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.

Giants Castle Main Caves

Giants Castle Main Caves

The walk to the caves, which has now been turned into a museum showcasing a Bushman’s way of life, starts from the reception area. After buying a ticket, head through the camp onto a path up a protea-studded ridgeline, where you might spot the Gurney’s sugarbird flitting around the flowers. The well-marked path then drops down to the small stream and turns left, following its bank for a while.

Once in the indigenous forest, the path crosses the stream and heads up to the gates of the cave, where a guide will be waiting. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the cave from the camp and you can bank on at least an hour on the tour, during which you’ll get a potted history of the San people and some help with interpreting the paintings.

From here, the trail exits by a second gate and drops back down tothe stream. You can either cross it and follow a path back to the camp or turn left and join up with the Bushman’s River. The latter is stunning on hot days as there are several crystal-clear rock pools to dip into. A little way downstream, there’s a path heading back uphill to the camp.

Tours run on the hour from 9am until 3pm. The main camp is seven kilometres from the reserve gates, which are open from 5am to 7pm from October to March and from 6am to 6pm from April to September.

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.

Giants Castle Loop

Giants Castle Loop

This walk is doable for most people who has a moderate to high fitness level but we have done it with a group with no hiking experience, just remember the going on day two will be slow going up Bannerman Pass. Also take care going up Bannerman Pass in summer as thunderstorms can cause flash flood conditions in the pass as you have to walk up the stream bed for the last bit before topping out. In winter this pass can be choked with snow after a heavy snowfall and iced up for most of winter due to it not getting much sun in winter. So be prepared for all seasons.

The walk starts from the Giants Castle Main Camp and after completing the mountain register, make you way to the start of the walk that starts proper at the overnight car park situated at the pick nick area. After crossing the Bushman’s River you want to keep left and follow the Bannerman Hut trail that you would have seen from the start going up a ridge. This is the steepest part of the walk as it goes up the side of the spur until you reach the contour path. Take your time going up and remember to take water with you as there is not always a reliable stream till you get to the contour path. So fill up regularly when you find water.

At the contour path you will have a 4,5km easier walk to the hut that is built in the shadow of Bannerman Face and Pass. The last bit of uphill to the hut is not steep but does feel like it never ends. The hut is self is only a place to sleep and nothing of its former self. It use to have running water and even flushing toilet but due to vandalism and neglect it in fact is only a shelter from the elements. However it still have bunk beds and is warm and dry.

Day 2 starts with the easy approach to the pass and after crossing the stream and going over to the left hand side of the bank you start to climb steadily up and up into the pass. Spar Rib Cave is situated about half way up the pass, and is wet in summer with a number of drips making dry sleeping areas scares, in winter most of them have dried up and the rest usually freezes. From the cave level the path starts to cross over onto a rocky scree area where you can follow the cairns or pick you way through the rocks. Taking care not to twist an ankle here as the rocks are loose and very easy to roll into your leg.

From here you will enter into the river and slowly start to make your way up the river. The rocks is convenient steps and you might have to use your hands and feet to scramble up certain section. Once over the steepest, the pass opens up and it tops out at a big cairn. Look back and appreciate the view. From the cairn consult your map and find the route that will lead you to the left of the pass and your climbing for the day is not finished yet as you have to climb out over the ridge and then pick your way over and then down to a suitable camp site close to water. On your map there is a small neck and you want to aim for this area so you compass and map is crucial instruments for this section especially in misty conditions. The camp site we usually use is about 500m from the top of Langalibalele Pass and close to the escarpment edge.

Day 3 is downhill, a killer on the knees for some people. Langalibalele Pass is steeped in history and Chief Langalibalele, who after his capture and trial, became the first political prisoner on Robben Island. There is a cross erected at the top by the Natal Carbineers in remembrance of the battle that took place here between them and the amaHlubi people.

The path down the pass is not as steep as others but badly eroded making going down difficult. You will have spectacular views over the Giants Castle valley below you as well as close up views of the peaks around you. The path crosses the stream and once you are on the other side of the valley you have done the pass and are now on the Langalibalele ridge, and considered by some the longest port of the hike as it feels like it’s never going to end. You will cross the contour path that runs from Bannerman Hut to Giants Hut, keep following the path down and on reaching the bottom there is a small stream crossing where you can swim and take a well-deserved rest. The path will take you down to Rock 75 and then back to Giants Castle camp where you can sign out from the mountain register and enjoy an ice cold coke or brew of your choice.

