A slackpacker’s guide to hiking in the Drakensberg

A slackpacker’s guide to hiking in the Drakensberg

The Drakensberg may be the highest mountain range in Southern Africa but it doesn’t mean you have to feel like you’re filming the latest episode of Bear Grylls. The Drakensberg is a wilderness of some extremely challenging hiking routes, but there are many easy hikes for those wanting just a taste of the outdoors, without breaking too much of a sweat. Whether you’re an intrepid explorer, an incurable romantic or an exhausted businessman, here in the Drakensberg, you can take your holiday at your own pace, even if it means using your afternoon to lounge out by the pool, enjoying the views of the mountains.

If you’re up for stretching your legs on one of the area’s tamer hikes, here are some recommendations

  • Giants Castle, Main Caves Duration: 2 hours. Giant’s Castle is a hiker’s paradise with trails ranging from 3km to several days. This particular route to the main caves is an easy walk and it includes a visit to a rock art site. With over 6000 different cave paintings, the Drakensberg is the world’s largest outdoor art exhibition.
  • Worlds View  Duration 3 hours.  From the picnic area at Giants Castle take the concrete path down to and across Bannerman Bridge. Follow the path to below Sugarloaf Kop and on up to World’s View.
  • Cannibal Cave Duration: 4 hours. In the past, this cave was occupied by the San, as well as refugees from the time of Shaka Zulu. You can start this walk from The Cavern on the road leading into the Royal Natal National Park, following a well-marked trail to an impressive cave that overlooks the valley. A 5km Cannibals Cave parkrun also takes place here at 8:00am every Saturday and starts near the craft shop on the way in.
  • The Tugela Gorge Walk Duration 6 hours. Starting from the Royal Natal National Park’s hikers parking near the reception area, follow the Tugela River towards the base of Tugela Falls (the second highest waterfall in the world). Expect breathtaking views, a clearly demarcated trail and a combination of terrain, 7km each way. Be sure to pack a picnic, and to make a few stops along the way, but be careful of baboons who might try their luck for a quick snack.
  • The Sentinel Peak (Chain Ladders) Duration: 6 hours. The Sentinel Peak is one of the icons of the northern section of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, standing guard at the western end of the Amphitheatre. Starting from the Sentinel Car Park, follow the trail as it zig-zags up the mighty Sentinel and traverses around Beacon Buttress. This 12km hiking route is the easiest to the top of the Drakensberg. The top of Tugela Falls can be reached from here.
  • The Giants Castle slack Packing Trail Duration: 3 days. The Giants Castle Slack Packing Trail is a great beginner’s route for slackpackers wanting an extended hike in luxury. Your luggage is transported to the next lodge and you sleep in comfort. Even better you are served 3 course dinners. The the hiking trail passes through the Lowlands Conservancy and the Zulu Waters Private Game Reserve. The perfect hiking trail for a beginner

Great things happen when you get out of your comfort zone

Great things happen when you get out of your comfort zone

The Drakensberg Mountains  continue to inspire  people with its dramatic beauty where you disconnect from stress and reconnect with your soul. For those of you who are prepared to push their personal limits and step outside their comfort zones the Drakensberg offers a lot of options. Hiking to the top of the high escarpment, overnighting in a cave, go horse riding for the first time or even hot air ballooning. The opportunities for adventure in the Drakensberg are endless.

Not all of us are born to push the limits and quite a few of us are passed that stage of our lives. So you can look for other ways to experience these aspects of the Drakensberg Mountains. Stay in a luxury cave and sleep in a cosy comfortable bed. Or try out a slack packing trail staying in Drakensberg Lodges where your luggage is transported to the next lodge and all your meals a catered for you. You could even opt for a beginners horse trail.

 

 

Tips for hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains

Tips for hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains

What you should expect on a Drakensberg hike and how you prepare is not somethingto be underestimated. The Drakensberg Mountains are a remote wilderness area and you can experience drastic weather shifts and temperature changes. Our advice is that if you are not sure of your Drakensberg abilities hire the services of a specialized hiking guide or Drakensberg hiking specialist tour operator.

So just how hard is it to hike in the Drakensberg Mountains? Thats difficult to answer and it all depends on you mental and physical limits or capabilities. So when panning a trip plan for alternatives so that if you see the going is to hard or the weather is against you dont force yourself just opt for your gentler alternative or turn back.

The most common mistake hikesr make when deciding on what Drakensberg hike to do is that they assume they can handle say a 10km daily hike in the Drakensberg. I mean how hard can it be right? 10km on the road would take the average person about 2 hour’s right? What people fail to consider is that 10km in the Drakensberg can take up to 7 hours. In fact, when you plan a hike, budget on between 1.5km/h to 2.5 km/h depending on the gradient of the hike and how much you will be carrying. And if you have had a 1:50 000 map of the Drakensberg spread out before you, you might well consider upping your training regime when you see how close those contour lines really are.

A hiker might manage say 1.5km/h going up some really steep terrain and sometimes you move even slower downhill than uphill. A combination of sore knees and muscles, slippery or muddy conditions and an element of trusting your footing can sometimes make for a really slow descent.

