Ukahlamba Drakensberg

What, Where and When on The

The KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg mountain range is a treasure trove of biological diversity. This 243 000-hectare mountainous region containing the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park forms an enormous barrier separating KwaZulu-Natal from the Kingdom of Lesotho. The awe-inspiring Drakensberg Mountains with their massive cliffs, that tower over riverine bush, lush yellowwood forests and cascading waterfalls, well deserves its international status as a World Heritage Site.

Where there are mountains, there will be the quest to conquer – take the challenge of one on the many rock-climbing routes (for the experienced and well equipped only) or feel the adrenalin rush provided by abseiling and white water rafting or take a helicopter ride to view the majestic Drakenberg mountains from above. Flights by helicopter are provided by Westline Aviation from either Cathedral Peak Hotel or Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort. This is where the more adventurous visitor can soar high above the mountains and see the berg from a different perspective. Or experience the awesome thrill and peaceful serenity of hot air ballooning with scenic flights offering panoramic views stretching from the Amphitheatre in the Northern Drakensberg to Giants Castle in the Southern Drakensberg.

Enjoy a couple of days of hiking and climbing in the Central Drakensberg, interspersed with dips in refreshing pools and rivers… better than any spa treatment for restoring a weary soul. Take to the trees on a Canopy Tour it’s a sure way to experience the incredible majesty of ancient trees, rocky crags and if you’re lucky some of the endemic birds or go kloofing in the iNjasuti Valley’s Kong Canyon and enjoy a series of wet and dry abseils, fantastic rappels down trickling waterfalls, dips in little pools and some bouldering to boot. 

In the Northern Drakensberg be sure to hike up to the source of the uThukela River, and watch as it plunges some 950 metres over the edge of the Mont-aux-Sources Plateau in spectacular fashion. This waterfall, the uThukela Falls, is the second highest waterfall in the world and while you’re there, don’t forget to take a picture of the spectacular Amphitheatre, which is possibly the most photographed feature of this region.

Other active options are horse riding, mountain biking and golf, but if you’re less inclined to physical activity, just relax, breathe in the fresh mountain air and appreciate the splendour of the Drakensberg Mountains. With the abundance of excellent trout waters, both well stocked dams and pristine stretches of river, the southern Drakensberg specifically, offers some of the best fly-fishing opportunities in South Africa. The many crystal-clear rivers and dams in the higher reaches are regular favourites with the serious and skilled fly-fishermen as well as the growing number of recently initiated fanatics who embrace this most challenging and personally satisfying of angling pursuits. 

There are several accommodation options that caters for all tastes and budgets… from luxury resorts and hotels such as the family-run Cathedral Peak Hotel to guest- houses, B&B establishments, caravan parks and cabins, and for those wanting to be ‘out in the wild’, rustic huts and listed caves await – check out Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s website for these, along with great self-catering cabins at both Giants Castle Camp in the Giants Castle Nature Reserve and Didima, which is located in the Cathedral Peak valley.  

Did you know?

The Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture), called a uKhozilwentshebe in isiZulu, has a wingspan of up to about 3 metres, and despite its size, is a supreme flyer and incredibly agile in the air, typically covering six or seven hundred kilometres in a day. It grabs prey in its formidable claws, lifting it 20 metres up in the air and dropping it onto a rock. There are approximately 500 pairs living in the mountains between Lesotho and South Africa and it’s no longer listed as a vulnerable species – this is the biggest concentration of these birds in the world.

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