Lammergeier Hide at Giants Castle

Lammergeier Hide at Giants Castle

The Lammergeyer Hide is located in the Giants Castle reserve of the Drakensberg.

The famous Lammergeyer Hide is located in the Giants Castle Nature reserve of the Drakensberg. Lammergeyer is the other name given to the Bearded Vulture, and endangered Bird of Prey found in the Drakensberg area of South Africa.

The bearded vulture or Lammergeyer is most famous for its method of dropping bones from a height and once broken these vutures eat the marrow inside. The bearded vulture is one of the shyest of vultures, and lives a mostly solitary existence, on remote mountains and cliff faces.

The vulture hide ‘feeding season’ is May to September, and bookings open in the previous November. Tel 036-3533718, fax 036-3533775. Access is by 4×4 vehicle, provided by yourself or by the reserve. Alternatively, enquire about professional guides who will take you there or accompany you.

“A REAL bucket list venue for photographers and bird lovers. We recently booked and spent the day at this fantastic site. Although the hide is relatively small it was very comfortable for the 4 of us – 3 photographers and myself. The photographs from that day are exceptionally good – can’t imagine having better opportunities anywhere. If you love birds and photography this venue is a must! There is even a flush loo next to the hide. We had a day that we will all remember for the rest of our lives.” – Sandy from Hoedspruit

Caracal Cave

Caracal Cave

Highmoor is most probably one of the most underutilized hiking areas in the Drakensberg, but being able to drive just about all the way up the Little Berg makes it ideal for beginner hikers. The area is also the breeding ground for the Wattled Crain and well worth a visit for the avid bird watcher.

The trail follows an easy and well defined path from the Highmoor Camp Office passed the 3 high altitude trout dams. The climb is actually very mild and suitable for even the most unfit hiker. Once you have reached Windy Knoll, you can have a break to take in the spectacular view over the Little Berg all the way to the Giant. There are very few places where you can get so close and still enjoy the view.

An old folks tale tells us that when you point directly to the Giant, you will provoke the weather gods and this will lead to bad weather on your trip so be sure to make a point of not pointing directly at the Giant.

From Windy Knoll follow the path straight down to the bottom where you will be almost directly over the cave, to reach the cave carry on with the path to where it enters a rocky gully. Be careful here as it’s the most technical section on the trip, however it’s not too technical that you will need extra skills. This section is also very slippery when wet so take care with younger people.

After traversing back you will walk straight into the cave. The cave itself is actually a huge sandstone overhang with a smallish flat sleeping area that can sleep a group of 12 comfortably. Care needs to be taken with smaller children as the lip in front of the cave is steep and anyone falling here could be injured. In the rainy season there is a small waterfall falling over the lip of the cave that serves as a water source as well as a shower. In winter however, it usually dries up and the closest water is the small stream below the cave. On very dry years you might have to walk a bit further to get water.

The view directly from the cave is not that great, but if you walk back out to the steep section, you will be rewarded with a sunset to die for. Feel free to explore as far as you wish, make sure you tell the rest of the group where you are going and make sure you have a pre-agreed return time.

Please make sure that you follow the proper cave etiquette in regards to where and how to go to the toilet. No fires are allowed in any cave and you need to remove any litter from the cave, taking it back with you and dispose of it properly into a bin. By following these simple guidelines, you not only limit your impact on the environment but you also leave it pristine for the next group to enjoy.

Giant’s Castle Pass

Giant’s Castle Pass

Some say Giants Castle Pass  is an extreme 4 hr (6 km) hike from Giant’s Hut below the Giants Castle Pass while it is perhaps realistically a 3 hr moderately difficult hike although if you are carrying a full backpack you might find it quite punishing.

There are many ways to get to the bottom of this pass, the most direct being the Giant’s Ridge which leaves the Bushman’s River just past the Main Caves and joins the contour path 2km south of the base of Giant’s Castle Pass. The total distance to the bottom is 11 km.

Just before reaching the river coming down from Giant’s Castle Pass when approaching along the contour path from the south, a cairn marks a very vague path up to the left. This path gets even more faint but with care, it can be followed all the way to the boulder bed where the path becomes pretty clear. The initial path stays on the southern slopes, climbing quite steeply until it levels off and contours to the boulder bed in the throat of the pass. Cross the river and follow the cairns through the boulder section until a clear path is reached higher up. This path is very loose due to all the gravel and it is easy to follow it’s steep gradient all the way to the short final gully which takes you to the top at 3000 m.