Hikers also need to be honest with themselves when it comes to the duration of the hike and how fatigue will affect them. One of the greatest tips for hiking in the Drakensberg is energy conservation and fitness. Basically due to the severity of the hikes in the Drakensberg fatigue will compound especially over multi day expeditions.  As general rule, hikers will get slower towards the end of the day.

The average backpack weight on a Drakensberg hike can easily max out at 15-25kg. Now add that weight to a 40 Degree gradient for 5 hours. It is probably best that willing hikers participate in a few training hikes so that they can not only get used to the weight but also consider what they really need to pack.

Drakensberg is famous for its volatile weather conditions attracted by the mountains. Your biggest threats are Hypothermia and Dehydration. Proper cold weather gear is essential especially in the winter months and when hiking on the escarpment. Determining the availability of water is also crucial for survival. Although there is a plenty supply in the summer months, winter can be dry and water may be scarce to come by. Although all the rivers and streams are demarcated on the maps they may be dry when you get there. Always prepare for the worst case scenario when hiking in the Drakensberg.

The Drakensberg is notorious for its thick mist. And sometimes it just magically appears out of nowhere. A sure way to get your self hopelessly lost in the mountains. A good understanding of low visibility navigation is the key to surviving. And don’t rely on your GPS. Sometimes the your batteries run flat. Remember. Always prepare for the worst case scenario. Make sure you have a detailed map of the area and a good old fashioned compass for navigation. And oh yes, try not to fall of one of the narrow ledges.

But dont let this article scare you and keep you away from these beautiful mountains. Most of the time the views are spectacular, the sense of achievement that the Drakensberg can give you is huge and its a place you will want to return to often.

Exploring the Drakensberg – 5 Incredible day hikes

Exploring the Drakensberg – 5 Incredible day hikes

 With towering peaks, verdant valleys, forests and rivers, not to mention one of the highest waterfalls in the world, the Drakensberg Mountains offer some of South Africa’s most beautiful natural scenery.  Discover the best of the local landscape on one of these five great hikes; the ideal day trip from Durban.

The Rainbow Gorge Trail, Cathedral Peak
Moderate: 5.5km / 2 hours

Drakensberg Hikes Rainbow Gorge Credit Jean  amp  Nathalie Flickr www flickr

Hiking the Rainbow Gorge Trail is refreshing and picturesque

The Rainbow Gorge Trail really shows off the beauty of the Drakensberg Mountains; it’s considered to be one of the most scenic hikes in the area. Taking you past river and waterfall, meandering through a majestic indigenous forest of yellowwoods, you come into what is known as the Rainbow Gorge, so-called because of the radiant rainbows given off by the water as it falls. It’s also a great area for wildlife and birds, so keep an eye out.

Berg View, Giant’s Castle
Easy: 5km / 2 hours

Drakensberg Hikes Berg View Credit Jean  amp  Nathalie Flickr www flickr

Giant’s Castle is an epic part of the Drakensberg Mountains

Starting at Giant’s Castle Camp, the Berg View hike is gentle, but the views sure pack a punch. Remember to bring your camera with you because this route will take you up to a great viewpoint with an incredible panorama of the Drakensberg Mountains, all the way from Giant’s Castle to Cathkin Peak.

Sigubudu Valley and Ridge, Royal Natal National Park
Easy: varies

Bushmen Rock Art Credit EcoPic iStock Thinkstock www thinkstockphotos co

Bushmen rock art like this can be found throughout South Africa, with some of the best examples found in the Drakensberg

Fancy seeing some Bushman rock art on your hike? Starting at the main entrance road, follow the signs after the second bridge to find paintings done by the ancient Bushmen on the west facing rock face. And if you feel energized by your brush with the ancient, you can turn this hour-long walk into a longer hike by following the path up to the ridge that straddles the Sigubudu and Forgotten Valleys. From there you can take your pick: left to see Sunday Falls or right for jaw-dropping views across the Drakensberg escarpment at Camel’s Hump. 

The Chain Ladder Trail, Northern Drakensberg
Difficult: whole day

Drakensberg Hikes Chain Ladder Credit Jeroen Looye Flickr www flickr

The Chain Ladder Trail is breathtaking and the memories will last a lifetime

Definitely one for experienced hikers, the Chain Ladder Trail will take the whole day and, as the name suggests, involves climbing up two sections of chain ladder that are firmly fixed to the rock face. (There is an alternative climb, if heights aren’t your thing.) If you need an incentive to tackle this hike, your reward will be views from the top that are nothing short of spectacular, and a tremendous sense of achievement. From the top you can also hike to the point where the Tugela Falls cascade off the mountain; it’s one of the highest waterfalls on the planet. As a matter of safety, remember to sign in (and out) at the Sentinel Car Park before you set off.

