Giants Castle Slackpacking Trail

Giants Castle Slackpacking Trail

A 3 night luxury trail through the foothills of the Giants Castle Valley and Zulu Waters Private Game Reserve. Accommodation is in lodges, your luggage is transported and its fully catered.

Day 1:Antbear Lodge is about sustainability. Here you will even find homemade cheese from their own milk. Hiking starts heading up to the top of the mountain with spectacular views looking out over the Drakensberg Mountains towards Giants Castle.

Day 2: Leopards Lair is full of family atmosphere offering a real agri-tourism experience. Your walk from here starts off easy and then drops back down into the Mbogta Valley after which you enter the Zulu Waters Game Reserve

Day 3 Shaka Lodge offers the lapse of luxury including your own private chef. Almost your whole day will be hiking inside the reserve where you might see rhino, buffalo and so much more.

Other addon activities include the Giants Castle vulture hide, a star gazing hammock camp, horse trails, abseiling and game drives

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.

Cathedral Peak Hotel

Cathedral Peak Hotel

Nestled in a tranquil and secluded valley in the heart of the Drakensberg lies Cathedral Peak Hotel, providing premier accommodation and entertainment surrounded by the magnificent peaks of some of the World Heritage Site’s most impressive and iconic mountains.

When Albert van der Riet first laid eyes on this valley in the early 1900s, he had a vision of a secluded hotel that would be closer to the mountains than any other hotel at the time. For the past 80 years, the van der Riet family have been offering the ultimate Drakensberg experience and it’s a privilege to look back on this unbroken history.

Guests are accommodated in 104 spacious and well-appointed rooms, ranging from standard, family and superior rooms to Executive/ Honeymoon Suites and the private Presidential Suite, providing the ultimate in luxury for up to 254 guests.

With a staggering array of facilities, activities and adventures on your doorstep, you’ll never want for entertainment at Cathedral Peak Hotel. Unrivalled access to the Drakensberg mountains sees 18 stunning walks and hikes leaving from the hotel, ranging from gentle riverside strolls to scaling the summit of the Cathedral Peak itself. Those looking for more speed will revel in mountain bike trails, jogging routes, horse rides, quad biking and a helicopter for nearby sightseeing flights.

The whole family can enjoy sport in the sun on the hotel grounds, with on-site facilities including tennis, beach volleyball and badminton courts, bowling green, children’s playground, mini golf course, a climbing tower and both heated and cool swimming pools.

The crowning jewel is the hotel’s very own 9-hole golf course, with alternate tees for an 18-hole game, ranging a glorious 5542m through the valley and ending at a beautiful clubhouse with panoramic mountain views.

For those looking for indoor entertainment one will not be disappointed. Wet weather days are taken care of with a games room, table tennis, squash, a fully-equipped gym, and if you’re seeking inner peace, look no further than a pamper session from professional therapists at the hotel’s Wellness Centre.

A team of top-class chefs ensure a delicious array of culinary delights, with extensive buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner. And once the day is done, guests can relax and reminisce at Albert’s Cocktail Bar, or keep the party going long into the night in Harry’s Bar with pool table, dart board and big screen TV’s.

For idyllic mountain weddings, our charming 120-seater stone-and-thatch chapel is set in beautiful natural gardens, and has an expansive window behind the pulpit boasting breath-taking views of some of the Drakensberg’s most magnificent mountains. Revel in stunning views as you say your vows and begin your new life together with an unforgettable wedding.

Year-end functions, team-building adventures and professional conferences are all catered to with comprehensive equipment, unforgettable experiences and a stunning environment that will leave your attendees feeling energised and excited.

Whether you’re looking for a family get-away, a romantic wedding or honeymoon, or a motivating conference, our dedicated team look forward to welcoming you to the ultimate Drakensberg experience.

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.

