Drakensberg

Aug 5, 2011   //   by Sam Wingate   //   Safaris  //  Comments Off on Drakensberg

The stunningly beautiful Drakensberg Mountain Range is a World Heritage Site declared for its natural and cultural status. It is the highest mountain range south of Kilimanjaro and extends 200 kms along the border between KwaZulu Natal province in South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Thaba Ntlenyana, at 3,482 m and just inside Lesotho, is the highest point in Southern Africa. Mafadi Peak is the highest in South Africa at 3,446 m.
The natural value of the Drakensberg lies not only in its beauty but more for its importance as South Africa’s central watershed. The sources of two of South Africa’s largest rivers are found here, the Orange and Tugela, and its watershed replenishes a myriad of other rivers. The wetlands and grasslands require strict conservation measures to maintain the overall ecological balance.
The cultural value of the Drakensberg lies in preserving the unique rock art and culture of the Bushmen people who once lived here. Despite having been persecuted through the ages and driven into the mountains and deserts where only they could survive because of their incredible bush knowledge and survival skills, the respect they deserve can grow through education and tourism initiatives.
The touristic value of the Drakensberg lies in its superior natural beauty, relaxing atmosphere, wonderful hiking trails and cultural education.
Royal Natal National Park is located in the Northern Drakensberg near the town of Bergville. It is a magnificent Park set below the 5 km Amphitheatre Wall of the Drakensberg Escarpment with a myriad of mountain streams, waterfalls, indigenous forests, cliffs and caves. There are a variety of well maintained hiking trails including the very scenic Tugela Gorge Trail. Accommodation inside the Park includes self-catering chalets at Tendele Camp with awesome views of the Amphitheatre and two campsites. Outside the Park there are several good hotels, lodges, chalets, mountain cabins and campsites.
Didima is beautifully located in the Central Drakensberg looking onto a panorama of peaks and cliffs of the Escarpment. There are many walks in this area including the popular Rainbow Gorge Trail and a Bushman Rock Art Centre with information on the rock paintings and culture of these fascinating people. Accommodation is in self-catering chalets though there is a restaurant that allows for a fully-catered option.
Giant’s Castle is also located in the Central Drakensberg offering equally scenic surroundings, hiking trails and Main Cave Museum which is a replica of a Bushman shelter where one can have a guided tour. Self-catering accommodation is in chalets and there is a restaurant for fully-catered options.
Injasuti is located relatively close to Giant’s Castle in the Central Drakensberg. This is an older Camp with cheaper self-catering accommodation but no restaurant. It is a magnificent area with many hiking trails, mountain streams, indigenous forests and close to the towering Escarpment.
Lotheni is located in the Southern Drakensberg between the towns of Nottingham Road and Himeville. The Escarpment is a little lower here than in the Central and Northern Drakensberg but still very impressive with many hiking trails, streams and natural pools. The self-catering accommodation is similar to Injasuti and more affordable than Thendele, Didima and Giant’s Castle.
Sani Pass is located in the Southern Drakensberg and is accessed from Himeville.  The gravel road that winds up the mountain towards Lesotho required a 4WD to negototiate the steep and rocky parts but is now in the process of being tarred. The views below are spectacular and this journey is regarded as an adventure experience. Guided tours are offered from Himeville and Underberg which take you into Lesotho to visit a Sotho village and include lunch at Sani Top Chalets perched on the Escarpment.
There are many private guesthouses and B&B’s in the Drakensberg. The Midlands Meander is an art & craft route with many country stalls and good restaurants and accommodation.


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