Royal Natal National Park

 In 1836, while exploring Basutoland, two French missionaries, Mons. Arbrousset and Daumas first discovered Mont-Aux-Sources, the sources of the Rivers. In 1908 the idea of establishing a National Park in this area was conceived, and the territory was explored by Senator Frank Churchill, General Wylie, Colonel Dick and Mr. W. O. Conventry. Recommendation were put forward, but it was not until 1916 that the Secretary of Lands authorised the reservation of five farms, and certain Crown Lands totalling approximately 8160 acres and entrusted it to the Executive Committee of the Natal Province.

On the 16 September 1916 the National Park came into being. An advisory committee was appointed to control the Park. Shortly afterwards the Natal Provincial Administration purchased the farm ‘Goodoo’, upon which a hostel had already been opened in 1913, and incorporated a small portion of the Upper Tugela Native Trust Land, thus swelling the National Park to its present 20 000 acres. The Advisory Committee was abolished in January 1942, and the Park was administered by the Provincial Council until the formation of the Natal Parks, Game and Fish Prevention Board on the 22 December 1947.

Mr. F. O. Williams held the first hostel lease rights on the farm Goodoo which he obtained from Mr. W. O. Coventry, the original owner. Mr. Coventry became Lessee of the whole park in 1919, and took over the post of Park Superintendent in August 1924 at the grand salary of five pounds per month. In 1926 he was succeeded by Otto and Walter Zunkel, who each added their share of buildings and improvements. Mr. Alan Short was the next Superintendent, and was in charge when the Royal Family visited the Park in May 1947, as a result of which its name changed to ‘Royal Natal National Park’.

Today, the Royal Natal National Park is managed by KZN Wildlife, the provincial conservation body of KwaZulu-Natal.

Drakensberg Accommodation-The Cavern

Drakensberg Diaries: Chute and Shoot to Thrill; Canoeing in the Drakensberg Foothills

Planning a holiday in the Drakensberg Mountains in the South African winter? This little gem is a ?something completely different? day-trip. So your Drakensberg holiday doesn?t have to be all walking.

There are other ways of getting around. Like bobbing through the Weenen Game Reserve in an inflatable canoe. I hear you say ?Hold it. Game reserve??. Relax, no lions. But that?s about all it?s short of.

The Bushman?s River sources in the high Drakensberg of Giant?s Castle. At altitude, its crystal-clear rock pools refresh overheated hikers. Lower down it feeds the Weenan Canal - built 100 years ago to provide irrigation for the farmlands. While the river rushes and tumbles over rocks, the canal is much less imposing. Only a metre deep and no more than a few metres wide. But it?s 12 kilometres long, traversing rough and hilly terrain. Don?t be too quick to jump in though ? its cold, winter-green colour tells you it hasn?t been in liquid form for long.

Your river guides will have everything ready for you. Lie back in your boat. And bob. It?s warm in the sunshine but cool in the shade. You?ve got paddles but you don?t need them. En route there are three not-so-large steel pipes through which the water has been channeled. You either stop, pick up your boat and portage. Or you lie back with the steel tunnel only inches from your face. It?s dark and you can feel the heat radiating from the surface. Grit your teeth. Go with the flow. Breath relief when you suddenly pop out into the sunshine again.

There?s a driverless boat behind you. This is the drinks trolley. And very welcome it is too. At around lunchtime you?ll come upon a feast spread out on a group of rocks next to the canal. Scotch eggs, asparagus wrapped in ham, chicken wings, quiche, salad, fruit, and cheese. The lunch fairy?s been and gone.

After lunch you move into the Weenen Game Reserve. The sharp, mountainous Drakensberg terrain has given way to undulating thornveld valleys. The canal rejoins a now fairly sluggish and narrow Bushman?s River. You need to paddle a little, and duck under the odd tree as you drift through a spectacular gorge. There?s a huge diversity of bird life and antelope. Buffalo and black and white rhino. Being on the water means you?re less noticeable, and less of a threat to the bird-life and the animals. So you can get close without startling them. And you don?t need a $10000 lens.

Once through the Game Reserve, you disembark just before the main road into Weenen with the tall thatching grass glowing orange in the fading light. Your river guides have arranged transport back to your starting point.

This is different.