Why you should choose the Drakensberg for your next holiday

Why you should choose the Drakensberg for your next holiday

The Drakensberg Mountains is a destination that cries out to anyone looking for an untouched wilderness destination.  The Drakensberg is a serene area which allows visitors to relax and escape from their busy lives in the city and explore the wild lands – either through hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, down hill scooters, hot air ballooning, helicopter flips an canoeing.

The activities to do in the Drakensberg are endless and totally worth it. There are so many hiking trails that you will find the perfect fit for your expectations. Easy half hour trails to half day trails, full days hiking and even over nighting in the mountains are options. Hike in the Little Berg with the dramatic views of the high Drakensberg is a great option to start with. Hike up to the top of the escarpment starts to take a bit more planning and often using a Drakensberg hiking guide is a good suggestion.

For those less inspired the effort of hiking floating slowly in a hot air balloon is one of thise bucket list items you know you should experience at least once in your life. Or flying in a helicopter over the Tugela Falls. Kids love the down hill scooters and canopy tours. Adult kids too.

For those who prefer lying back on a lounger near the pool, reading a book, drinking a flute of champagne or having a nap under the sun there are options like Champagne Castle hotel Antbear Lodge and Alpine Heath Resort. All great options for visitors to unwind while looking at the mountain, simply enjoying nature’s best offerings.

Sani Pass is an idea for those who wish to challenge themselves to an adventurous 4×4 trip conquering the famous Sani Pass.

Spotting a Vervet Monkey or a Baboon near your hotel room would be a great story to tell, or perhaps a tale about encountering a Zebra, a black Wildebeest or a Gemsbok while on a hike would satisfy your wanderlust.

End your journey with a concert by the Drakensberg Boys Choir, with a picnic, another glass of champagne and a boatload of Drakensberg holiday memories to take home.

10 things to do as a couple in the Drakensberg

10 things to do as a couple in the Drakensberg

The Drakensberg is a perfect destination to travel to as a couple be it your honeymoon, a perfect location to propose,  that intimate anniversary getaway, just spending some valuable time together or getting away from the kids. The Drakensberg is an ideal destination for couples of all ages.

Top 10 things to do as a couple in the Drakensberg

#1 Romantic private dining on the deck of a luxury cave.

Antbear Lodge offers something special. A luxury cave with glass doors that open onto a wooden deck with hammock chairs and a spectacular view. The cave has a jacuzzi bath, fire place and huge bed. Ask that they setup a table on the deck of your cave and dine by candle light under the stars.

#2 Horse trails for two through the Zulu Waters Private Game Reserve

Going on an out ride together is a special couples experience everywhere. But going out on horse back safari through the Zulu Waters Game Reserve that provides both incredible scenery and wildlife safari experiences. Their guide will take you through the reserve on a 2 hour ride where you will get up close and personal with game including rhinos, buffalo, Zebras, Ostrich, Kudu, Eland, Warthogs and so much more. Whats really interesting is that the animals don’t see the horses as a threat so you can get uncomfortably close if you want to do that.

#3 Star Gazing and traditional African story telling while relaxing in a hammock.

Relax in a hammock and listen to the sounds of the night while a local villager tells you his African stories of the stars and more passed to him from his grandmother. There is nothing quite like laying in the dark in your comfortable hammock, holding hands, with the night sounds and the gentle voice of your story teller.

#4 Spend the day together driving around the Midlands Meander stopping here and there for some coffee and quirky things

Escape from busy city life and spend your weekend in one of the stunning romantic destinations in the Midlands with your partner. Spend some valuable alone time in this picturesque location, relaxing or enjoying the many activities available to keep you entertained. With the start of the Midlands Meander, there is no excuse why you and your partner shouldn’t treat yourself to a couple’s getaway.

#5 Pack a picnic basket and enjoy it at Worlds View where you have a 360 degree view of the Drakensberg Mountains

The Drakensberg offers some spectacular hiking trails. A particularly great choice is Worlds View at Giants Castle. Its a pretty easy hike and gets you you an incredibly stunning point with a 360 degree view and the perfect place to have a picnic. Ask the lodge you are staying at to prepare you a picnic basket or if you really want to push that romantic streak design your own picnic specially catering to your partners tastes.

