The Drakensberg offers innumerable hiking, walking and cycling trails to make the most of the fresh mountain air, but that’s not all that there is to be found. Here are our top picks of things to do in the Drakensberg:
Royal Natal National Park
Why you should visit: The Royal Natal National Park forms part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site in Northern Drakensberg. It is one of the best places to go hiking in the province. There are dozens of trails and trout fishing is also good at the Mahai and Thukela dams. It is a top location for birding, as well as horse riding.
Highlights of the park include the Drakensberg Amphitheatre, a rocky wall standing 1 200 metres high, the Mont-Aux-Sources peak (the source for the Orange and Tugela rivers), and of course, the Tugela Falls.
Here’s how to get there: The Royal Natal National Park is located in the Northern Drakensberg area, only 50 km west of Bergville, just off the R74.
Why you should visit: The Tugela Falls, a complex of cascading waterfalls, are hidden within the Royal Natal National Park in Northern Drakensberg. They are the world’s second-highest waterfall, falling 948 metres in five cascades (there is debate as to whether they are the world’s highest). Regardless, they are the highest waterfall in Africa and, without a doubt, incredible to witness.
Tugela is a phonetic spelling of the word “Thukela,” meaning “sudden” or “startling” in isiZulu. The water plunges for almost a kilometre at a startling speed and ferocity, depending on the weather conditions.
From their source at Mont-aux-Sources, the river leaps five cascades or steps down the amphitheatre cliff face. The water doesn’t flow consistently, so the falls are at their best after a rainy spell. Visit in winter for the chance to see the water frozen in long pillars. It is an incredible sight. March to April is said to be the best time to hike Tugela Falls for warm weather and minimal rain.
Here’s how to get there: The Tugela Falls has to be reached by two hiking trails. One starts from the Royal Natal National Park and takes around 6.5 hours, covering 22km, to the base of the falls.
The other, the Sentinel Trail, starts at Witsieshoek’s Sentinel car park and takes you along Mont-Aux-Sources to the top of the falls. Hikers need to be quite fit and fine with heights, and there are chain ladders to climb. It takes about five to eight hours for a return trip.
The less-fit traveller, or those who simply want to make the most of their time here, can opt for the Amphitheatre Slackpacking Trail to reach the falls. It takes three days and three nights, covering about 10km per day, with overnight accommodation included. With canopy tours, hiking, white water rafting, rock climbing, trout fishing and more, the Drakensberg is an adventure lover’s playground. The host of experiences make the most of the region’s staggering natural beauty and rich history, tracing back thousands of years.
Why you should visit: The Drakensberg Mountain Range is one of South Africa’s most spectacular hiking spots. Indeed, this is probably the number one most popular experience in this beautiful corner of the world.
In the Northern Drakensberg, the expansive uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park includes two reserves, the Golden Gate National Park and the Royal Natal National Park.
Central Drakensberg beckons with some of the area’s most iconic peaks – Cathedral Peak, Champagne Castle and the Giant’s Castle Reserve, amongst others.
All areas boast a number of trails suited to any fitness level.
How much does it cost: Expect to pay R70 per adult and R35 per child per day for entry into the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park. Visit www.kznwildlife.com for other pricing.
Rock art in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park
Why you should visit: The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers 243 000 hectares and includes the Royal Natal National Park. It’s a place of dramatic rock buttresses, sheer cliffs and Alpine-style river valleys. But it’s not the diversity of habitats and species that earned its world heritage status.
The park shelters the largest group of San rock art in southern Africa, south of the Sahara. The paintings are renowned for the quality of their workmanship and the diversity of subject matter. About 600 sites showcase 30 000 images of the daily life of the San people who once lived here. The oldest painting is estimated to be 2 400 years old.
The famous Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve lies at the centre of the park. However, the park is so vast, you’ll have to choose which parts you want to visit before you go.
How to get there: It’s a two-hour drive from Durban.
How much does it cost: R40 per adult per day to access Giant’s Castle. Check updated pricing on www.kznwildlife.com
Drakensberg Boys Choir
Why you should visit: If you’re in the area and love music, be sure to check when the Drakensberg Boys Choir is next performing. South Africa’s well known school boys choir is famous the world over. All boys attend the Drakensberg Boys Choir School – a boarding school that uses music as part of their holistic education – nestled near Cathkin Peak in Winterton, Central Drakensberg. Check the event schedules to see them live in action.How much does it cost: Prices vary depending on the event. Buy tickets on web tickets: www.webtickets.co.za/events/featured/drakensberg-boys-choir/1481980249.