Champagne Pools Hike, Giant’s Castle
Easy: 4km / 1.5 hours

bearded vulture

Keep an eye out for the Bearded Vulture and other wildlife on your hike

Although not actually filled with Champagne, the natural pools you’ll encounter on the Champagne Pools Hike are perfect for paddling and stretching out a relatively short hike into an afternoon outing. The hike itself is circular, easy to follow and, at 4km, it should only take an hour or two, so it’s great for kids, too. Plus, the route is gentle enough that you could even pack a bottle of bubbly in your bag to enjoy with a picnic. Just remember to bring back any trash: what goes into the Drakensberg Mountains must come out.

Drakensberg horse riding and horse trails

Drakensberg horse riding and horse trails

The Drakensberg Mountains is a horse riding mecca in South Africa region where you can experience a whole range of horse riding, horse trails and horse demonstrations. Giants Castle region of the Drakensberg Mountains presents splendid opportunities for both the experienced and the beginner to ride this magnificent countryside on horseback and spend the day exploring the mountains. So to does the Champagne Valley and the Northern Drakensberg have a few very interesting horse riding options. Almost all the resorts in the Drakensberg offer guided horse trails, and several include overnight adventure rides for groups of five or more.

Horse trails through a game reserve brings you closer to game than you can possibly achieve on foot. Imagine that incredible feeling as you move amongst a large herd of giraffe or wander with a white rhino across open savannah in the Zulu Waters Private Game Reserve. Or simply view a large herd of impala against a backdrop of shimmering water and mountain at Spioenkop Dam.

Drakensberg horse trail and horse riding opportunities

  • Antbear Horse Safaris offers very affordable horse trails in the foothills of the Drakensberg with spectacular views of Giants Castle. These horse trails are ideal for beginners and you could even get a horse riding lesson before the ride.
  • Dragon Peaks horse trails. Lynne offers different horse trails so there for everyone. Dragon Peaks offers trails for advanced riders, intermediate riders and beginner horse riders.
  • Zulu Waters Private Game Reserve.Horse tails that are perhaps the most spectacular horse riding option available anywhere in the world. Here you can get up close to Rhino and zebra and lots more than that. This is a perfect wildlife safari on horse back.
  • Khotso Horse Trails offers overnight or 1 and 2 hour rides in the beautiful Southern Drakensberg Mountains on fine basotho horses. Our working cattle and horse farm is situated outside Underberg. Overnight in our comfortable self-catering cottages or log cabins. Enjoy trout fishing, river tubing and rafting in summer, snowboarding in winter and horse riding and mustering cattle on the farm.
  • uShaka Horse trails central Drakensberg is situated at the foothills of the Cathkin, Champagne Castle mountain range. On a 600 acres farm bordering Bell Park dam ushaka Horse Trails offer unforgettable adventure trails on horse back.
  • The Northern Horse provides an equine experience of a lifetime in the Northern Drakensberg! Climb mountains, forge rivers and race over plains atop hardy mountain horses and ponies and enjoy unspoilt scenery in the foothills of this World Heritage Site. One Hour Trails: Two grooms take groups of up to ten riders on trails around the Montusi Estate. Trails vary from gentle plains to steeper valley trails to suit all levels of confidence.
  • Oaklands Country Manor offers world class riding facilities and equipment. This unique and relaxing activity is a great way to take in the gorgeous views and fresh mountain air. Horse riding activities include outrides and children’s arena rides on our beautifully schooled horses. Their experienced staff are on hand to assist beginners, whilst seasoned riders are welcome to explore the area unaccompanied following an assessment ride.

Central Drakensberg activities and attractions

Central Drakensberg activities and attractions

The Drakensberg offers a huge range of activities and attractions for your enjoyment. Its all about these unique experiences that make the Drakensberg Mountains the most interesting adventure activity destination in South Africa. Much of this can be attributed to the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains declared a World Heritage Site on two counts.

Gentle attractions and activities in the Drakensberg

  • Falcon Ride bird of prey show – Daily bird of prey demonstrations except closed on fridays.
  • Cathedral Peak Wine Estate. This is wine estate that was established in 2008 offers an excellent wine tasting experience
  • The Drakensberg Brewery, which is producing a range of exceptional beer types ranging from red Ales, blonde Ales, Indian Pale Ale, Pilsners and Stout. This brewery, which is open for light lunches and tasting, is a must visit.
  • The Drakensberg Boys choir – Sublime performances and should you find yourself in the Drakensberg on a wednesday afternoon this is something you should not miss. Start 15:30
  • The Champagne Valley also offers a Park Run, a 5 km experience from the Waffle Hut near Winterton. Guests are welcome to join this community spirit. Additionally, engage with locals over waffles and coffee on Saturday morning. The run starts at 08h00.
  • The Giants Castle Slack Packing Trail – This hike is a luxury trail and is perfect for those hikers who want to sleep in a comfortable bed each day, enjoy 3 course dinners, hearty breakfast, picnic lunches and tea and scones along the way. Its very much about taking things easy and at a leisurely pace enjoying the Lowlands Conservancy and Zulu Waters Private Game Reserve.
  • Day hiking trails through the Drakensberg Mountains – There is a lot to choose from here. easy half hour strolls right through to moderate half and full day trails for beginners. Giants Castle offers some of the most diverse day hiking options in the Drakensberg and the trails start 500m higher than the more popular Monks Cowl and Royal Natal just making things that much easier for yourself. Remember the higher you go the better the views.
  • Sandra se Winkel” Museum on the way to Ardmore Guest Farm is a fascinating trip into the past of frontier life of the Drakensberg. It is a genuine trading store from a by-gone era. Many of the goods in the museum are still in their original packaging!
  • Mandela Capture Site – An incredible sculpture reminding the world of an incredible personality. Nelson Mandel has left a mark on South Africa for us all to be be inspired from and  and thankful for.

