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Southern Drakensberg

The southern Drakensberg lies a bit off the beaten tourist trac

The southern Drakensberg lies a bit off the beaten tourist track and is not very well known. Here in the Southern Drakensberg the nature lover finds alpine landscapes of dramatic beauty. The "Southern Drakensberg" is a favourite with with trout anglers, since the region has an abundance of crystal clear lakes and rivers. There are several nature reserves in the Southern Drakensberg, of which particularly the Kamberg and the Loteni are worth a visit. In both reserves live the almost extinct reedbuck, blessbuck, eland, bushbuck und oribi. A wonderful circular trail leads through the Loteni Reserve.

The tourist highlight of the southern Drakensberg is the Sani Pass. Its the highest pass-road in South Africa and leads all along the upper Mkomazana River up to the border with Lesotho (2874 metres above sea-level).One frequently comes across people from Lesotho on their donkeys. At the river one can find many an idyllic picnic spot. Particularly the last part of the untarred stretch (behind the South African border post) is extremely steep and rocky and can only be managed with a four-wheel drive vehicle. But the breathtaking view of the rugged alpine landscape is a memorable reward. It is highly recommended to cross the border, because on the Lesotho side there is a little restaurant and a Basotho village. The border is open daily between 8.00 am and 4.00 pm.

Provision centres for the southern part of the Drakensberg are the towns of Underberg, Himeville and Bulwer, where there is accommodation in different price ranges available. Himeville has an excellent museum which gives mainly information about the first white settlers who came here in the 1890s already. One gets to the Southern Drakensberg either by travelling the R101 (Midlands Meander) via Nottingham Road (from there the Sani Pass is sign-posted) or over the southern access via Bulwer (easier drive, but less scenic)


That mountain magic works wonders every time. Maybe it’s something to do with the steady shift in altitude. Feeling the air cool as you climb from the coast or the midlands. Coming across hamlets clutched to a grassy slope grazed by goats. Glimpsing mountain streams so clear you can almost taste their perfect chill. And drawing closer to those silent basalt peaks more ancient than human thought. The tranquility of the mountains is almost tangible. As the pace of the city is left behind, the body slows down. Tension slides from neck and shoulders. And it’s not only fly fisherman and music fans who wax lyrical about the outdoors offering here. Hikers, backpackers and climbers get a faraway look in their eyes when contemplating the heights of the Southern Berg. The remote valleys, hidden caves, fern carpeted forests and cathedral like crags, steal the breath away as much as would the mountains of Tibet or India. And, being Africa, this is a range that mountaineers respect as older and wiser than ‘youngsters’ such as the Alps, the Himalayas or the Rockies. Maybe your holiday requirements of this mountain wonderland are simpler and less onerous. But something of the spirit of those summits touches every moment. There is unquestionably a special feeling to this place.


If you seek an escape from bright lights, traffic jams, city decibels and air pollution, head for the Southern Drakensberg. There the brightest lights will be a million starts on a cloudless night; the loudest noise, the song of birds at first light, or the splash of a trout rising to a fly. Summer with it’s warm, sunny days, afternoon thunderstorms and cool evenings, sees the streams and waterfalls in full spate, and the flowers in bloom. Winter days are crisp and chill – sometimes snowy – but the skies remain blue and the nights are for fireside dreams and duvets. The Southern Drakensberg combines the best of mountain wilderness, stunning scenery and trout rich waters with all the holiday comforts you desire. Thanks to local entrepreneurs providing organized tours, fly fishing clinics, drives, hikes, horse outrides, bike trails and river tubing, the visitor can readily access all the outdoor treats the ‘Berg’ has to offer.


The rock paintings done by San hunter gatherers are among South Africa’s cultural treasures, and many of these paintings – dating as far back as 8000 years – are found in rock shelters in the foothills of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park. The paintings are mainly of people, their equipment and animals – both wild and domestic. Most of the antelope painted were eland and grey rhebuck. And the colours used were predominantly red, orange, yellow, black and white, mixed from natural materials such as clay, burnt wood and oxides from ochre stones. It’s thought that the paintings were of spiritual significance to the San people, with many of the images depicting the trance dance experience of shamans (holy men). Sadly the paintings are disappearing fast. Not only are the rock shelters that house them eroding but vandalism is also destroying them.


The Sani Saunter offers the ultimate in outdoor experiences. Situated in the Southern Drakensberg which boasts the highest peak south of Kilimanjaro, Thabana Ntlenyana (3482 m), the area extends from Loteni in the north to Bushmans Nek in the South and east to Bulwer. The area is accessible from four directions (a) Via Boston and Bulwer on the R617 (exit 99, N3, Johannesburg – Durban. (b) Via Loteni on a scenic gravel road from Nottingham Road (N3). (c) Via Kokstad on the R617 (off the N2, Umtata – Durban). (d) From Mokhotlong, Lesotho via the Sani Pass (only 4 x 4’s) A variety of interesting local and imported arts and crafts can be found on the Saunter. Excellent sporting facilities abound at a number of venues to cater for most requirements.