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The Cavern Drakensberg Accommodation


Drakensberg dreaming

With us, any excuse for travel will do. This time around it was a weekend workshop in Durban that my employer had invited me to. What if we extended our weekend by two days after the workshop? Some quick calculations determined that we could finance the entire trip – accommodation, airfare and car rental included – for less than the cost of a single business class return flight between Cape Town and Johannesburg.

My wife and I took two days' leave and set off for balmier climes on the East Coast. My professional obligations finished late on the Sunday afternoon and we immediately set out from Durban to the Drakensberg.

The pleasant weather on the KwaZulu Natal coast draws many winter visitors. We, however, had a romantic getaway in mind, and what could be more romantic than a fireplace in the mountains in the winter?

We interrupted the two-and-a-half-hour trip to the Drakensberg for a quick stop in the town of Howick. We stood on the easily-accessible viewing platform to admire the eponymous waterfall before browsing through the nearby antique arcade. The remainder of the drive was uneventful and we arrived after dark at our destination - The Tower of Pizza. Yes, there is a tower, and they make pizza in it. The tower, a restaurant, a curio shop and a handful of cottages are located on a working farm beyond the town of Bergville, near the famous Amphitheatre in the northern Drakensberg.

We unpacked and immediately took up seats near the fireplace in the restaurant. There was a definite nippiness in the air. The entire place is testament to the Afrikaans saying: 'n Boer maak 'n plan. The restaurant is a converted barn, beautifully appointed, with ingenious touches of décor. The chairs are constructed from spades, while the mezzanine level of the restaurant has a railing consisting of a series of antique metal bed headboards.

The tower itself is an old grain silo that has been fitted with a wood-fired pizza oven. We eventually resolved our indecision over the temptation-laden menu by ordering half portions of pasta - homemade tagliatelle – and a pizza to share. The former was delicious, while the latter was truly excellent.

After dinner we ambled to our cottage and lit the fire. Unfortunately, bees had occupied the fireplace chimney. Soon a dozen of these were buzzing about the room with many more swarming against the fireplace safety grille. We evacuated our room before things got nasty and the bemused staff provided us keys to another cottage, regrettably sans fireplace.

The second cottage was just as beautifully decorated and sported an effective heater, so we were soon comfortable and cosy. I woke before dawn in a toasty room and itching to address my curiosity about our surroundings. There's a certain magic to arriving in a new place after sunset to watch it being gradually exposed by the light of the rising sun the next day. On such occasions, we like to take a few hours before breakfast to explore the immediate vicinity.

I opened the door to a blast of invigorating cold mountain air and noted the first colours of dawn on the horizon. I woke my wife, who joined me at the door to get her first glimpse of our surroundings before we changed into appropriate dress for a morning hike. She stepped into the draught by the door, gave a yelp and seemed to dematerialise, only to reappear as a shivering lump underneath a pile of blankets on the bed.

The negotiations that followed made the nuclear arms' treaty talks between America and Russia at the height of the Cold War seem like schoolyard bartering over marbles. Soon I was in hock to the tune of the sun, the moon and countless stars, but I managed to coax her out of bed again. As we left the cottage I kept thinking that wearing most of your clothes at once might keep you warm, but it must be mighty uncomfortable.

Wisely I kept my own counsel. What the sun revealed was mealies – miles and miles of mealies. The famous contours of the Drakensberg, including the Amphitheatre we came to visit, were lit by the rising sun. Wherever mountains did not dominate the skyline, mealies stood tall and golden. Horses are ubiquitous in the Drakensberg and soon after leaving our cottage we were waved at by two farm labourers on horseback.

Though I had never heard this area being described in terms of its bird life, we were soon struck by the abundance and variety of feathered creatures we encountered. Later that day, we even witnessed a rare black eagle falling on its prey less than 50m from us.

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Drakensberg Region Travel

 The Drakensberg is a plateau rising to 3000m above the foothills in KwaZulu-Natal and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Recognised by the ancient mystics of our land as breathing new life into the human spirit, the inescapable allure of this 200- kilometre- long wonderland owes much to its intense relationship with people...the million-plus years of Stone Age occupation in particular. This culminated in the tragic disappearance, during the late 19th century, of the San hunter-gatherers colloquially referred to as Bushmen.

Migrating chiefdoms from the Great Lakes of Central Africa had in the 13th century been humbled by the sheer magnitude of this uKhahlamba - Barrier of Spears - destined to become the western extreme of their Zulu Kingdom. The ox-wagons of Boer settlers negotiated its precipitous passes in 1837 on the Great Trek from British dominion in the Cape Colony to a 'Promised Land'.