Adventure attractions and activities in the Drakensberg

  • Scootours – A group of 6 adults going down a hill with scooters …. at first thought a NO NO . But is a great experience and fun going down on narrow pathways with a scooter. Great views, great fun and a great guide.
  • Drakensberg Canopy Tours, Situated in an indigenous forest of the Central Drakensberg, in the shadow of the towering Cathkin Peak, the Drakensberg Canopy Tour® awaits you. Boasting Africa’s first elevated rock face walkway with a good mix of both cliff face and treetop platforms, and cable slides over the forest up to 60 metres high, the Drakensberg Canopy Tour® must automatically go to the top of your “must do” list.
  • White Water Rafting – Zingela Safaris offers some lovely white water rafting options on the Tugela River.
  • Hot Air Ballooning Hot air ballooning should be on your bucket list and there are few places in the world to fly in that’s as spectacular as the Drakensberg Mountains.
  • Hiking the high DrakensbergThere can be few more inspiring places on earth than looking out at the view from the top of the Drakensberg Escarpment. Getting up there is a slog and hiring a hiking guide that knows the places to camp and caves to sleep in can help alot
  • Cathkin Trails – Valley is becoming increasingly popular for mountain bikers and trail runners. The community of this area has seen the potential of those sporting pursuits and as a result, established has an extensive mountain biking and trail running trails.

Take a day off and make Valentines day into a long weekend

Take a day off and make Valentines day into a long weekend

Valentine’s Day is about showing love and appreciation with a little romance in the mix. It doesn’t have to be hard work, but it almost definitely has to be meaningful.

And there are few things as meaningful as time. Making the time to connect with one another may just be the most memorable gift you could give someone. Of course, spending this time in a gorgeous spot will score you awesome Brownie points! The Drakensberg Mountains is just such a spot.

Romantic private dining in the Drakensberg

For extra romance points take Friday the 14th off work and head out early, to score a three day weekend.

Some absolutely stunning spots you can share with the one who has your heart.

What makes the Drakensberg such an interesting Easter destination

What makes the Drakensberg such an interesting Easter destination

Can you believe it’s almost Easter? For some, it’s an occasion to unwind, have a bit of “me” time and unapologetically indulge in delicious confectioneries. However, for the rest who are prone to family obligations such as holiday planning and daycare juggling, it’s a time of concern – contemplating on what to do and where to go with the family in tow. Sound familiar?

Don’t stress, we’ve got your back! Consider our line-up of places that are worth visiting in the Drakensberg this Easter and are sure to take the load off and make every moment with the family a memorable one.

Spend the Easter Weekend in the Drakensberg Mountains, enjoy waking up to the sun breaking through the trees, plenty of outdoor activities and promises of days filled with family fun!

4 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD SPEND EASTER IN THE DRAKENSBERG

  1. Easter is a magnificent time of the year for the Drakensberg. The unpredictable weather of summer has passed us by but we are still a long way from the chilly nights of winter. You can expect stable sunny days with the hills still green from the summer rains.
  2. School holidays are here, which means the kids are probably bored and looking for something to do. Taking the whole family to the Drakensberg is the answer for your little break with the children before you continue with the rest of your busy year. There are plenty of activities to be enjoyed by everyone!
  3. The Kwazulu Natal coast is high season over Easter and while the Drakensberg is also busier than normal its simply not completely overbooked. In fact our suggestion is to check out the special deals that are available over Easter in the Drakensberg
  4. The Drakensberg offers a really different holiday break that will make your Easter break exactly what you deserve.

Top pics for you Easter holiday in the Drakensberg

  • Antbear Lodge – Make sure you ask about the luxury cave accommodation thats built under a rock with hammock chairs on its deck looking out over Giants Castle.
  • Sycamore Avenue Tree Houses – Do something really different and spend your Easter this year in a tree house. Bring back those childhood memories and just have fun.
  • Giants Castle Slack Packing Trail – Fancy a little more excercise. This luxury slack packing trail is just the answer
  • Hot air ballooning SA – Tick it off your bucket list. Hot air ballooning in the Drakensberg is just special.
  • Canopy Tour – Either at Karkloof or in the Champagne Valley sliding through the forest at breakneck speed is makes for great Easter fun.

