The Cavern

Company Information

Contact Person:

Gillian Condy


A unique opportunity to explore the wonderful mountain plants and to spend time observing and illustrating them.

Enjoy the famous hospitality of The Cavern, a resort hotel set in a magnificent valley adjoining Royal Natal National Park in the northern Drakensberg. The beautiful thatched buildings are set in colourful gardens, close to wonderful walks in the mountain grassland and forests, along streams and rivers. This is a unique opportunity to explore the wonderful mountain plants and to spend time observing and illustrating them.

Gillian Condy and Elsa Pooley combine their talents as botanical artists and author of wild flower and tree field guides to provide a memorable botanical art course in the mountains. With excellent meals and teas provided, the participants are free to concentrate on their work. You can enjoy guided walks with Elsa. Plant material is easily sourced from the Cavern gardens and surrounding mountains. The Cavern provides a wide variety of activities and you are encouraged to bring your partner, friends or family along!


Gillian Condy

Gillian Condy was born in Kenya. She trained in scientific illustration at Middlesex Polytechnic in London, obtaining a Masters from the Royal College of Art in 1976. She worked in Botswana from1978-1982 before taking up the position of resident botanical artist at the South African National Botanical Institute (SANBI) in Pretoria in 1983 where she is still employed. She has participated in over 80 group exhibitions worldwide including those of Royal Horticultural Society in London (7 gold, 3 silver-gilt) and the 7th International Exhibit of Botanical Art and Illustration, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh, USA. In 2000 she was awarded a gold medal at the inaugural Kirstenbosch Exhibition of Botanical Art, followed by Silver in 2002 and Gold in 2004.

In1990 Gillian was awarded the Jill Smythies Award by the Linnaean Society of London, in 1992 the Beeld Stamp Design of the Year award for Edible Wild Fruits of Bophuthatswana and second place in 1993 for Acacia Trees. She has designed 13 sets of stamps for Botswana Post Office. In December 2001 she was awarded the Cythna Letty Medal by the Botanical Society of South Africa.

She has illustrated over 200 plates for Flowering Plant of Africa, contributed to various other SANBI publications and 8 plates for Curtiss Botanical Magazine. She has illustrated two books by Charles Craib, Geophytic Pelargoniums (2001) and South African Grass Aloes in the Field (2005). She was also the major contributor to the biographic section in the book Peeling Back the Petals: SA Botanical Art(2001).

Gillian is one of the founding members of the Botanical Artists Association of Southern Africa (BAASA). She runs regular art courses for SANBI and BAASA. Her artwork is found on the Blue Train and in collections around the world.
Elsa Pooley

Elsa Pooley, author of best-selling field guides to trees and wild flowers, is a self taught botanical artist and amateur botanist. She spent 20 years in the game reserves of Maputaland where she explored the flora of the region before moving to Clansthal on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast in 1984. She pursued her passion for indigenous plants through collecting herbarium specimens, researching, writing, painting and landscape gardening. She currently divides her time between indigenous landscaping, botanical painting and writing and conducting wild flowers tours of KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho.

Elsa has taken part in group exhibitions of botanical art in South Africa since 1969. She has had paintings commissioned for the SANBI series Flowering Plants of Africa and her limited edition portfolio Palms of Africa (photo litho 1988) has been sold worldwide. Her paintings were commissioned for the new Blue Train (1999).She was awarded a Bronze Medal at the Inaugural Kirstenbosch Exhibition of Botanical Art (2000). Elsa is a founder member of BAASA and former chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal branch. She has illustrated a number of books including trees, flowers, grasses, ferns and fungi for The Wildlife of Southern Africa. A field guide to the animals and plants of the region (1997).

Elsa is well known for the best selling, photographically illustrated books The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand & Transkei (1993), A Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal & the Eastern Region (1998) and Mountain Flowers, A Field Guide to the Flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho (2003) and Forest Plants, in the forest and in the garden (2006), published by the Flora Publications Trust.

Awards: Conservationist of the Year (1996) from the Wildlife & Environment Society (Natal Branch), Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Contribution to Botany (1999) from the South African Association of Botanists, the Marloth Medal (2004) from the Botanical Society of Southern Africaand honorary Doctor of Science to be awarded by the University of KwaZulu-Natal at the graduation ceremonies in 2008.


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