The name Drakensberg was coined forty years later when a Boer father and son reported seeing a dragon - a giant lizard with wings and a tail - flying high above the cloud-shrouded mountain peaks.

The inscription in late 2000 of uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park as a World Heritage Site brought long-overdue recognition of its universal value to mankind.

Meeting the criteria for both Natural and Cultural listings, the site can now officially boast 'superlative natural phenomena and beauty, unique richness of biological diversity, the conservation of all-important endemic and threatened species plus masterpieces of human creative genius in the form of 35 000 'San rock art images'. Many people have known this for a long time!

From the massive basalt cliffs of its northern reaches to the soaring sandstone buttresses in the south, the Berg - as it's popularly known - offers a myriad delights to anyone of any age who needs to 'get away from it all'. Peace and quiet is the catchphrase amid this unsurpassed grandeur where the world's second- highest waterfall tumbles down a series of breathtaking cascades

Although accidents are rare, planned walks of more than a few hours require prior completion of the Mountain Rescue Register. Part of each entry fee to a KZN Wildlife protected area goes towards the invaluable emergency service provided by volunteers of the Mountain Club of South Africa.

You may not want to venture further than one of the four stunningly- situated golf courses, however, or your artistic talents may be so inspired that days spent blissfully capturing the surrounding magic on canvas are more than satisfying.

Horse trails and scenic self-drives offer respite for aching feet without missing the unforgettable experience of, say, watching rare birds of prey settling down to dine at a 'Vulture Restaurant'. Or you could cast a line in one of the trout streams and more than likely catch your own lunch...

For treasured memories of a lifetime it's not entirely necessary, then, to be a rugged mountaineer or abseiler - although these daredevils quite obviously do derive an enormous buzz from the Berg's natural challenges.

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The Cavern | Drakensberg Holiday Resort

Drakensberg Mountains


Extending from the northwestern border of Kwazulu Natal to the Tugela Region is the spectacular Drakensberg mountain range, originally referred to as the "Dragon Mountains" by early settlers. To the Zulu's living in the east, the rock formation resembled a row of spears and they called it 'Ukhahlamba' (a barrier). Nowadays, it is affectionately known to locals as the 'Berg'.

Its mountains rise as high as 3000m, and host some of the most popular South African Nature Reserves. Well-known names, such as Mount-aux-Sources and the Natal Royal National Park, recently renamed the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, draw the attention of local as well as overseas tourists to enjoy the unique, majestic and breathtaking views.

The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park has also recently been declared the fourth World Heritage Site in South Africa.

The northern Drakensberg is an area of magnificent natural beauty. One such scenic wonder is the Amphitheatre which lies on the eastern edge of the Mount-aux-Sources, a 3000m high plateau and the source of the Tugela River and eight other rivers. In the Tugela River one can see the most spectacular waterfall, the Tugela Falls which is the second highest waterfall in the world.

This large terrain, over 8000ha, can be explored on horseback with horses available for hire and there are more than 30 walks and climbs ranging from 3km's for beginners to over 45km's for the experienced.

The central Drakensberg area includes a solid basalt rock wall maintained at a level of over 3000m for some 35 kilometres ending in a massive corner stone known as Giant's Castle.

Proclaimed almost a century ago, Giant's Castle Game Reserve can be found on the foothills and a series of caves, which contain thousands of Bushman rock painting sites - evidence of the small, primitive San people who practiced a prehistoric life style in the area long ago.

The earliest of these paintings are about 800 years old, and the golden age of the painters was between 400 and 200 years ago. The paintings are mainly of people, their equipment and animals, wild and domestic.

The Southern Drakensberg ranges from Giant's Castle to Kwazulu Natal's southernmost section of the Drakensberg, Bushmans Nek. Bushmans Nek is one of two official entries into Lesotho from Kwazulu Natal and can be made on foot or horseback. Sani Pass, the highest in South Africa is the other and the only road link.

The Drakensberg Mountains are synonymous with rare and exquisite flora - such as cycads. It is also home to a variety of wildlife. Some of the wildlife seen in the Drakensberg includes the eland, the largest of the African antelope, oribi, jackal, baboon and porcupine. The highlight, however, is a trip to the 'vulture hideout' for an unforgettable birdwatching experience.

