Peaks, Valleys and Champagne … in the Drakensberg
One of my favourite holiday spots is the Drakensberg in KwaZulu Natal. Don’t get me wrong, I love the beach and there is nothing better than an early morning swim in the Indian Ocean, but the Drakensberg offers just as good a holiday and there is no need to watch out for jellyfish and sand in your sarmies!
The Northern and Central Drakensberg falls into four valleys; Champagne Valley, Didima Valley, Amphitheatre Valley and finally the Middledale Pass Valley in the Northern Berg.
Big peaks in the Champagne Valley are Cathkin and Champagne Castle with peaks of 3149 and 3248 metres respectively and are some of the highest in the Drakensberg. Cathkin was named by Scottish settlers after an area near Glasgow in their native country and Champagne Peak was named by a climber who took a bottle of bubbly along with him to celebrate his ascent to the summit of the peak … and then accidentally dropped the bottle!
The Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley areas of the ‘Berg offer beautiful scenery (although where in the Drakensberg doesn’t offer magnificent views?) If you have a 4×4 and are in this area drive to the top of Mike’s Pass for picture perfect moments of the Central Drakensberg and Rainbow Gorge.
The Royal Natal National Park in the Amphitheatre Valley is a well known tourist spot and its most famous feature is the Amphitheatre where the mountain rises straight up to a height of 3000 ft. The Royal National Park also features Cannibal Cave where tribal people had to resort to cannibalism while hiding from Shaka Zulu as he searched the area for his enemies.
To me, the best place in the ‘Berg is Loteni. Also well known for its beautiful scenery, Loteni Nature Reserve is part of the Southern Drakensberg and is located between Kamberg and Sani Pass. As its only 70kms away from the village of Nottingham Road it’s a perfect day trip if you are in the area Midlands Meandering.
For the hiker there are a number of good walks and the birding enthusiast will not be disappointed with the wide variety of bird life to be seen; 150 different species have been recorded in the reserve. If however you are like me and you prefer to just do nothing then the rivers offer excellent entertainment. Take an amble down to Cool Pools and spend the day swimming and baking dry on the flat rocks.
I’m going back to Loteni in December and I can’t wait!
Photograph: Loteni Waterfall – Courtesy of and © South African Tourism