True Magic in the Mountains of the Drakensberg
The largest mountain range in South Africa is a truly magical place and one of South Africa’s prime ecotourism destinations and World Heritage Site.
The Drakensberg is a dynamic wonderland of river valleys, mountain streams, rugged cliffs, hiking trails and stunning scenery that attracts thousands of travellers every year, mainly during the hotter summer months of December to February. With such natural beauty to its credit, it is not surprising that the mountain region literally bursts at the seams with exhilarating adventure activities and amazing accommodation. You can go kayaking, tube riding, horse riding, do 4x4 trails, hiking, hang gliding, mountain climbing, swimming, canyoning, fly-fishing and so much more. This region offers a plethora of heart-stopping adventure activities, set against a breathtakingly beautiful mountain landscape.
The high-altitude streams, oxbow lakes and wetlands are tremendously important in terms of their indigenous flora and fauna and the area is an important watershed. The area is home to bushbuck, eland, blue duiker, reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, grey rhebok, klipspringer and oribi. In addition, blesbok, red hartebeest and black wildebeest have been re-introduced to some areas. Other larger mammals include baboons, black backed jackal, aardwolf and serval. The Drakensberg is also acknowledged as a RAMSAR site for its high-altitude wetlands, which lie above 2750m, and for its amazing birdlife.
The Northern Drakensberg – The Amphitheatre, Tugela Falls and San Rock Art
One of the most popular reasons the Northern Drakensberg sees so many visitors and tourists throughout the year is the world-renowned Amphitheatre. The Amphitheatre is the most famous geographic feature of the Northern Drakensberg and one of South Africa’s most impressive cliff faces, over 5 kilometres in length, featuring cliffs rising roughly 1220 meters along its entire length. The valley floor is over 1830 meters below the highest point of the amphitheatre and is where you can find most photographers capturing the breath-taking beauty that is the amphitheatre in its entirety.
The Tugela Falls – the world’s second largest falls – plunge over 948 meters from the amphitheatre’s cliff tops. Considered one of the best hike’s in KZN, hiking to the Tugela Falls takes you through the Royal National Park along pathways that are filled with wildflowers, Yellowwood forests and some incredible wildlife and birdlife for you to enjoy.
The Northern Drakensberg gives you the chance to experience legitimate San rock art. Bushmen and San people used to occupy the area many, many years ago and it is now a privilege for us to get to experience their history and their culture through the delicate galleries of their art that can be found in caves all over the Drakensberg. Enjoy a hike through the Royal National Park with well-prepared guides who will endeavour to give you the best tour of the caves possible.
The Central Drakensberg – The Berg’s Renowned Hub for Hiking and Rock Climbing
The town of Winterton, situated in beautiful foothills, is the main access point to the Central Drakensberg, serving a large community of maize, wheat and beef farmers.
Accommodation and tourist facilities aplenty await at the Mdedelelo Wilderness Area, named after ‘he who cannot be overcome’ – the imposing, sheer-faced and flat-topped block known in English as Cathkin Peak which does demand well-honed rock-climbing skills. The Central Drakensberg is especially renowned for its family and sport related resorts and a range of adventure and eco-tourism pursuits. The newly introduced Drakensberg Canopy Tour, set within the Blue Grotto Forest in the shadow of Cathkin Peak boasts Africa’s first elevated rock-face walkway with a good mix of both cliff face and treetop platforms, and cable slides over the forest up to 60 metres high.
Between Cathkin Peak and the escarpment, Monk’s Cowl presents one of the most difficult climbs in all the Berg. Champagne Castle (3 248m) is attached to the main escarpment and can be ascended by walking from the summit plateau. Champagne Valley, meanwhile, is home to the internationally renowned Drakensberg Boys Choir, whose three decades of mountain-top public performances have reached legendary status.
Giant’s Castle was originally proclaimed a protected area in 1904 and the peak that gave the region its name is one of the most conspicuous and recognisable of all within the World Heritage Site. The Giant, as it is popularly known, can be conquered by walking and scrambling up Giant’s Castle Pass or taking one of several rock-climbing routes to the summit. Most Giant’s Castle caves contain San art (and thus may not be used for overnight shelter), but the highlight is undoubtedly the Main Caves’ Museum, where audio-visual and standing displays depict the ‘home life’ of these tragic nomads.
The Southern Drakensberg – Your Gateway to Lesotho via the Famous Sani Pass
The scenic Southern Drakensberg is a must for any eco tourist. It is a land of great contrasts, with gently rolling hills and valleys giving way to the jagged basalt peaks of the Drakensberg mountains. Incorporating the villages of Underberg and Himeville plus surrounding area, the Southern Berg is a paradise for those who love active, outdoor holidays and the beauty of undisturbed nature.
An extensive part of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park falls into the Southern Drakensberg area making it a haven for hikers, lovers of wildlife and birds and wildflower enthusiasts. Situated at high altitude and far removed from major development ensures that the Southern Drakensberg remains a pristine environment for the outdoor enthusiast. The contrast of the seasons is well defined; with the lush green and warm summers giving way to the cold dry winters. Besides superb trout fishing, the majestic Sani Pass and hiking, numerous other sports and activities promise a most enjoyable stay.
Situated close to the village of Himeville, the Sani Pass is one of the most spectacular and iconic mountain passes in South Africa. It climbs up through the sheer cliffs of the Drakensberg escarpment in a series of tight zig-zag curves leading to the highest pub in Africa, exceptionally well-located for amazing views, a good meal and a few drinks alongside a roaring fire. Situated between KZN and Lesotho the pass was built circa 1950 and remains a challenging drive in 4×4 vehicles with all the drama, scenery, bad weather and treacherous conditions expected of a pass with a summit altitude of 2876m ASL.
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