What to do on a rainy day in the Drakensberg

What to do on a rainy day in the Drakensberg

The Drakensberg and Midlands Meander offer many activities for tourists on a rainy day. Just remember that the Drakensberg and Kwazulu Natal Midlands often experience very local weather so you may find locating just 50km in a different direction that you are back to the sunny days.

Drakensberg rainy day activities

  • Winterton Museum. This small museum has interesting displays on the history of farming in the Winterton are. It also features a blacksmith shop and a traditional Zulu beehive hut.
  • Cathedral Peak Wine Estate This estate produces an award wining Pinotage. Additionally, a famous blend known as “UNESCO”.
  • Thokasisa Craft Center
  • Ardmore Art Gallery – A new gallery and museum has just been completed. The work displayed here is inspiring and will be one of the top things you do while in the Kwazulu Natal Midlands.
  • Drakensberg Brewery. They have a range of excellent craft beer.
  • Berg Air, there is a chocolate factory and specialist coffee shop.
  • Drakensberg Boys Choir Concert on a Wednesday afternoon.
  • Ladysmith Siege Museum. This excellent museum, provides a fascinating overview of the South African War or Second Anglo Boer war.
  • Negosie Museum worth the trip down memory lane. Should appeal to all of us who were growing up in the 60’s and 70’s
  • Nelson Mandela Capture Site – The new apartheid museum is great to keep you occupied for and hour and if the rain lets up for 15 minutes go and see the Mandela Capture site sculpture. This is even worth braving the rain
  • Thatam Gallery – Spectacular art gallery in Pietermaritsburg. The exhibitions vary and you often catch some really great South African artists exhibiting here.
  • Natal Museum – One of the best natural history museums in the world right here in Pietermaritsburg
  • Midlands Meander offers a collection of quirky coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries, crafters, cheese and wine tasting, chocklate dipping which are all perfect on a rainy day in the Natal Midlands.

Family-friendly Drakensberg Hiking Guide

Family-friendly Drakensberg Hiking Guide

Hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains is one of the top activities in South Africa. So whether you’re an international traveler or a local South African make sure the Drakensberg Mountains are part of your holiday plans. Actually you should just add them to you bucket list for planning future holidays. The Drakensberg is a must do once in a lifetime experience experience if you’re a nature lover or outdoor enthusiast. Its a remote wilderness isn’t always the easiest choice when you have a family with young toddlers.  This non-camping and children-friendly Drakensberg hiking guide will change all of that

It’s easy to see why the Drakensberg is a natural heritage site, but why cultural? It is estimated that there are over 20,000 San rock paintings hidden across the Drakensberg Mountains. And these should be included in your Drakensberg holiday. It is the highest mountain range in South Africa at a maximum height of 3,482 metres above sea level.

There are an unlimited number of hiking trails in the Drakensberg. You can hike the Drakensberg all year round. However, the best time to visit the Drakensberg is during Spring (September to November) and Autumn (March to May). The temperature is more moderate during these months. If you love flowers and plants, November is the best month to see South Africa’s indigenous fauna growth. Summer (December to February) is great if you fancy swimming after your hikes. The rivers are usually full this time of the year and wonderful for swimming. Just be wary that summer is the rainy season and afternoon thunder storms may interrupt your activities. In the winter months (June to August) you’ll be able to enjoy hiking under clear, sunny days. . If you’re lucky, you may even see some snow capped peaks at higher altitudes. The views are always incredible

Unfortunately there are no direct flights to the Drakensberg. The best option will be to fly into either Johannesburg or Durban and rent a car. That will likely be the cheapest option for a family or group larger than 3 people to get to the Drakensberg. Depending on which part of the Drakensberg you’re heading to, it will take 2 hours to 5 hours to drive there.The drive should be pleasant and pretty easy to do. The roads are  well maintained so you won’t need a 4X4 or 4 wheel drive to get to the Drakensberg. Just watch out for the occasional pot hole once you get onto the rural back roads.

Bus or public transport from Johannesburg and Durban to the Drakensberg is limited. There are Greyhound buses That will get you to the smaller towns. Uber does not exist here so you will then be reliant on the shared mini bus taxis and you might need to offer the taxi driver a little bit extra to get you all the way to the National Park Gate. There is also the Baz Bus which is a backpacker bus that drops off and picks up from a few of the backpacker establishments in the Drakensberg. The backpackers offer great options of tours to get out into the mountains.  Still the best recommendation is to have your own vehicle or hire a car. If you not able to stay overnight in the Drakensberg but keen to experience some day hikes, you can join full day hikes from Durban. This is a great option if you’re travelling solo because the tour includes transfers from Durban to the start of the hiking trail. Another plus is that these hikes are guided.

The most frequently asked question asked in South Africa is “Is it safe?”. Well the Drakensberg does come with some risks of you plan things a bit and are aware of the risks you will not have any issues. You will instead wonder what all the fuss was about. Simply don’t create temptation by wearing flashy and expensive jewelry, hang your camera or smartphone around your neck, carry large wads of cash on you, wander around alone at night or pick up random hitch hikers along the side of the road. Drakensberg is relatively safe because it is quite remote and far away from big cities and towns, but it may still be helpful to exercise normal caution anyway. Go on guided hiking tours if you’re extra cautious. If you are a solo traveler its best to hook up with others at hostel or backpackers. Its just silly to hike alone. You might fall and need help in remote places where cell reception is scarce and alone you simply are left to your own devices.