The main attraction is the rare Bearded Vulture, the largest of Africa's birds of prey with a wing span of nearly 3 metres. Nearly 150 bird species have been recorded including the Black Eagle and the Cape Vulture to name but a few.

The Berg has something to offer hikers, rock climbers, trout fishermen, and other holidaymakers. For the more adventurous there are also many trails which use caves up in the mountains for the overnight stops. A weekend of hiking and climbing, interspersed with dips in the icy pools and rivers, goes a long way to restoring those weary of city life. Hikers and climbers should however note that there are 24 species of snakes in these mountains, many of them dangerous.

The Drakensberg Peaks are: Mount-aux-Sources (3282m), Cathedral Peak (3004m), Cleft Peak (3280m), Cathkin Peak (3181m), Champagne Castle (3377m), Giant's Castle (3314m), Indumeni Peak (3200m), Ndedma Peak (3078m), Organ Pipes (2914m), Gatberg (2408m), Monk's Cowl (3234m), Windsor Castle (3065m), Castle Buttress (3053) and The Sentinel (3165m)

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Drakensberg Accommodation

The Drakensberg Peace and Tranquility


The majesty that is the Drakensberg should, without doubt, be experienced by everyone, at least once in their life. The only trouble with that is that the incredible beauty and sense of tranquillity of this place will see you wanting to return over and over again.

Situated in the Eastern part of South Africa the Drakensberg (Dragon’s Mountain) is a spectacular sight to behold. From the lush Yellowwood forests to the basalt cliffs and peaks, snow-capped in winter, there is abundant wildlife that includes up to 299 recorded species of birds. Visitors are bound to see the black Eagle, the rare bearded Vulture and small herds of Eland antelope - as well as troops of baboons and occasional glimpses of Blesbuck, Oribi, Mountain Reedbuck and Duiker on the mountain slopes.

The mountain range is 200km long and, due to its geological formation, is distinctive and unique among the mountain ranges of the world. In 2000 the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, covering 240,000 hectares, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for both its scenic beauty and its cultural importance, adding prestige and protection to this region.
If you are looking for the type of holiday where fresh air and relaxation abound then the Drakensberg is the ideal destination for you. Only 2 hours from the port city of Durban and 4 hours from Gauteng province , the Drakensberg is perfectly suited to the requisites of a family group, honeymooners, as well as adrenaline seekers.

The Range is divided into three main regions, namely the Northern-, the Central- and the Southern Drakensberg, with the central Drakensberg being the most popular and populous area due its easy access right into the mountains, as well as being blessed with spectacular scenery. It is in this area that you will feel truly humbled by the sheer awesomeness and might of the peaks of the Drakensberg. The highest peak of this area is Champagne Castle, at an impressive 3248ft.

The outdoor activities on offer in the Drakensberg include magnificently laid out hikes, from a short day-trail to a 3 or 4 day long overnight adventure. In the warmer weather there are private and secluded rock pools to be discovered upon your meanderings, perfect for escaping the heat of the day. Mountain biking, horse riding and rock climbing are a few of the more active pursuits to be enjoyed. Fly-fishing, golf, and sunbathing and swimming, round off the more leisurely activities in which you can participate. 

There are museums for the more culturally-minded to visit and explore. Arts and crafts are an essential source of income for the local inhabitants of this area and are offered for sale at various places throughout the Drakensberg.

If your idea of relaxation is more along the lines of an indulgent retreat then your every whim can be catered for at the numerous hotels and resorts offering a variety of accommodation standards. From elementary camping to rustic mountain cabins to 5-star luxury hotels , you are certainly spoilt for choice.

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uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park Cultural Conservation

The uKhahlamba Drakensberg mountain range is the highest and most important one in southern Africa. It is vitally important because of its biological diversity with more than 2150 plant, 299 bird species, 48 mammal specie, 48 reptile species, 26 frog species and 74 butterfly species in the Park.
The uKhahlamba Drakensberg region has been one of South Africa’s greatest tourist attractions for many years.

From a cultural point of view, the mountains were obviously significant for the Zulu people and later the Voortrekkers. Most significantly however were those most ancient of all inhabitants, the San or Bushmen. These original hunters left a magnificent legacy on the rocks of the Drakensberg in the form of their inimitable paintings.

