Article by and © Andrew from The Antbear Guest House near Giant’s Castle.
South Africa offers tourists coming to our country a huge choice of holiday destinations. But its the Drakensberg Mountains that are still kept as an secret place thats seems a bit off the normal beaten track and while some folks do make it to the Drakensberg most dont.
The Drakensberg starts in the North with Clarens and the Golden Gate National Park and ends in the South at Bushmans Nek. Inbetween you will find the Royal Natal National Park with its Amphitheatre, Mweni the wildest part of the mountains, Cathedral Peak, Monks Cowl, Injasuti, Giants Castle National Park, Kamberg with the best bushman rock art site in the whole Drakensberg Mountains, Loteni, Sani Pass, Cobham, and Garden Castle.
There is lots to do in the region but the main reason you come to the Drakensberg is because of the mountains. While every part of the Drakensberg is special and has its own uniqueness there are a few spots you dont want to miss. The best place to get to the top of the escarpment is at Sentinel peak. The return hike is 5 hours and takes you the top of the Tugela Falls which falls some 948 meters into the Royal Natal National Park below. The view from on top of the Amphitheatre is proberbly one of the most spectacular views in the world. Most tourists tend to walk at the bottom and while its worth the visit ist just not the same as the top.
The Central Drakensberg and Northern Drakensberg form one region and by far the best example of this section of the Drakensberg Mountains is Giants Castle National Park. Essentially the experience in any part of this region is the same where you have the oppertunity to hike the lower reaches of the Drakensberg Mountains or otherwise stay low in one of the valleys. What makes Giants Castle more interesting is the large choice of trails and the lack of other people. I suppe it wont stay that way forever but the experice of walking in the montains and not seeing another sole can still be found here. From Giants Castle looking south the mountains become softer, less dramatic but make no mistake hiking trails in thes gentler landscape is just as good and should be included in your trip. Kamberg is a really good spot where the added attraction of the best site of bushman rock art is available.
Bushman Rock Art is most definatly a reason to visit the Drakernsberg Mountains The excellent video presentation before the 3 hour guided tour at Kamberg gives a great explaination of the history of the people as well as the rock art at game pass shelter. The rock art at Giants Castle at the main caves is also good and is a very easy walk. The Didima Rock Art Centre at Cathedral Peak offers a great presentation although the paintings are reproductions. All rock art must be viewed with a guide.
Horse riding through the foothills of the Drakensberg is an experience not to be missed. Sengani Horse Trails offers safe trails for beginners and experienced alike. Spionkop game reserve even offers game viewing on horse back. Steeped in history, the Battlefields Region offers enthralling tales of British, Boer, Zulu and Voortrekker history. The Anglo Boer War reached as far south as Mooi River and the many sites are best visited with a specialist guide.
The region offers a fun and fascinating collection of art galleries, craft shops, cheese tastings, leather work, antiques, clothing, gifts and pottery. All the activities represent a unique collection of South African creativity. Take a slow journey to view outstanding galleries such as Millgate, Indigo Fields Gallery, and Zombeza. Community development projects like Eyethu Ceramics and Thandanani Craft uplift local communities allowing tourism a wider benefit. A trip up Sani Pass into Lesotho and a visit to the highest pub in Africa is a must. It’s a dramatic 4×4 trail climbing 1330m in 6,5km’s Passports required. Game viewing is available at Weenen, Spionkop, Umgeni Valley and Golden Gate.
For Birders the Lammergeyer hide at Giants Castle the Crane Foundation at Kamberg and the bird of prey display at Falcon Ridge are highlights. Fort Durnford in Estcourt offers one of the most complete bird egg collections in South Africa. For adventure seekers the region offers white water rafting and quad bikes, the longest cable slide in South Africa, a gorge swing and a flying trapeze, bicycle tours and even hot air ballooning.
The Drakensberg Boys Choir is a world renowned choir which performs most Wednesdays at 3:30 pm. To book – Telephone: +27 (0)36 468-1017. Don’t miss this enriching cultural experience. Another enriching culteral experience is Mpopomeni Zulu tourism experience where tourists have the oppertunity to meet local people, hear a bit of the history of the settlement and taste some of the traditional food. Whats great is that the experience is about real people and does not feel touristy at all.