Regions of the Drakensberg

Drakensberg scenery.

Come and explore the highest mountain range in Southern Africa -the Drakensberg Mountain Range. The range stretches over 300km and has many different areas, with spectacular scenery and a number of activities.

The Drakensberg Mountain Range includes the highest mountains in Southern Africa. The name means Dragon Mountains in Afrikaans and is called uKhahlamba in Zulu which means "barrier of spears". Large parts of the Drakensberg were declared a world heritage site in 2000 due to its ecological and cultural diversity. The range stretches over 300km (186 miles) along the edge of KwaZulu-Natal and completely encompasses the kingdom of Lesotho.

The Drakensberg can be divided up into three main sections - the Northern Drakensberg, Central Drakensberg and Southern Drakensberg. These regions also include different parks and reserves as well as towns such as Ladysmith and Ixopo. The mountains draw both local and international tourists, who come to see the regions scenic beauty, beautiful flora, cultural history and the areas many hiking trails.

The Northern Drakensberg

The Northern section of the Drakensberg is the highest section of the mountain range, with many of its peaks exceeding 3000 meters. The mountains form the border between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

The Northern Drakensberg consists of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, which is a World Heritage Site that stretches from Underberg in the south, to Bergville in the north. The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park contains within it two reserves, the Golden Gate National Park, which takes its name from the way the sun shines spectacularly off its sandstone cliffs, and the Royal Natal National Park which covers the bulk of the region.

The peaks of the Northern Drakensberg are often capped with snow in the winter months forming many scenic vistas. The region is a popular hiking and rock climbing destination. Some of the more challenging hiking trails use mountain caves as their overnight stops. In the dams and rivers of the lower slopes trout fishing is a popular activity.

Royal Natal National Park

The most famous feature of the Royal Natal National Park is the Amphitheatre, a 5 kilometres (3 miles) long and 500 meter (546 yards) high rock face. The area is the source of the Tugela River, the largest river in KwaZulu-Natal, which plunges over the edge of Mont-aux-Sources Plateau in a spectacular waterfall - the Tugela Falls, which is the second highest waterfall in the world.

Tugela Falls

The Tugela Falls can only be reached by two hiking trails. The first starts in the Royal Natal National Park and will take around 6.5 hours. It covers a distance of around 22 km (13.6 miles). This route takes you to the base of the falls. The other trail starts at Witsieshoek's Sentinel car park and takes you along Mount-Aux- Sources, passing through Phuthadjhaba. This route takes you to the top of the falls and is quite challenging as you have to use two chain ladders and can take between 5 and 8 hours to do a round trip.

Bushmen Paintings

The Northern Drakensberg also contains thousands of Bushmen painting sites. The Drakensberg clearly had spiritual and cultural significance to the San as there are more than 40 000 paintings within the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park. These paintings are one of the reasons that the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a World Heritage Site. Some of the paintings are around 800 years old, but the best preserved are around 200 years old.

Central Drakensberg

The Central Drakensberg forms a large section of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park. Popular destinations in this region of the Drakensberg include Cathedral Peak, Monks Cowl Reserve, the Giants Castle Game Reserve, the Highmoor and the Kamberg.

Cathedral Peak includes the Didima Valley, which is famous for its many scenic hiking routes and San Bushmen rock art sites. If you do not have time then driving by Mikes Pass in the Little Berg provides spectacular views of the main range and surrounding lowlands. Hiking trails pass through grassland and forest typical of the Drakensberg and the Bearded Vulture (Lammergeyer) are commonly seen riding the thermals.

Monks Cowl takes its name from a peak between Champagne Castle and Cathedral Peak. It is one of the main access points for people wanting to explore the Central Drakensberg and access to the main escarpment. There are only camping facilities available at Monks cowl, but there are several guesthouse available in the region. Overnight hike camping spots can be booked at the offices here. One of the main attractions in the area is the Sterkspruit Falls. The world famous Drakensberg Boys Choir is also nearby and if they have concerts scheduled while you are in the area, then it is well worth attending.

Injasuti is situated in the northern section of the Giants Castle area. It is reached by a 30km dirt road. The campsite has views of Cathkin Peak, Monk's Cowl and Champagne Castle. The campsite is located on the Injasuti and Delmhlwazini rivers. There are many scenic hiking trails through the valley. There is fantastic rock art at Battle Cave and an excellent swimming spot at the Marble Baths, which is about a 5 hour hike from the camp.

The Giants Castle Reserve

The Giants Castle Reserve now forms the central section of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park. The reserve is known for its many San rock art sites and the endangered bearded vulture and many majestic Eland. The camp is situated on a grassy plateau surrounded by deep valleys down from the face of the High Drakensberg.

South Africa Nature Reserves : Game Reserves and National Parks
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