There are about 600 recorded rock art site in the mountains, containing about 40 000 individual painted images. This is one of the most important galleries of ancient rock art in the world. These paintings are considered to be unique mainly because they represent the earliest specimens of rock art where colour and dimension were first introduced.

For thousands of years, San hunter-gatherers, the indigenous inhabitants of Southern Africa, lived in these mountains and skillfully painted the walls of the caves with a wealth of paintings that shed light on both the day-to-day and spiritual rituals of their ancient lives.

There are various sites where these paintings can be seen:

Cathedral Peak has always been a popular spot. Named after the world famous Didima gorge nearby and its many rock art sites, the new Rock Art Center is being developed here. Guided walks may be taken to the many rock art sites in the Cathedral Peak area.

Overlooking Cathedral Peak and the Berg, Didima Camp has been designed in such a way that each accommodation unit resembles a rock shelter.

In the area you can also visit the old cathedral and the famous Cathedral Peak hotel.

The next important rock art site is Giant’s Castle - also in Central Berg. One of the most famous rock art sites in the Berg is near Giant’s Castle and may be reached after a 2km walk from the rest camp. There are the Main Caves, which have been turned into a museum-cum-interpretive center for the rock art. There is a guide at the caves and for those with an interest in the San it is well worth the walk.

There are many other walks to be taken around Giant’s Castle apart from the rock art and historical sites, it is also one of the most spectacularly beautiful parts of the Berg.

The restcamp at Giants Castle features self-catering units, some of which are designed for guests with disabilities. There is also a shop and restaurant.

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How to Climb and Trek in the Drakensberg, South Africa

The Cavern | Drakensberg Holiday Resort

The Drakensberg Mountains are world renowned for excellent Trekking, Backpacking and Climbing Adventures. Lets chat about how to explore this area safely.

The Drakensberg mountain range forms the border between Lesotho on the west and the province of KwaZulu-Natal to the east. The Drakensberg consists of an escarpment 180 km long rising to heights of 3 300m. Several peaks rise high above deeply cut valleys and are a constant attraction to trekkers and climbers especially the renowned Amphitheatre and Tugela Falls . The highest section of the Drakensberg consists of basalt lava on top of sandstone, this is where you can find numerous "caves" for shelter. This is a substantial mountain range with the usual dangers of rain, snow, lightening, rock falls and rapid weather changes of high altitude. Climbers and trekkers should be equipped for all possibilities. During the summer rainfall period (October to March) mornings tend to be fine but there are often afternoon thunderstorms with hail, heavy rain and lightening. Early starts are recommended. The best time for climbing is from May to August, but be warned of blizzards which can occur for days at a time with temperatures well below freezing.
There are no paths on the Drakensberg Escarpment and trekking along it is a unique experience of solitude with spectacular views.If you are lucky you might meet another hiker along the way but it is not unusual to be alone for the entire trek. Camping next to the small streams in tents is the normal way and if you know where the numerous caves are you can shelter in them and maybe share it with a local Basotho Herdsman.
The favorite Trek in the Drakensberg is the infamous " Drakensberg Traverse" which takes about 18 days to complete, but a shortened and just as rewarding 5 day variation is available... Trek from the renowned Amphitheatre to the Cathederal Peak to experience what the Drakensberg has to offer.
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The Cavern | Drakensberg Holiday Resort

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The Northern and Central Drakensberg area has some of the most beautiful scenery that can be imagined. The area falls into four valleys, beginning with the Champagne Valley in the Central Berg, through the Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley, then the Royal Natal National Park and Amphitheatre Valley, and finally the Middledale Pass Valley in the Northern Berg. Each of the four valleys has its own kind of beauty and character; all have magnificent mountain views.

For immediate reservations and bookings in this magnificent area use the following telephone numbers: 036-4481557, 036-4482455 or 083-4857808, or email to

