Didima Gorge, Drakensberg
Did you know?
The ingredients that went into the paint that the San used to create rock art include blood, gall, egg white and ochre.
Didima Rock Art site in the Cathedral Peak area of the Drakensberg Mountains, KwaZulu-Natal, has some of the most intriguing and mystical San Bushman rock art in the world.
Although this rock art site in KwaZulu Natal is remote it has a camp at its head, with the splendid sweep of the gorge below. Sandstone cliffs channel rushing water from mountain showers and storms, and the Zulu word N'dedema, from which Didima is derived, means 'the place that reverberates'.
Scholars are fascinated by the strange rock art creatures, half human and half animal yet armed with bows and arrows, found in this gorge and in the nearby Giant's Castle area. They indicate the San gave great importance to myth and ritual.
David Bristow, in his book Drakensberg Walks, says the last Bushman in the Drakensberg was shot in the Giant's Castle area just a few years before the game reserve was declared in 1903, as his cattle-thieving tribe had been declared vermin. Around his waist was a belt of antelope horns containing all the powdered colours used in San rock art.
"This death was tragic beyond belief, for this last lonely survivor of an essentially peaceful and graceful culture, which had been destroyed by greed and intolerance, was probably one of the world's great anonymous artists," Bristow writes.
For those who enjoy flora, Didima Gorge offers both the Drakensberg protea (Protea Dracomontana) and the highveld protea (Protea Caffra), as well as scarlet-and-yellow everlastings, the name of which will hopefully apply to San art.
The Didima Rock Art Centre, located at the Cathedral Peak Nature Reserve, houses three sections. The first is a display hall, where visitors can read about social relations between San and other social groups, their general life ways and religious beliefs. The second section is a preview room, where mythological stories dating back to 1873 are told. The last section is an auditorium where audio-visual shows are run.
There is also a coffee shop as well as a craft centre, run by community crafters.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Didima Rock Art Centre
Tel: +27 (0)36 488 8025
How to get here
Park at the Didima Rock Art Centre and take a gentle hike to the rock art sites, either on your own or with a guide.
Best time to visit
Didima Rock Art Centre is open from 8am to 4pm. Show times: 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm and 3pm.
Around the area
Make a day trip into the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho via the world-renowned Sani Pass. Or go with a guide on the famous Battlefields Route, sites of Zulu, British and Boer battles.
Tours to do
Self-guided tours to the Didima rock art site are accommodated. Guided Tours from the Didima Rock Art Centre are at 9am, 11am and 2pm.
Mike's Pass provides an opportunity to drive to the top of the Little Berg near the head of Didima Gorge.
Length of stay
A full day, weekend or half week.
What to eat
Near the Didima Rock Art Centre, the thatched Ndumeni Restaurant is an ideal setting to enjoy a refreshing drink and a light lunch.