#6 Go for an early morning hot air balloon flight

Antbear Lodge offers a hot air balloon take off site right in front of the lodge. Wake up and join us for a cup of coffee while you watch the inflation of a hot air balloon. Experience the awesome thrill and peaceful serenity of hot air ballooning on the edge of the Drakensberg mountains. You will meet at the hot air balloon launch site approximately 30 minutes before sunrise, your pilot will then give you a safety briefing. Once the hot air balloon is heated and you are in the balloons basket you will enjoy a flight of around an hour. After helping to pack up the hot air balloon you will return to Antbear Lodge for breakfast with champagne.

#7 Get your kicks on a helicopter flip

Departing from Dragons Peak resort, high flyers can enjoy seeing a different side to the Drakensberg. Sip a glass of champagne as you fly over the mountain peaks. You can even stop at the top for a high altitude picnic! The perfect day out to celebrate an anniversary or birthday!

#8 Splurge out on a fine dining experience

Cleopatra Mountain Farm House has earned global renown as a romantic gourmet getaway. This rustic, yet luxurious owner run mountain retreat is the ideal escape from the harried pace of life, to a serene and scenic location. Richard Poynton is the head executive chef at Cleopatra and so passionate about his craft, that he, along with Mouse and his daughters compiled and published a historical memoir-style cookbook about the farmhouse and the recipes he loves.

Or spoil your loved one the next valentines weekend or any weekend for that matter with an incredible meal at Hartford House. If I really want to sweep your partner off her feet, a trip to Hartford House in the Natal Midlands should be at the top of your list. The rooms are incredible and every meal, from breakfast to dinner, feels like a splurge. Gazing out at horses grazing on the stud property is really a special treat.

#9 A romantic couple spa experience

Fordoun Spa in the Midlands has recently won an award for ‘Best value for money’ and while this is undoubtedly true, it is so much more. Fordoun Spa is five star luxury in beautiful surroundings with cheerful staff, a top class spa and exquisite cuisine. Verandas overlook the beautiful trees, immaculate lawns and a herd of fat, contented cows, ducks, sheep and Hadedas. In all seasons, Fordoun charms and delights guests. Top suggesting is a couples massage.

#10 Relaxing

While it is great to remain active and its good for us all to keep our minds busy, it is imperative to relax too! Not making time to relax more often than not leaves you stressing. So take the time to just do nothing soaking up the view on a sun lounger or enthralled by a great book.

Champagne Castle Peak

Champagne Castle Peak

This hiking trail is doable for most people who have a moderate to high fitness level and some hiking experience will make this a more enjoyable trip. Although not a true expedition style trip, you need to be prepared for all types of weather as this area is known to have all four seasons in one day. Care also needs to be taken on Gray’s Pass as the path is not always well defined and taking the wrong turn could lead you into a precarious position.

The trail starts at Monks Cowl main camp and follows the standard route up to the Sphinx and then on to Breakfast Stream where you will appreciate a well-earned break and a chance to fill up water bottles and from here the path is an easy walk to Blindman’s Corner. At the junction you want to turn right and for the next few kms you will be following the contour path all the way past Hlathikulu Neck, this section is the same route on the Zulu Cave hike. Follow the path down, but not all the way down to the river, there is a path that will lead off to your left hand side and will take you up into the Mhlatswini Valley. In front of you, you will see Gat Berg and the Dragons Back. The path will follow the side of the valley before dropping down into the river and you will follow the path crossing the river a few times before reaching Keith Bush Camp. The campsite is located on the right hand side of the river as you look up the valley and is suitable for a couple of tents. There is a feint path that leads down to the river and in summer water is not an issue. In summer you might have to look for water higher up or lower down. At the campsite you will be surrounded by towering peaks on 3 sides and be treated to an awesome sunset as the clouds get painted by the setting sun.