Royal Natal National Park
This area of the Drakensberg is particularly well known as a tourist attraction and accommodation area. Situated in the Northern Drakensberg, the most famous feature is the Amphitheatre. Here the Drakensberg, for the length of 5 kms raises straight up to the sky, to a height of over 3000 feet. It is here that the brave can climb up a chain ladder and view the escarpment from the top. A further feature of the Drakensberg is the Tugela Falls cascading down 5 drops forming the second highest waterfall in the world. Although the highest waterfall, the Tugela is by no means the only waterfall in the Drakensberg. Indeed the Drakensberg has many splendid falls of interest to the tourist. In the 8000 ha of the Royal Natal National Park is situated the Cannibal Cave, where tribal people had to resort to cannibalism whilst hiding from the wrath of Shaka Zulu as he purged the Drakensberg area of his enemies.This area has numerous walks and hikes to challenge the tourist, from easy to day long treks.Tourists are encouraged to register their presence when challenging this area of the Drakensberg, as the weather can change dangerously quickly.This area also has a wide selection of accommodation to choose from ranging from modest B&Bs to Self-catering, guest houses and splendid Drakensberg Hotels and Resorts covering prices to suit every pocket.

Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley
The Cathedral Peak Area of the Drakensberg has splendid scenery with the Doreen Falls as an excellent example of a Drakensberg waterfall. Views of the Central Drakensberg can be had by venturing to the top of Mike’s Pass (accessable with a 4x4 vehicle) and a natural feature of breath-taking nature is the Rainbow Gorge, with two enormous boulders forming a wedge, surely only seen in the Drakensberg Mountains.

The recently built Didima Resort and San Art Centre, a KZN Wildlife Project is well worth a visit whilst in this area of the Drakensberg. A 4x4 trail leads from the Amphitheatre in the Northern.Drakensberg to Cathedral Peak via the Mweni Valley. It provides a challenging drive as well as a remoteness that is unique in today’s world.The Mweni Cultural Centre, which provides accommodation, trails and guides, is also in this area as well as some of the most challenging climbs in the entire Drakensberg.

The Cathkin and Champagne Valley
Cathkin and Champagne Castle have peaks at 3149m and 3248m respectfively. These, together with Monk’s Cowl (3234m) are some of the highest peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains. Cathkin was named after an area around Glasgow, Scotland by the first Scottish settlers in the Drakensberg. The Champagne Peak received its name as a result of the first climber to reach its peak taking a bottle of Champagne to celebrate his achievment and accidently dropping it. Champagne Valley is noted for its many different sporting activites, especially golf, for which there are numerous challenging golf courses.

Lost Valley and Middledale Pass
Finally, there is “The Lost Valley” of the Northern Drakensberg. Here in this remote area of the Drakensberg is a unique geographical feature, repeated only at “Die Hell” near Outshoorn. This was reportedly the home of a “White Tribe” descended from Piet Retief’s Voortrekkers as they came into Natal, via Retief’s Pass. Of historical interest is a man-made suspension bridge, still in working order at the bottom of the 4x4 Trail into Lost Valley. A statue, the ‘Kaalvoet Vrou’, stands close to Retief’s Pass and Voortrekker Pass, commemorating the 1837 entry into Natal by Retief.

The San/Bushmen
The San people or Bushmen first populated this area of the Drakensberg and 17 shelters and over 4000 Bushmans paintings are to be found in Drakensberg caves and cliff overhangs.The Bushmen are believed to have been exterminated in the 1800’s by farmers and bounty hunters, although in 1926 a bow, quiver and fresh grass bed were discovered in this area of the Drakensberg. The Giant’s Castle area of the Drakensberg is rich in San Art Paintings and a visit to the Cave Museum showing San family life with clothes, tools and weapons is extremely interesting. Near to Giant’s Castle is a Vulture Restaurant where birds of prey like the Lemmergeier and Black Eagle can be seen from a camouflaged hide. A remote game reserve was established in 1903 between Champagne Valley and Giant’s Castle near Injusuthi Dome (3409m), the highest peak in the Drakensberg.

The Boer War Battlesites
The Drakensberg Mountains form a backdrop to Ladysmith and Colenso, towns which featured highly during the Boer War. Both towns have museums of great interest to students of this conflict. Numerous graveyards exist in the area and tour guides of considerable knowledge of the conflict can bring history alive for the tourist.The Siege and relief of Ladysmith is perhaps the single most told incident of the entire war, and was in fact a series of battles before Ladysmith was finally relieved and this area of the Drakensberg returned to British control. Tourists can spend many interesting hours visiting the Beor War Battlesites where heroism and carnage were performed by both the British and the Boer forces, and the names of people like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Ghandi, Emily Hobhouse, JanSmuts, Danie Smit and Louis Botha became household names and world famous later in time.


