Drakensberg Mountains Budget Travel


The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, and it came as no surprise. With its spectacular scenery, incredible hiking and beautiful waterfalls and rivers, the area is a favourite holiday spot for local and international visitors alike.

It is also a prime destination for weddings and honeymooners. You don't get more romantic or magical scenery than here. 

If you believe in fairies, this is the place to look for them, with it's fern-frilled streams, grottos and emerald forests.

Highlights in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg include:

  • Breathtakingly beautiful mountain scenery
  • Royal Natal National Park
  • Hiking - from short, gentle trails to long, gruelling hikes that take days
  • San paintings in various caves and on rock faces
  • Tugela Falls, the world's second highest waterfall
  • Helicopter flights over the peaks, and champagne at the top!
  • Horse trails through the foothills and game reserves
  • Drakensberg Boy's Choir School
  • A variety of adrenaline-pumping activities including abseiling, quad biking, white water rafting and rock climbing
  • Vulture restaurants
  • Battlefield tours - a number of the sites of South Africa's fiercest battles are in this area

About the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park

The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is part of an enormous escarpment which stretches over 1 000 km from the Eastern Cape in the South all the way up to Tzaneen in the north of South Africa. The park itself is made up of 200 km of spectacular mountains and peaks in KwaZulu-Natal.

When UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage site, they described it thus: '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.'

Drakensberg: the Name

Drakensberg, meaning 'Mountain of the Dragon' in Dutch, is thought to have earned the name during The Great Trek, when the Boers moved from British rule in the Cape to 'The Promised Land.' Legend has it that a father and son saw a dragon flying above the peaks. Walking in these mountains, it is not hard to believe such mystical tales. 

The Zulu name for the mountains is uKhahlamba, which means the 'Barrier of Spears'. Rugged series of steep peaks rise up and tower above the surrounding countryside.

Locals refer to the area simply as 'The Berg.'

Areas of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg

The park is loosely divided into three areas, each as beautiful as the next, and each offering the visitor a myriad delights.

Northern uKhahlamba Drakensberg

Arguably the most well-known part of the uKhuhlamba Drakensberg, this area includes the incredibly beautiful Royal Natal National Park. With a 5 km natural Amphitheatre forming its most breathtaking centre-piece, the area is loved for its magnificent hikes and the world's second-tallest waterfall, the Tugela Falls.

Central uKhahlamba Drakensberg

With the quaint town of Winterton as its gateway town, the Central Berg boasts some of the highest peaks in the range - Cathkin and Champagne Castle. The Cathedral Peak Valley is also home to the world famous Drakensberg Boys Choir School, where, during school-terms, weekly concerts are held.

Southern uKhahlamba Drakensberg

Africa's highest pub resides at the top of the treacherous Sani Pass in the southern Berg, reached only by 4X4, and offering spectacular views across the countryside. While this part of the Berg doesn't offer the towering peaks of the rest, it is an area of incredible natural beauty.

Fauna

Birdlife

With almost 300 species of bird calling the area home, this is a birdwatcher's paradise. They range from the tiny Rudd's Lark all the way up to the enormous and endangered Cape Vulture. There is nothing more magical than experiencing the cry of an eagle as it cuts through the silence of the crisp mountain air.

Wildlife

Baboons, monkeys and an array of buck live on the slopes of the mountains. In the designated wildlife reserves, you may be lucky enough to spot a higly endangered white rhino or iconic black wildebeest.

The rivers and dams are full of fish and frogs, including the comically-named Long-toed Tree Frog.

Flora

The rocky and steep upper slopes of the mountain are mainly bare, but as the land flattens out, the Berg boasts beautiful emerald forests and glades aroud the multiple rivers and streams and vast grasslands.

2153 plants, 119 on the endangered list and 98 endemic are found here, so you could spend weeks (to months) just enjoying the plants, from tiny ferns to giant yellowwoods and enormous conifers.

Climate

The area falls in the summer rainfall region, i.e. October to March. Rain is mainly in the form of spectacular afternoon thunderstorms,often with hail. Daytime temperatures during summer are in the high 20 degrees (celcius), and nighttime temperatures drop to about the mid- to high teens.

Snow falls regularly in winter (April to September) on the high peaks and sometimes on the lower regions. While the snow adds an even more magical aura to the area, temperatures do drop significantly. Daytime temperatures are pleasant, in the high teens, and nighttime temperatures drop to the single digits.

It is important to remember, especially when hiking, that sudden drops in temperature and changes in weather are a regular feature. Always carry something warm with you.


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