Majestic Drakensberg Mountains – trails, bushman caves and Lesotho Sani Pass tours
The Drakensberg Mountains have a network of hiking trails, some of which have caves for overnight self-catering accommodation. Most of them were Bushman caves for many centuries. The Sani Pass is a spectacular mountain road that is a well-known entry point into Lesotho from South Africa’s Natal Drakensberg Park. The Drakensberg mountain range of Natal forms the most dramatic escarpment between the South African Highveld and the low-lying regions. Soft meadows, jagged cliffs and bizarre rock formations create majestic scenery. From any vantage point you can enjoy a grand view into the low-lying KwaZulu Natal region. The best months to hike are the drier months (March to September) when the views are best, but a stay in the berg during the summer months (October to February) is also very rewarding due to the warm weather, green hills and thunderstorms. The thunderstorms can be fierce but are usually brief, after which you can resume your walk.
Experience the natural beauty of the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains – undertake easy short walks or an all day hike to conquer peaks of over 10 000 feet or simply enjoy the bracing mountain air, the fantastic panorama of the alpine backdrop whilst relaxing on the terrace of your hotel. A large variety of day activities are on offer in the area = fly fishing, horse riding, golf, arts and carfts centres and much much more.
Northern Drakensberg region: Bergville/Winterton area
We stay at selected accommodation, depending on time available and special client interests, in the Champagne Castle valley near or the Golden Gate Park area as well as in a rustic mountain lodge in Lesotho.
Southern Drakensberg region: Underberg/Himeville area
The Sani Pass is a spectacular mountain road that is a well-known entry point into Lesotho from South Africa’s Natal Drakensberg Park. The mountain pass obtained its name from the San people (Bushmen) that utilised it as an escape route into the impassable mountains of Lesotho fleeing from the Zulu and white settlers.
It is the only passage through the Drakensberg along a stretch of hundreds of kilometers of border between Lesotho and South Africa. The last 8km of the pass are negotiable by 4×4 vehicle only or a trip on foot lasting 3-4 hours …. then enjoy lunch at the top of the Sani pass at the highest pub in Southern Africa. The pass reaches a height of around 2895m and passes into Lesotho to the south of the highest peak of Southern Africa, the Thabana Ntlenyana.
Day excursions by Landrover or guided hikes to original cave painting sites are popular alternatives to famous, but often overcrowded, tourist hotspots.
(A minimum stay of 5 days/4 nights is recommended for combined North South Drakensberg tour.)
Suggested itinerary above can be adjusted to your time frame and interest.
Day 1 Johannesburg – Clarens / Golden Gate
Depart JHB and travel towards the Lesotho border via Bethlehem, enjoying the views of the diversity of fauna and flora through the Eastern Freestate. In the afternoon take a leisurely walk or drive–through in the spectacular Golden Gate Park admiring the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park’s sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock or browse through the myrad of arts and crafts shops in this historical frontier hamlet, taste some hand-crafted beers, enjoy traditional fare or amble around its tree-lined streets and enticing restaurants, art galleries and boutique style stores.
Day 2+3 Royal Natal National Park / Champagne Castle valley area
The Park is renowned for its spectacular scenery and wonderful mountain trails which reach into the heart of this KwaZulu-Natal nature reserve. For walkers and hikers, there are short excursions; for those content to absorb the beauty of the Drakensberg, there’s the Amphitheatre, a 5 kilometre long, 500 metre high rock wall, and above the rock face, Mont-Aux-Sources peak where the Orange River journeys west across South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. The Thukela (Tugela) River – boasting one of the highest waterfalls in the world – cascades down the rock face as it heads east to the Indian Ocean. In a nutshell, the scenery is breathtaking. Do your camera a favour…set it on automatic.
Day 4 Midlands Meander – Himeville
Today we amble through the glorious southern Berg to Royal Natal National Park through the lush, green Midlands Meander area, where city folk have chosen to swop stress for the slow lane, and work with arts and crafts. We’ll be stopping for a little shopping along the way to explore those aspects which most interest you.
Accommodation in the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg Mountains
Day 5 Himeville – Sani Pass tour and into Lesotho
Today we change to a 4×4 vehicle, tough enough to climb the highest vehicle pass in Southern Africa. We enjoy the magnificent views from Sani Pass and bound to make a lasting impression on first-timers. At the top is the border post between South Africa and Lesotho, (passports are a must).Once past the border we visit a Sotho tribal village, enjoying lunch at the highest pub in Africa. Perched right near the edge of the mountain, it has few rivals in terms of pub views. Afterwards we wind our way gently back down the mountain, settling into our accommodation.
Day 6 Himeville – Bushman’s Paintings – a 6 hrs hike to view original cave art
After breakfast, we set off on a hike to age-old bushman paintings (above average level of fitness required), once home to South Africa’s earliest inhabitants, the San people, better known as Bushman. Enjoy a fascinating tour of the rock paintings, after which you can choose to return to our accommodation soaking in the beauty or enjoy some golf, fly fishing, horse riding etc. or take a gentle mountain valley stroll in the afternoon
The San inhabited the Drakensberg and elsewhere in South Africa from the Stone Age until the nineteenth century. Living under sandstone overhangs or in temporary grass shelters, they left some of the finest examples of rock art in the world.
The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, is the principal monument to ancient hunter-gatherers who survived here until the 19th century. Descended from Early Stone Age progenitors who traversed the length and breadth of southern Africa for a million-plus years before them, the San themselves roamed freely between the Drakensberg and the coast for many thousands of years. Then came the constituent tribes of the budding Zulu nation, followed by white settlers from Britain and Europe, all of whom brought cattle and the burning desire for territory.
The San were forced to withdraw into their mountain fortress, from where they began raiding the stock of these invaders. Retribution was swift and terrible, with the whites soon declaring these ‘Bushmen’ to be ‘vermin for immediate extermination’. San culture disappeared from the Drakensberg at the end of the 19th century when the remaining San people became absorbed, not always happily, into the Nguni peoples of Lesotho, and cultures of KwaZulu-Natal. Today all that remains of this culture is the unique and fascinating legacy of their art. Using predominantly red, orange, yellow, black and white derived from mixing natural materials such as clay, burnt wood and ochre oxides, San artists set about representing their world, both outer and inner. The documentary paintings are fairly easy to comprehend – individuals interacting with one other and the clan’s involvement with its environment. These are seen to change dramatically over time from the simple yet necessary pleasures of hunting and food gathering, to the arrival of black-skinned interlopers from the north and finally, to the fear-filled depictions of themselves as the hunted.
Day 7 return to JHB (or Durban)
PRICING: ON SPECIAL REQUEST due to the large variety of options in timing – quality of accommodation – special fields of interest etc.