After and good night’s rest and packing up camp as early as possible, find the path that leads up the spur to Gray’s Pass. The climb is steep and the going will be slow with a heavy pack, remember to fill all you water bottles as there is no water on the pass until you reach the top of the pass. There are quite a few paths made by smugglers, find the path that’s in the best condition and follow it. At a rock band the path disappears and it looks like it carries on into the valley but it actually swings back and up the rock band. Take care here as a few people have gotten lost here. The path climbs up until you are in the shadow of the basalt cliffs and then contours around to the last little crux and then you enter the last rock scramble to the top. The scree is loose so make sure that the group is spaced out so that loose rocks will not hit each other. Once on top you follow the path to the stream and this is a good place to have a break and replenish your energy levels. Consult your map and plan a route to the top of Champagne Castle peak, the easiest route is to follow the valley as it tops out close to the highest point. On top of Champagne you will have awesome views over the KZN midlands and looking south you will see the other two highest points in South Africa namely Magadi and Injasuth Dome. Follow the same path back that you came in with. At the river you will find a few flat camping spots close to the small waterfall. Remember to practice LNT principals and carry out all your trash and if you need to go, walk away from the river to dig your cat hole.

Your last day is going to be a long day so an early start is to your advantage. The route follows that same one you took up but now in reverse. Take care at the crux as it does look quite intimidating when you stand above it. Find a save way down and take special care when wet. The downhill is taxing to your knees so go slowly and steadily. Be careful on the loose rocky section. When looking down the pass you can actually see the route the smugglers use and it is easy to follow it all the way back to Hlathikulu Neck. The contour path section is going to feel like it never ends but before long you will be at Blindman’s Corner and the end is in sight. Remember to fill your water bottle up regularly and to keep hydrated especially in summer. By the time you reach the last downhill by the Sphinx your legs will be tired so take care on the last section especially on the loose rocks. You will appreciate reaching the camp and if you are in time you can still enjoy a cold cooldrink at the little shop.

A beginners guide to hiking in the Drakensberg

A beginners guide to hiking in the Drakensberg

So. You have heard of this amazing place they call the Drakensberg Mountains and the Kwazulu Natal Midlands and have decided to want to experience a hike in these spectacular mountains. Here is what to do next. Its kind of a frequently asked questions with a few of our secret tips thrown in.

1: What sort of Drakensberg hike are you after?

Your options are many. You could base yourself at one or even a few of the lodges, bushcamps, camp sites and b&bs around and do day hiking trips. This is a great way to start for beginners, you dont need much in the way of kit and you have a comfortable bed to sleep in. Next up you could go for an overnight hike and sleep in a Drakensberg cave. If its you first time hiking in the Drakensberg my suggestion is to go with a guide. Its costs a little more but is very worth the money. For those of you that like your comfort there is even the option of a slack packing trail.

2: Where will you start from for your hike?

The Drakensberg is huge and is accessed through 17entrance points. These 17 entrance points are what make up the Northern, Central and Southern Drakensberg. When you read the information on any of these regions an overview of the region is given, the contact numbers, what accommodation and activities are available at the reserve and most importantly directions to get to the reserve. Your hike will in all likelihood start from one of these reserves.

Of the 17 regions, 13 are run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The entry fee (daily conservation fee) to these reserves is currently R45 per adult and R25 per child per day. If you are doing a day hike starting at any of these reserves then you simply arrive at the reserve on the day, pay the applicable entrance fee, park in the designated day parking area and go out and enjoy your hike.

Should you choose to stay in a campsite or chalet at these reserves then refer to the accommodation schedule of tariffs as published by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

The Mnweni (AmaZizi Traditional Authority Area) and AmaZizi Traditional Authority Area are not part of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and forms part of a Community Conservation Area. The park entrance fee is R45 for adults. Camping at Mnweni Cultural & Hiking Centre is R90 per person and the chalets are R250 per person. Overnight hiking is R90 per person.

