Where: Border of KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho, South Africa
When: November to February
Best Sights: the Royal Natal 2.5 mile basalt cliff natural ampitheatre
Remember to bring: Mountaineering equipment to tackle the many free-standing peaks
Drakensburg, a world heritage site, is a 130-mile-long mountain range on the border betweenKwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. Drakensburg translates as ‘Dragon Mountains’ after a Boer man report seeing a giant winged-lizard flying over the peaks. Its Zulu name, Quathlamba, means ‘battlement of spears’ which accurately describes its jagged escarpment.
When to Go
Summer (November to February) is the best time to visit the mountains to avoid frosts, though it can be wet then.
There are many places to stay, from private resorts, to B&Bs, to caves. There are thousands of marked trails traversing indigenous fern forests with opportunities for horse treks, abseiling and trout fishing. 35 thousand bushman rock-art paintings are testimony to a million years of human habitation since the Stone Age, particularly condensed in the Ndedema dome region. The southern part of the mountain range is an adventure playground filled with golf courses in stunning surroundings, fly fishing, mountain biking, bird watching and polo. For more than a casual afternoon’s hike you will need to pay a fee and complete the Mountain Rescue Register.
The Royal Natal National Park is the most visited area with its 2.5 mile natural amphitheatre of sheer basalt cliffs and Thukela Falls – the second highest waterfall in the world at 3110ft. Here, you will need prior mountaineering experience and suitable equipment, including ropes, to tackle the many free-standing peaks like Devil’s Tooth, the Pyramid and the Column. If you’re very lucky, in the Champagne Valley, the world-renowned Drakensburg Boys Choir may be putting on a mountain-top choral show.
Main image: The Amphitheatre, Royal Natal National Park, Drakensburg, KwaZulu-Natal, Darren Glanville, Flickr Creative Commons
By Susi O’Neill