Family-friendly Drakensberg Accommodation Options

The best way to decide where to stay with your family, is to start off by deciding which hiking trails you would like to explore and finding accommodation around that area. The Drakensberg region is huge, so if you plan on doing hiking trails that are far apart from each other, then plan a route and book short stays at hotels close to these trails. Some hiking trails will be directly accessible from your accommodation, whilst others will require a short drive. Make sure that these hiking trails can be completed in a day unless you want to brave camping in the wilderness.

  • The Cavern Resort & Spa – Situated in a beautiful mountain location, this hidden gem is a popular getaway resort for  those seeking comfortable accommodation, great country cooking, outdoor adventure and  attractions. Because the resort is located within a valley, each of the beautifully decorated  rooms offer guests tranquil views of the surrounding nature and scenery. Families can  choose from many activities for all ages such as a playground, a games room, horse riding, a  bowling green as well as a swimming pool
  • Cathedral Peak Hotel –  Cathedral Peak Hotel is an all year-round destination in the Drakensberg, offering visitors an  experience of incredible summers to wonderful winter snow. The resort is extremely  popular to those who love nature and the outdoors. Situated against the breathtaking  Cathedral Peak mountain range, the 4* hotel attracts many travelers including families. Its  array of children activities make this an extremely sought after family friendly property.
  • Antbear Lodge – They understand the importance of making sure your children are well looked after so that adults can enjoy a well deserved break. Antbear Lodge welcome children of all ages into a wonderfully child-friendly, safe environment, and with a selection of child friendly activities. Its clear your children will be sure to have a fun- and variety-filled country holiday. Youngsters will be occupied for hours exploring the grounds, visiting the farm animals, watching a cow being milked and riding horses. And they can also arrange a baby-sitting service at a reasonable hourly rate.
  • The Nest Hotel – One of the few Resort Hotels offering a sumptuous Table d’Hote included in your tariff. Wholesome six-course traditional dinners, full hearty breakfasts, light country-style lunches and morning and afternoon teas. And all in a child friendly environment.
  • Ardmore Guest Farm – Situated in the heart of the scenic Champagne Valley in the central Drakensberg mountain range. Surrounded by breathtaking views and fantastic opportunities for hiking and exploring the local area. Wake up to a traditional farmhouse breakfast (full English) overlooking Ardmore’s extensive gardens. Child friendly with lots of tame farm animals on the guest farm.
  • Drakensberg Mountain Retreat – A stunning destination in the northern Drakensberg with breathtaking views. Accommodation at the Lodge is fully catered for breakfast and Dinner. Lunch can be ordered and can be enjoyed on the patio or a picnic basket for your walk in the mountains. The rooms range in quality and size so chat to the management if you want something specific. There are 2 luxurious rooms for romantic couples wanting a totally private retreat. Our pet friendly rooms have enclosed gardens and our large family rooms are wonderful for relaxing with the kids. There are no fixed entertainment activities for the kids
  • Alpine Heath Resort – Situated close to Bergville, this family friendly 4* hotel is the perfect location for those in  search of tranquility, relaxation and majestic views. For those who opt to  venture out a bit, there are options of outdoor activities and nearby attractions. Families  can enjoy their stay in one of the many luxury chalets with incredible views of the  mountains.
  • Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort  – Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort is a family resort situated in the heart of the Champagne Valley, Central Drakensberg. The resort offers a variety of accommodation types to suit the whole family. Our accommodation ranges from camping and caravan sites through to numerous self-catering options. We offer from our most affordable Drakensberg Park Homes which are 2* through to our newly built 4* Lakeside Suites.
  • Little Switzerland Resort – If you’re looking to bring family together from Durban and Johannesburg, then this holiday  haven is perfectly situated in the middle of the two major cities. This 4* resort offers guests  both peace and tranquility amongst the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. Views of the  surrounding nature and wilderness, as well as nearby waterfalls, streams and forests, allows  for family to explore and enjoy the very best of nature. The resort is suitable for families and  friends to share self-catering chalets with the ultimate comfort as well as a choice of a  mountain, garden or pool view.
  • Drakensberg Sun Resort – This 4* resort in the Drakensberg, provides guests with the ultimate luxury and comfort. This also includes spectacular mountain views. Its great variety of both indoor and outdoor  activities includes canopy tours, mountain biking, boating, horse riding, volleyball and trout  fishing for families seeking adventure. Guests at the resort can also enjoy the views of a  beautiful private lake.
  • Champagne Castle Hotel – This 4*family friendly stay is situated within a world heritage site offers exciting activities  and attractions for the whole family to enjoy. This accommodation offers a window to some  of the most beautiful mountains in the world. The resort is not short of activity options, such as horse riding for the teenagers, pony rides and animal farm with a petting zoo for the  little ones, Trout fishing for mom and dad, tennis courts, bowls, volleyball, badminton, croquet, rounders, games room with table tennis, pool and football, board games, darts and hiking trails for the friends and extended family who have also been included in the family  holiday.
  • Dalmore Guest Farm – Perfect weekend getaway. Nestled in the heart of the Drakensberg, this working farm offers luxurious accommodations, hearty, home-cooked meals and tons of activities for the entire family. Zip line and children’s play area
  • Sani Valley Lodge – A private nature lodge only 2 hours from Durban. It sits within the dramatic Drakensberg mountain range, borders a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the closest luxury lodge to the famous Sani Pass.
  • Inkosana Berg Lodge – The lodge is “eco friendly” and sustains itself from using resources of the land such as mountain water, fresh vegetables and herbs from the herb garden, solar lighting and outdoor eco showers, gas cookers and wood fired pizza oven.
  • Penwarn Farm Lodge -An Unforgettable Farm Lodge Experience. Penwarn Farm Lodge, in the heart of the Underberg, provides guests with that authentic farm experience, but without sparing any of the luxuries you’d expect to enjoy on your holiday. There a range of accommodation options available at Penwarn Farm Lodge, with choices to suit couples, friends and families alike.
  • Injisuthi Camp – Hiking and camping in Drakensberg parks such as this will be a memorable experience for older children and teenagers.

