based on group of 10 or more persons: R7000/pp

Whats included in this tour
  • 3 Nights Accom (twin or double sharing basis): Hotel and Log Cabins
  • All meals: from dinner on arrival night to packed lunch on the final hike day
  • Hiking Guide/Pathfinder - for all hike days
  • Luggage Transfers - from Cavern to Mountain lodge and return