Cobham - Southern drakensberg
Cobham is situated in the Southern part of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park,
and is approximately 150 km from Pietermaritzburg.
Cobham is dominated by Hodgson's Peaks
which enclose the Giants Cup, Cobham is a 52,000 hectare section of the uKhahlamba
Drakensberg Park in the southern Drakensberg adjacent to Himeville Village.
The grasslands are interspersed with rocky outcrops
/ boulders, streams and rivers and indigenous forests.
Cobham was established in 1959 by the Department of Forestry, and has
been administered by KZN Wildlife (formely the Natal Parks Board) since 1988.
Vergelegen is managed as part of Cobham and also provides opportunities for
overnight camping and good river trout fishing. It is the closest hiking
route (via Mkhomazi pass) to the highest peak in the Drakensberg, Thaba Ntlenyana
(the beautiful little Mountain) which is in Lesotho. At 3482m, Thaba Ntlenyana
is the highest peak south of Kilamanjaro.
Sani Pass, the gateway to Lesotho, falls within Cobham boundaries and is
easily reached from the campsite by returning to Himeville and turning left
onto the R315 for 3kms before taking the Sani Pass road. Please note that
a 4 x 4 vehicle is required to proceed beyond the SA border post.
Cup Hiking trail starts from the Sani Pass road and follows the line of the
escarpment through the little Berg into Garden Castle ending in Bushmans's
Nek. The full route takes five days but it is possible to do shorter sections
if visitors have limited time.
In the secluded valleys hikers are likely to see Cape Clawless otter and
herds of eland well as a large variety of other animals and birds. Cobham
has some of the best rock art sites south of the Didima valley and it is
possible to hire a guide to visit a selection of them. The many Cobham
Hiking Trails range from gentle ambles to extremely strenous day and
overnight hikes. The area also has many large, scenic caves that are suitable
for overnighting. Water is found near to most of the caves. Booking of the
caves is essential.
Accommodation at Cobham
Camping: The campsite at Cobham is an open area
where visitors can put up tents or caravans anywhere within the designated
limits. The campsite is very rustic and there are only 4 toilets available.
The ablution facilities are in the process of being upgraded with rustic
showers. Visitors have to heat their own water.
Pholela Hut: Pholela Hut is available for showers
and rustic accommodation. The Giant’s Cup Trail hikers have first preferance.
Caves: Cobham has a number of caves for overnight
hiking, which accommodates a maximum of 12 people. These caves are reached
by three- to five-hour walks from the office. Fires may not be made in the
wilderness area or in caves. For visitors own safety, the Mountain Rescue
Register must be filled in. Visitors must ensure that their return is noted
to avoid an unnecessary search being launched.
Hiking Trails at Cobham
The Giant's Cup Trail runs along the foothills of the Drakensberg, from Sani
Pass to Bushman's Nek.
Some sections are steep, but reasonably fit people, including children, will
have no difficulty in completing each section.
The trail lies almost entirely within the Cobham and Garden Castle Reserves.
Small patches of indigenous forest are seen on the first day, but most of the
trail passes through mountain grassland with wide views to the crests of the
mountains. Five days are required for this trail.
Gxalingenwa River Trail
The trail begins beyond the culvert on the Sani Pass road, opposite the hotel
It follows the Gxalingenwa River and passes patches of magnificent indigenous
forest. There are numerous pools to swim in and at one point there is a beautiful
waterfall with a deep pool at its base.
The trail is an easy route and three hours should be allowed to enjoy nature
at its best.
This trail leaves from below the campsite, where one crosses the swing bridge.
It follows the Pholela River upstream for about a kilometre, passing a
number of pools suitable for swimming, before it crosses the river again.
It then heads back towards the campsite, passing through sections of indigenous
Ntshishi (Ouhout) bush (Leucosidea sericea) and grassland, and is excellent
in the early mornings for bird watching. Allow 20 minutes to an hour to
complete the loop.
Troutbeck loop is approximately 7 km in length and in parts is fairly steep.
From the campsite cross the swing bridge and follow the trail away from
the fence line into the Troutbeck valley. The trail crosses open grassland.
There is a small waterfall along the route with a deep pool at its base,
which is ideal for swimming. Three to four hours should be set aside for
Emerald Stream Trail
After leaving Cobham along the Pholela River, this trail branches off and
heads upstream along Emerald Stream. The trail follows the valley between
Ndlovini Mountain and Emerald Dome.
If one continues for approximately 8 km a large flat plateau is reached with
magnificent views in all directions. Another 2 km of walking along the plateau
will bring you to Pinnale Rock. This trail is normally good for game viewing.
The energetic hiker can leave the trail and walk around the base of Ndlovini
and join up with the National Hiking Way Trail above Ngenwa Pool. It is then
a further 8 km back to Cobham.
If the circular route around Ndlovini is not completed one must return along
Emerald Stream to Cobham. There are some fairly steep gradients that need
to be negotiated on this route.
A full day should be set aside to enjoy the entire route as it averages about
an 18 km round trip.
Pholela River Trail
The trail leaves from the camp and follows the Pholela River for approximately
The trail offers spectacular views of the Giant's Cup and passes through
grassland and patches of indigenous forest.
Towards the upper reaches of the Pholela there are interesting geological
formations which tower over the river. The gradient is fairly flat and this
is a very easy walk.
It must be remembered that one will have to return along the same outward
route. There are a number of large pools which are ideal for swimming.