Family-friendly activities in the Drakensberg

  • Antbear Lodge horse trails – Ideal for beginners and children. The horses are very calm and rides are not about speed. For children the horses are led with someone walking with the horse or little children can get some exposure inside the round pen just to get used to things.
  • Falcon Ridge bird of prey show -Highly recommended (including a TripAdvisor Badge of Excellence), The Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Center is found in Champagne Valley in the Drakensberg. Open every day apart from Fridays, the “shows” are thrilling; highlighting the power, speed and intelligence of the birds. An insight into Falconry is included in the show and the public will learn how these birds of prey use their wings and sharp beaks and claws to their advantage.
  • Dragons Rock Reptile center – An exciting tour that is fun and educational. Come and feel the reptiles and learn all about them. Anything from snakes to hedgehogs. This really is a gem of an attraction for families and children.
  • Scootours and kidies adventures – Down hill scooters are lots of fun even for the adult kids. Here You will find zip lines, tree climbing, paintball, King Swing @ One Venue in Central Drakensberg
  • African Bird sanctuaryIncredibly informative, beautiful birds and the only place in the world that has Bearded Vultures in captivity (they’re part of a breeding program to try up their numbers) in Pietermaritzburg, and watch some awesome predators like owls, falcons and hawks in action in an open-air amphitheater and learn their stories. Don’t miss the vulture feeding sessions, on weekends and public holidays at 12:30. Afterwards, visit the Kestrel Cafe for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat, while the kids burn off some extra energy at the jungle gyms or feeding the rabbits and guinea pigs.
  • All Out AdventuresAwesome activities to get the adrenaline pumping…nice coffee shop…safe…owner manages
  • Drakensberg Boys Choir – The Drakensberg Boys Choir School is one of the few South African Schools whose fame extends around the world. This school offers a unique educational opportunity for boys; it stimulates their spirit of adventure and exploration in our beautiful surroundings, while nurturing the development of the mind and expression in innate musical talent. Set on a 100Ha estate, the school draws its inspiration from the majestic Drakensberg Mountains, a World Heritage Site in KwaZulu-Natal, and is filled with the sound of boys singing, surely one of the purest of musical delights in the world. Don’t miss our popular Wednesday concerts at 15h30, every Wednesday during term time!
  • Piggly Wiggly Country Village – With various activities for the entire family, the Piggly Wiggly Country Village has something for everyone. The Candle Dipping Shop invites little piggies of all ages to create candle art by dipping their candles into different colours of wax while mom and dad shop or do some wine tasting at Meander Fine Wines. Kids can also play putt-putt at the Piggly Wiggly Putt Putt or get creative at the Zulu-Lulu Ceramic Boutique. Offering wholesome family fun and plenty of opportunities to bond with your kids, the Piggly Wiggly Country Village is a must visit this winter holiday. They also have great Kiddies’ Party Packages!
  • Karkloof and Drakensberg Canopy Tours – For an adventure activity that you and your kids will remember, go on a canopy tour with Karkloof Canopy Tours. Unleash your inner monkey by joining the Samango monkeys in the Karkloof forest canopy. Suitable for children from the age of seven, the two-hour eco-experience will afford you the opportunity to traverse from one platform to another along a steel cable suspended 35 meters from the forest floor. With nine platforms and eight cable slides, it’s a zig-zagging experience the whole family will enjoy.
  • Chocolate dipping at Cockolate Heaven – For a sweet experience that will certainly give you the parent-of-the-year award, go chocolate dipping at Chocolate Heaven. The chocolates are hand molded and are created with premium Belgian chocolate. It is an activity dunked in fun that will hopefully leave more chocolate in your belly than on your face.
  • Funtasy Toy Shop – After a term filled with learning and homework, don’t you think it’s time to reward your little bright spark? Funtasy Toy Shop offers a wide variety of different toys and games most of which are not found in commercial stores. The quaint toy store offers carefully handcrafted toys for both boys and girls. At Funtasy Toy Shop the kids can create their own special soft toy which has its own heart and passport. Hours of fun can be had with the unique bears.
  • Mandela Capture site – For an educational experience these holidays, why not visit the interesting Mandela Capture Site. Learn about how Mandela was captured on his return journey from Johannesburg and afterwards, have a snack at Truth Cafe. You can also visit the Impumelelo Bead Shop and sample the beaded artwork and jewelry produced by a group of women.
  • Hot Air Ballooning – This is one of the most romantic outings for adventurous couples. The ride takes you over the majestic mountains to have a bird’s eye view of the highest peak in SA. Breathtaking