Bannerman Hut and Bannerman Pass Circular Route

Bannerman Hut and Bannerman Pass Circular Route

 Day 1: A 10 km hike, mostly uphill to the best overnight hut in the Drakensberg. The hike starts at the day picnic spot at Giants Castle. A short downhill and then a mostly gentle climb for about 4km’s. The last 5km’s are along the contours to the Hut, enjoy the views on the way. The sunrise that awaits you from the hut in the morning is spectacular. Most people will be fine.

Day 2: Sleep in relative luxury and in the morning hike up Bannerman Pass. You have plenty time to get to the top and back before sunset for your second night at Bannerman Hut, take it slow and enjoy every second.

Day3:  return via Langalibalele Ridge, mostly downhill, the views all the way down will have you in awe.

Giants Castle Camp

Giants Castle Camp

Giants Castle Game Reserve is home to the mighty eland as well as the rare bearded vulture and is situated within the Central Drakensberg region of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site. Giants Castle camp is positioned on a plateau overlooking the deep valleys running down from the face of the High Drakensberg. Giants Castle provides fantastic views for walkers, ramblers, hikers and enthusiastic mountain climbers. Giants Castle’s superb rock art is one of its many unique attractions. The popular vulture restaurant is open during winter for anyone wishing to observe the rare bearded vulture and other endangered species feeding. A visit to the Main Caves Museum at Giants Castle for an intriguing view of the past way of life of the San people is highly recommended.

Giants Castle Nature Reserve

Giants Castle Nature Reserve

Home of the eland and the majestic bearded vulture, lies in the Central Berg region of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, which is now a World Heritage Site. Giant’s Castle camp is situated on a gassy plateau among the deep valleys running down from the face of the High Drakensberg, offering glorious views for hikers and mountain climbers. The area is steeped in history, and superb rock art is high among its special attractions. The renowned vulture restaurant is open in winter for visitors to watch bearded vultures and other endangered species feeding. Guests longing for more insight into the Giants Castle history can visit the Main Caves Museum for fascinating insights into the past lifestyle of the San people.

At Giants Castle Nature Reserve, there is a large sandstone cave containing prehistoric San rock art. This cave is one of the biggest and best preserved painted sites in southern Africa. This cave is an easy 30 minute walk from the camp office and regular guided tours are taken through this unique exhibition from 09h00 to 15h00 daily for a small fee. A visit to Giant’s Castle offers the privilege of entering the world of the San as well as the opportunity to study a varied and exciting range of habitats. The San Art Museum (“Main Cave”) is a gentle 30 minute walk from the main camp while the grasslands, marshy areas (vleis), indigenous forests and many other energy flow ecosystems are easily accessible.

Game populations in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park are kept at a level that can be sustained by winter grazing because with neighboring farms and fences, the wildlife is no longer able to migrate into lower more plentiful lands. As part of the grassland management program, large areas of the park are burnt annually to improve and maintain quality grasslands. Eland antelope and chacma baboons are commonly seen. Mountain Reedbuck and the rare caracal are occasionally spotted. There is a “Vulture Restaurant” where one may watch the Bearded Vulture [Lammergeyer] as well as other raptors.

Leopards Lair Lodge

Leopards Lair Lodge

Leopard’s Lair is a guest house located near the Drakensberg world heritage site near to Giant’s Castle and the Kwa Zulu Natal Midlands. The Buys family is the magic behind Leopard’s Lair. You aren’t just a guest, you’re family! Leopard’s Lair’s mission is to turn your stay into a memorable experience. This is a “real, working farm”, offering all kinds of agri tourism attractions. You can bottle feeding lambs. Meet Lallie the tame Eland. Collect eggs from the free range hens. Children delight in petting the animals and watching some of the farming activities. Life is lived at a gentler pace, take time to chat and to pick your own vegetables from their organic vegetable garden. Strawberries taste best eaten directly as you pick them.

Leopard’s Lair offers affordable family accommodation on a dinner bed and breakfast basis. Accommodation available for up to seven persons. Self Catering accommodation options available too.

Our two boys are our best ambassadors and can’t wait to share their fun and adventure with guests and maybe a little touch of naughtiness. Let your kids try their hand at fishing or canoeing. Outdoors is the best source for fun and your kids will be  entertained for hours while  you finish reading your book in peace.

The Midlands Meander, with its arts and crafts, breweries and cheese tasting starts right here. The Mandela Capture Site is also around the corner as is everything that the Drakensberg Mountains offer