Considered to be one of South Africa's most dramatic and enticingly beautiful landscapes, several of South Africa's highest mountain peaks are found within the Drakensberg National Park, including Giant's Castle, Mafadi and Champagne Castle.
Southern Africa's tallest peak is also found in the national park; rising to 3 377 metres, Thabana Ntlenyana peak is located just 10km from the Lesotho border. Incorporating both the foothills known as the 'Little Berg' and the escarpment or 'High Berg', many of KwaZulu Natal's rivers have their source in the national park.
Driving up from the KwaZulu Natal Midlands, one is met with the site of the first of the Drakensberg's foothills. Formed some 180 million years ago by the volcanic eruptions of so called Drakensberg lavas, the basalt cliffs average around 1 500m in thickness and cover four diverse sedimentary formations, all of which can be seen from different locations on the mountains.
Due to its composition, the Drakensberg is said to erode by 1.5 metres each year with the 'Little Berg' having already lost its dolerite capping. The layers of the mountain are rich in dinosaur, plant and insect fossils making the mountains rich in historical significance.
Most of the Drakensberg landscape is covered in grasses ranging from tall giant turpentine grass to red grass and spear grass and you will see grassland wherever you look. Scattered across the deep valleys one can find the small, indigenous to South Africa, shrubs known as Fynbos, including proteas (namely lip-flower sugarbush and Drakensberg proteas) and mountain cypress. The larger tress found in the wilderness reserve include yellowwoods, white stinkwoods and cheesewoods.
While the Drakensberg is not known to be rich in African wildlife and visitors should not expect to see abundant game. However; larger faunae such as Red Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest and Common Eland have been spotted on guided walks or on nature trails.
The main predators in the nature reserve are caracal, serval and black-backed jackals, of which the jackal is the most regularly seen and heard. There are also over 300 troops of baboons and hikers and campers are advised to take precautions and lock away any food.
There are 54 species of reptiles including the Berg Adder and 28 species of amphibians found within the national park as well as both brown and rainbow trout.
One of the biggest draws of the Drakensberg is the bird life. Home to over 340 species of birds, the Drakensberg is the prime location for the bearded vulture and there are at least 200 breeding pairs found within the nature reserve. Bird-watchers will also delight in the many sightings of other large birds such as Cape Vultures, Lanner Falcons, Jackal Buzzards and the Cape Raven. Some of these birds require their seeker to climb to a stiff height; alternatively the drive up to the top of Sani Pass is certain to provide sightings of many species.
For more useful info and a variety of accommodation options read the Drakensberg National Park Travel Guide