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Posted on: Tuesday, 28 May 2013

South Africa’s Majestic Drakensberg Mountains

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The Drakensberg Mountains are not only the largest but highest mountain range in Southern Africa stretching all the way along Kwazulu Natal’s western boundary. It’s Dutch for “dragon mountains” and Zulu name, Ukhahlamba, means a “barrier of spears”. Its Southern region can be found in Lesotho whilst the rest of its undeniably spectacular valleys can be visited in the northern and central areas.

Some of the most popular valleys include Cathedral, Didima, Ampitheatre, Champagne Valley and Middledale Pass Valley. Once you visit, you will want to linger longer and luckily there are many camping, self catering and and luxury accommodation in the Drakensberg available.

South Africa’s Majestic Drakensberg Mountains

Within the Drakensberg conserved area you’ll find 37 % of the country’s non-marine bird life making up 299 various species. 119 globally endangered fauna species can be found within this diverse landscape. This is precisely why hiking, bird watching, game viewing, horse trails and rock climbing can be enjoyed here amongst the thick bush, steep cliffs and smaller shrubs.

 

The Drakensberg

 

If golfing, white water rafting, trout fishing or 4×4 trails are your thing, you’ll find it all here. The Karkloof Canopy tour is another adventurous way to catch a glimpse of the tree tops and speed along a cable suspended 30 meters above the ground of the Karkloof forest. The Royal Natal National Park hosts one of the Drakensberg’s highest mountains, Mont-aux-Sources from where the Tugela Falls (The world’s second largest waterfall) drop over 947 metres. This mountain is the source of five rivers and due to the Drakensberg’s high altitude there’s an abundance of rain which feeds the Orange River and other rivers which supply Mpumalanga and Gauteng with water. If you’ve come in search of the San Bushmen rock paintings, then the best place to go is the Kamberg National Park. Here you’ll get to witness a few of these ancient pieces of art painted by the Drakenberg’s first inhabitants.

The Royal National Park is also home to a few of the best short hikes. Ploughman’s Kop is a 7km hike beginning at Mahai Camp in front of the breathtaking Amphitheatre wall. It will take about three hours, has some steep ascents but ventures past a few mountain pools. Another goodie from the Royal National Park is Tugela Gorge which is 14km route taking you through waters and climbing up the gorge. Watch the weather before attempting this hike as the upper gorge can flood. If you’re visiting with the family, take the kids along on the easy 11km Rainbow Gorge trail along the Ndumeni River and into a narrow gorge which sometimes displays spectacular rainbows.

 

The Drakensberg

 

One of my fondest memories is standing at God’s Window, a well-known vantage point looking out over the vast Drakensberg escarpments at the Southern point of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. There is nothing quite like the sheer cliffs plunging 700 meters below with forests, valleys and green hills laid out before you. If the weather is good, you could see all the way over the Kruger National Park to the Lebombo Mountains bordering Mozambique.

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Lauren Manuel McShane

About 

Six continents later, Lauren Manuel McShane still has itchy feet and wanderlust for adventure in all corners of the earth. She recently married the love of her life and together they are traveling the world pausing only to find work, take photos and write. She is currently in Asia and sharing everything about her expat life on The Travel Manuel.

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2 comments about South Africa’s Majestic Drakensberg Mountains
  1. May 29th, 2013 at 11:21
    Michelle says:

    I have never been here and after reading this am rather keen to go white water rafting here as well as explore the Kamberg National Park.

  2. May 30th, 2013 at 10:48
    Helen says:

    I love the Berg and am so looking forward to my weekend in Loteni in two weeks time – what a perfect place to spend Youth Day.