The Sehlabathebe National Park is in Lesotho

The entrance to Sentinal Car Park (the start of the Chain Ladder Hike) is run by Transfrontier Parks Destinations (TFPD) and administered by Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. The first 4km’s of the 7km section of road after Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge to Sentinal Car Park is not in good condition and a 4×4 vehicle is advised.

3: Decide on your hike

Now that you have decided where to start, know the costs and how to get there you need to choose a hike. This may be a day hike or overnight hike. Overnight hikes would mean you will either stay in a tent you carry, in a cave or in one of the Huts.

If your hike includes staying in a cave choose a cave that can accommodate the size of your hiking party. Cave bookings are done directly with the reserve and not with Central Reservations. The cost of overnight hiking/accommodation paid to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for using a cave or your own tent is R70.00 per day.

For ideas on hikes view our directory listings of hikes showcasing lots of hikes that have mostly been added by our Drakensberg hiking community. We keep adding to this list so be sure to return and see what new hikes ideas are added. Alternatively use one of the many hiking books written. One such book is: Best Walks of the Drakensberg by David Bristow which covers most of the Maloti-Drakensberg and has short and long hike ideas with detailed directions.

4: Navigation

Please purchase a map (shown below) of the area published by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife before embarking on any of the hikes. The maps are usually available at the Reserve from where you will be hiking or at Ezemvelo head office in Pietermaritzburg.

drakensberg maps

Over the years we have used many different app’s and devices to assist navigation, especially in the high berg and also when in very misty conditions where you cannot see more that 10 metres in front of you. We have found using BackCountry Navigator TOPO GPS to work extremely well on a cell phone. The app costs R159.99 and is worth the cost.

How to use the app is explained by the developer and one of the best things is you can pre download the map of the area you are hiking so no cell reception is required, the tracks and markers you will add manually to the app.

5: Mountain Rescue

When going on your hike you will fill in the Mountain Rescue Register (in case you get lost, someone hurts and ankle, etc). It is very important this is filled in accurately so that if you need to be found then MCSA knows where to start looking, the Drakensberg Mountains ahuge area..

In the event of a mountain rescue emergency it is best to try and contact the local KZN Wildlife ranger in the Drakensberg and report the matter to them first. If this is not possible, or if you are not in the Drakensberg, you must dial 0800 005133 and report that this is a “mountain rescue”. The operator will in turn contact one of the MCSA rescue organisers.

6: Safety

Overnight camping in potential problem areas should be avoided to minimise the chance of something going wrong and if near the potential problem areas sleeping in one of the caves down a pass is potentially a better alternative, caves at top of the passes in the potential problem areas should also be avoided.

7: Bushman Paintings – also a hike option

One of the Drakensberg’s greatest treasures is cultural. Some 40 000 individual rock paintings have been recorded at 600 different cave and overhang sites between Royal Natal and Bushman’s Neck. You may only visit caves that have rock art with an accredited guide that have been opened for the public. So if you are taking a guide on your hike ask if they are Amafa accredited.

8: Hiking Equipment

You will need comfortable hiking boots, a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, underwear, quick-drying pants or shorts, long-sleeve shirts, sun hat, socks, insulating jacket, nsulated pants, gloves, rainwear, sandals, gaiters, matches, lightweight cooking pots/pans, food-storage containers, resealable storage bags, trash bags, plates/bowls, mugs/cups, utensils, water container, canister stove or liquid fuel stove and a basic first aid kit.

9: Food

This can become a debate. I like to have proper food when I hike so carry things like tomatoes, onions, meat etc. But normally hiker go for the died options worrying about weight.

10: Enjoy your hike

Being as prepared as you can and knowing what to expect on your hike will allow you time to stop, enjoy the views, take some amazing pictures of the Drakensberg Mountains and enjoy your time with your fellow hikers.

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