The Drakensberg Region – One of South Africa’s best kept Secrets
Drakensberg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
South Africa offers tourists coming to our country a huge choice of holiday destinations. But it’s the Drakensberg Mountains that are still kept as an secret place – while some folks do make it to the Drakensberg, most don’t.
The best place to start your journey would be to download the free Drakensberg Tourist Map which will give you a great idea of where everything is. This map is the only to-scale tourist map that’s available for the region. It shows all the back roads, indicates which are recommended and which are not and indicates how far things are. But what I like about the map is that it’s freely distributed, includes all the activities that the region offers and a great selection of the best accommodation in Drakensberg.
The Drakensberg starts in the north with Clarens and the Golden Gate National Park and ends in the south at Bushman’s Nek. In between you will find the Royal Natal National Park with its amphitheatre, Mweni – the wildest part of the mountains, Cathedral Peak, Monks Cowl, Injasuti, Giant’s Castle National Park, Kamberg – with the best bushman rock art site in the whole Drakensberg Mountains, Loteni, Sani Pass, Cobham, and Garden Castle.
There is lots to do in the region but the main reason you come to the Drakensberg is because of the mountains. While every part of the Drakensberg is special and has its own uniqueness there are a few spots you dont want to miss. The best place to get to the top of the escarpment is at Sentinel Peak. The return hike is 5 hours and takes you the top of the Tugela Falls, which falls some 948 meters into the Royal Natal National Park below. The view from on top of the amphitheatre is proberbly one of the most spectacular views in the world. Most tourists tend to walk at the bottom and while it’s worth the visit it’s just not the same as the top.
The Central Drakensberg and Northern Drakensberg form one region and by far the best example of this section of the Drakensberg Mountains is Giant’s Castle National Park. Essentially the experience in any part of this region is the same, where you have the opportunity to hike the lower reaches of the Drakensberg Mountains or otherwise stay low in one of the valleys. What makes Giant’s Castle more interesting is the large choice of trails and the lack of other people. I suppose it won’t stay that way forever but the experience of walking in the mountains and not seeing another soul can still be found at Giant’s Castle. From Giant’s Castle looking south the mountains become softer and less dramatic but make no mistake – hiking trails in this gentler landscape are just as good and should most definitely be included in your trip. Kamberg is a really good spot where the added attraction of the best site of bushman rock art is available.
Bushman Rock Art is a strong reason to visit the Drakernsberg Mountains. The excellent video presentation before the 3 hour guided tour at Kamberg gives a great explanation of the history of the people as well as the rock art at game pass shelter. The rock art at Giant’s Castle at the main caves is also good and is a very easy walk. The Didima Rock Art Centre at Cathedral Peak offers a great presentation although the paintings are reproductions. All rock art must be viewed with a guide.
Horse riding through the foothills of the Drakensberg is an experience not to be missed. Sengani offers safe trails for beginners and experienced alike. Spionkop game reserve even offers game viewing on horse back.
Steeped in history, the Battlefields Region offers enthralling tales of British, Boer, Zulu and Voortrekker history. The Anglo Boer War reached as far south as Mooi River and the many sites are best visited with a specialist guide.
The region offers a fun and fascinating collection of art galleries, craft shops, cheese tastings, leather work, antiques, clothing, gifts and pottery. All the activities represent a unique collection of South African creativity. Take a slow journey to view outstanding galleries such as Millgate, Indigo Fields Gallery, and Zombeza. Community development projects like Eyethu Ceramics and Thandanani Craft uplift local communities, allowing tourism a wider benefit.
A trip up Sani Pass into Lesotho and a visit to the highest pub in Africa is a must. It’s a dramatic 4×4 trail climbing 1330m in 6.5kms. Passports required.
Game viewing is available at Weenen, Spionkop, Umgeni Valley and Golden Gate. For birders the Lammergeyer hide at Giant’s Castle, the Crane Foundation at Kamberg and the bird of prey display at Falcon Ridge are highlights. Fort Durnford in Estcourt offers one of the most complete bird egg collections in South Africa.
For adventure seekers, the region offers white water rafting and quad bikes, the longest cable slide in South Africa, a gorge swing and a flying trapeze, bicycle tours and even hot air ballooning
The Drakensberg Boys Choir is a world renowned choir that performs most Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. Bookings at 036/468 1017. Don’t miss this enriching cultural experience. Another enriching cultural experience is Mpopomeni Zulu – tourism experience where tourists have the opportunity to meet local people, hear a bit of the history of the settlement and taste some of the traditional food. What’s great is that the experience is about real people and does not feel touristy at all.
Or just pamper yourself at one of the region’s many health spas. For a difference, Indigo Fields offers a real Africa day spa experience.
www.drakensberg-tourism.com – Hiking trails and accommodation in the Drakensberg. The best tourism promotion website for the Drakensberg and Natal midlands available on the net.
www.drakensberg-tourist-map.com – downloadable map for the Drakensberg and Natal Midlands Regions. The most essential tool for tourists visiting this region
www.drakensberg-accommodation.com – A huge list of links to accommodation in the Drakensberg Mountains
– A pictorial guide to the Drakensberg
Antbear Guest House near Giants Castle in the Central Drakensberg
Vergezient Mountain retreat in the Northern Drakensberg
Palmswift B&B accommodation in Winterton
Treehouse accommodation in the Natal Midlands
Horse trails in the Drakensberg Foothills
Drakensberg Boys Choir
Mountain guide for the Drakensberg region>/a>
Drakensberg central reservations office
Andrew grew up in the Drakensberg region and runs a little bed and breakfast near Giant’s Castle in the Central Drakensberg.