Family-friendly day hikes in the Drakensberg

  • Main Caves at Giants Castle -This is a short and easy hike that leads to a site with reasonably good examples of bushman rock art. Whats particularly interesting for families with children is that they have setup an out door museum where children enjoy their exposure to lost culture.
  • Giants Castle Slack Packing Trail – A luxury slackpacking trail that runs between 3 lodges. You are accompanied by a professional hiking guide, all your meals are catered for and your luggage is transported to the next lodge. The trail is easy and children are welcome to accompany parents on the trail.
  • Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve – For a chance to see wildlife in the Natal Midlands, why not visit the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve, a part of WESSA (The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa). Your kids will have a field day spotting giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope in the reserve. With an indigenous tree trail surrounding the main Education Centre, self-guided walks enable mingling with the animals in the reserve. The largest part of the reserve is located in the stunning gorge below Howick Falls, guaranteeing impressive views.

Drakensberg Secretary Bird Facts

Drakensberg Secretary Bird Facts

Some interesting facts about our resident Secretary birds, a.k.a Sagittaruis Serpentarius, They have long legs, large wing span with a long tail. The bird gets its name from its crest of long feathers that look like the quill pens used in the 19th century.

They have black on the wings, thighs and tail feathers, mostly dove-grey in colour. These birds have a large curved bill with bare orange and yellow skin near the beak. The long legs are feathered half way and have the appearance of wearing short pants. The tail feathers are very long. When the bird is standing they can reach a height of approximately 1meter.

Their most distinctive feature is the black crest of feathers that is often described as the old fashioned quill pens. They also have very long eyelashes and large eyes with excellent eyesight, spotting prey from high up in the thermals.
Secretary birds consume snakes, reptiles, insects and other small mammals such as rats and mice.

These birds are mostly terrestrial, taking flight when approached or when in danger, remember to approach quietly using as much cover to hide away to get as close as possible. Usually, this pair will not take fright if you stay in your car, a fair distance away.
They can cover distances of an excess of 15km’s per day. When hunting and they spot their prey, they look like birds in “ballet” as they dance, spreading their wings at the same time offering strong blows to their victim, especially snakes.

They beat their prey with their toes; once the prey has been sufficiently debilitated they tear their victims apart, swallowing large pieces at a time. Secretary birds pair for life. These birds can be heard high up in the thermals, and sound like a deep grunt or hoot.
This pair has bred a chick twice in 6 years.

Spread your Love In the Drakensberg this Valentine’s Day

Spread your Love In the Drakensberg this Valentine’s Day

Peace, tranquility, mountains, romance and stunning views, what more could you ask for on Valentine’s Day?  The Drakensberg Mountains are the most romantic Valentines destination imaginable.

Drakensberg romantic couples massage
Drakensberg romantic couples massage

Check out our top 10 romantic attractions in the Drakensberg to do as a couple

Antbear Eco Lodge  is an accommodation option perfect for really getting away from things and enjoying an intimate Valentines experience in the Drakensberg. A particular hit is their luxury cave where you can even arrange to dine on the deck of your cave by candlelight under the stars. Antbear Eco Lodge  is currently offering a 20% off Valentines special deal.

Cathedral Peak Hotel is an icon accommodation venue in The Drakensberg. Steal your loved-one for a romantic weekend away, unwind & revel in quality time together whilst the staff at Cathedral Peak Hotel pampers you for
 Valentines Day… Start Valentines day as a journey, and ride it at your own pace. Greet sunrise in the eyes, or lie in as it greets you.

Sycamore Avenue Tree Houses offer an eccentric, unique and romantic treehouse  accommodation in Natal Midlands Meander. These artistically designed Treehouses will inspire and encourage you to relax, unwind and relive your childhood fantasies. Come and enjoy yourself by either soaking in a private Spa-Bath, warming yourself by a cosy fire or indulging in a glass of wine on the patio whilst watching the sunset over Giants Castle in the Drakensberg.

If any this sounds like the perfect getaway to spoil your loved one, or spread the love in your family get in touch with us now to secure your booking for a special Valentines’ holiday.

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