Drakensberg Mountains. Mountain Range in South Africa, Africa

Drakensberg Mountains

Mountain Range in South Africa, Africa

Drakensberg Mountains Photo © outdoorend.com

Drakensberg Mountains

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The “Dragon Mountains” in Afrikaans or Drakensberg, stretches over thousands of kilometers, covering at least four Southern African countries, namely South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, and Mozambique. The Drakensberg is the highest mountain in South Africa. The Eastern part of the escarpment encloses the Southern African Plateau (Wikipedia Article). The Drakensberg Park, based 2 hours away from Durban, spans from South Africa, in the Kwazulu-Natal province and Lesotho. The park covers 937 square miles in total. It also includes other reserves like the Royal Natal National Park, a provincial park and the Drakensberg National Park.

Its History

After the formation of the Southern African Plateau around 180 million years ago, 10 to 20 million years ago the stepped steep walls of the rift valleys formed escarpments that surrounded the Southern African subcontinent. A constant erosion till this day, has resulted in thick layers from the surface of the plateau to disappear, which gave birth to the entire eastern portion of the great escarpment constituting the Drakensberg. Particularly its rugged mountain scenery, the altitude streams, oxbow lakes, and wetlands are very important to its indigenous flora and fauna. Its annual rainfall ranges from 800 mm at lower altitudes to over 2,000 mm near the escarpment.

The Beauty of the Drakensberg

The escarpment is formed of a range of mountains. The Kwazulu-Natal/Free State Drakensberg (in South Africa), has a softer appearance with rounded rocks. The top of the escarpment almost looks like a table top, flat and smooth, almost like the Drakensberg part in Lesotho. 124 miles of the mountain range called the Barrier Spear (Wikipedia Article), lies in the Kingdom of Kwazulu-Natal. It is home to some various species of birds, 299 in total, making up 37% of non-marine avian species in Southern Africa. It is also home to some endangered species located in its flora and fauna such as the mountain pipit, the Drakensberg river frog, and some birds such as the cape vulture and the lesser kestrel, to name a few. The Drakensberg is a center of speciation where new species of plants are relics of ancient species that used to have a wider distribution under previous climatic conditions. These endemic species of vegetation are found more on high attitude, which has led local authorities to protect these areas. Its uniqueness lies in the different activities that can be found for tourists, like snowboarding (during winter), bird watching, rock climbing and hiking. Which offer nature lovers, the ability to observe and appreciate the different views. It is recommended to have comfortable walking shoes and clothing for those who choose to walk. It’s not an isolated activity, because of the affluence of tourists who choose to walk on the Drakensberg to the Tugela Falls (Wikipedia Article), it is an 8 hour walk to and from the parking area.

The Drakensberg, a site that offers a unique spectacle

What makes it special is the numerous caves in the eroded sandstone area, where numerous San Bushmen paintings have been recorded. There is an amazing collection amounting to 35,000 and 4,000 of the San people rock art, which is the biggest collection of that art form in the world. The high slopes of the mountain has almost never been reached, and is still intact. Tourism is more abundant on the lower slopes, with hiking trails, hotels, and resorts expanding more and more, as visitors become affluent in the area. It has been declared since the year 2000 to be a World Heritage Natural Park, thanks to the remarkable Bushmen cave paintings.

How to get there?

Different transportation companies that travel to Ukhahlamba
  • Buzz Bus runs through Drakensberg three times a week en route between Johannesburg.
  • Transport in UKhahlamba (Wikipedia Article) - Drakensberg Park: There's not much public transportation, the best way for tourist to explore the site is by car. Considering that the most popular resorts are within 2 to 3 hours’ drive of Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban, accessible from the N3 and then a network of minor roads heading west into the mountains.

When to visit UKhahlamba?

The weather is divided into two seasons. The winter and summer. The climatic conditions change rapidly in Drakensberg. Snow, fog, rain, and thunderstorms can develop within minutes, which can disturb the hikers on the hillsides. The most popular season is the winter season.

Safety

Carjacking incidents are very common, unfortunately, in the area, beware when driving on isolated roads, and always take local advice.

Entry Fee

A fee is payable when entering the area. It is included in the cost of accommodation within the parks, consequently, only day visitors pay an entry fee at the gate.

Different Accommodations on Site

The service is overall excellent, with a warm welcoming, excellent quality, and availability of food. The hotels, are a world class reference with little space left to flaws. You will get to contemplate nature as a unique and personal experience. The hotel personnel is friendly and always available to help with any queries.
The available accommodations (recommended):
  • Drakensberg Sun
  • Giant Castle
  • Champagne Castle

Some other practical information

On another point, avoid the Lesotho part of the mountain, if you choose to access it by hiking, via the South African route. Numerous complaints have been made about the unpleasant contact they had with locals from Lesotho, namely the Basotho people (so much for extending the discovery experience for extreme sports lovers). Avoid the Bingelela Lodge Restaurant outside of Bergville, South Africa. Some complaints have been made about the quality of the food, and lack of communication between the owners and the clients, which, we believe could lead to a very frustrating experience to people visiting Southern Africa for the first time.

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Author: Comasco. Last updated: Aug 20, 2014

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