Southern Africa: Activity Holidays: An African adventure

Independent, The (London),  Jul 16, 2005  by Francisca Kellett

South Africa's Drakensberg range , a formidable spine of mountains stretching for 200km along Lesotho's border, offers South Africa's finest hiking. Its name recently reverted to the African term, uKhahlamba, which means 'barrier of spears' " a good hint at the area's dramatic peaks. Its jagged rock formations, plunging cliffs and lush valleys offer excellent hiking territory, from well- signposted day walks to strenuous week-long trails. Of the former, some of the most popular hikes are in the Royal Natal National Park in the north, particularly around the Amphitheatre, a dramatic wall of grey-pink rock soaring up to 3,000m. The area is also riddled with caves filled with ancient rock art by the San people. For information on trails, contact KZNWildlife (00 27 33 845 1000;

For tough desert hiking, head to Namibia, which offers the celebrated 85km-long Fish River Canyon trail, considered one of the most arduous " and most beautiful " in Southern Africa. Winding its way through the southern deserts, it is the second longest canyon in the world, with a surreal landscape of deep red rock walls and fierce sun. It is also home to wild horses, zebras and antelope. The trail winds along the (often dry) river in the base of the canyon, and takes about five days to complete. You have to carry everything you'll need and the inaccessibility of the area makes a guide essential. Open April to September only. Reservations: 00 264 6123 6975;

Zambia's Zambezi River offers one of the world's most extreme commercial white water rafting trips, plummeting through Batoka Gorge. Here, rubber rafts plunge over 23 rapids " some reaching grade five, the highest grade permitted for commercial rafting " through the steep, black-walled gorge, where small crocodiles bask on the banks. It's a terrifying but exhilarating experience, and although safety standards are very high, be prepared to be flipped from the raft during the trip. Water levels are at their lowest from August to January, when some rapids become too shallow to traverse. Shearwater Adventures (00 263 134 4471; runs day-long trips with certified guides, costing US$95 (pounds 53).

More gentle rafting trips are offered year-round on the Great Usutu River in Swaziland. Rapids reach grade four and are tackled in two-man boats, shepherded by guides in kayaks. Day-long trips are organised by Swazi Trails (00 268 416 2180;, costing from R620 (pounds 52).

Jeffreys Bay " or J-Bay as it's affectionately known " is South Africa's surfing hub, an unassuming little holiday resort in Eastern Cape. Its consistent right-hand wave has given J-Bay legendary status among the international surfing fraternity, and important surfing competitions are now held here every winter. Although usually packed out with surfing pros, J-Bay is also an excellent place to learn thanks to the gentle, reliable waves found close to the shore on Main Beach. Jeffreys Bay Surf School (00 27 422 934 214; jbaysurfschool@ runs hour- or day-long surfing lessons. A two-hour lesson costs R180 (pounds 15), including all equipment. Other surfing hot-spots in South Africa include the beaches around Durban and Cape Town.

A relative newcomer on the surfing scene, Mozambique has a magnificent Indian Ocean coastline, pounded by a considerable swell. The industry is still in its infancy, although surfers from South Africa have made some inroads at the little seaside town of Tofu. Here, the long arc of golden sand is backed by dunes and washed by a consistent break. Although there are no surf schools as yet, Bamboozi Backpacker Lodge ( hires out surfboards for R35 (pounds 3) per day. Around Tofu, many of the beaches of Inhambane province are good for surfing, although much of this stretch is undeveloped and visitors need to be self-sufficient.

Lesotho is famed for its tough ponies and the Basotho horsemen who ride them, and pony trekking is an idyllic way to explore the mountains. Treks can range from one-hour to week-long trips, with overnight stops in local villages and mountain lodges. Don't expect mad gallops across open spaces " most trails follow steep and rocky mountain passes, where the sure-footed ponies pick out the best route. Malealea (00 27 825 524 215;, a lodge in the western mountains, organises a range of pony treks led by Basotho guides; prices start at R100 (pounds 8.50) per day.

The ultimate adrenaline dive " cage diving with great white sharks " is available around Gansbaai in South Africa. February to September is the high season for shark viewing, when operators trundle around Dyer Island (home to a seal colony) and divers take it in turns to watch the 3m- to 6m-long sharks from behind the bars of an underwater cage. White Shark Diving (00 27 283 841 380; supports research into sharks and offers five-hour long trips for R1,000 (pounds 84).

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