Tugela Gorge Hiking Trail

Tugela Gorge Hiking Trail

The Tugela Gorge hike is one of the longer hikes in Royal Natal National Park and is widely considered one of South Africa’s best one-day hikes. The Royal Natal National Park is home to the Tugela Falls (The world’s second highest waterfall).

To get to the start of the Tugela Gorge trail you drive into Royal Natal and park parking lot of Thendele Camp. At the parking lot there is a big board with a map showing all the trails in the Park. The start of the hike is marked with a sign and the trail is clearly defined.

The hike follows a path along the side of the mountain next to the river all the way to the Gorge – this same path is followed back to the starting point of the trail. Even though the hike is about 17 kilometres in total, it’s not strenuous but relatively flat all way. The only thing that makes this hike a bit tough is the distance.

The only downside to the Tugela Gorge hike is how busy the trail is! Its pretty seldom that you have this trail to yourself unlike the hiking trails at Giants Castle.

About a kilometre after the start of the trail, there is a bridge that needs to be crossed. Shortly after that, the eroded sandstone pillar known as Policeman’s Helmet is in sight. Carry on walking along the path, which takes hikers in and out of lush forests and protea bushes. After about 6 kilometres, the trail takes you right into the riverbed of the Tugela, where you walk along the river for a couple of kilometres until you reach the Gorge.

This last end stretch before the Gorge is absolutely stunning with views of the bright and blue rock pools. At this point, you can either walk through the gorge or take the chain ladder on the right hand side and continue the trail to the base of the Tugela Falls. During rainy season, it is dangerous to wander through the gorge and it is highly recommended to take the chain ladder up the side of the gorge.

The hike takes about 4 and a half hours in total.

The hike is flat but long. Around every bend is a new landscape with more incredible scenes. Besides the amount of people on the trail that day, you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere. Simply nature and yourself. If you like hiking enthusiast put this Drakensberg trail on your bucket list!

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.

Tugela Falls

Tugela Falls

Tugela Falls is the second highest waterfall in the world. The total drop in five free-leaping falls is 3,110 feet (947 meters). They are located in the in the Royal Natal National Park in the Northern Drakensberg.  The Tugela Falls are easily viewed after a heavy rain from the main travel road into the park, glistening from the reflection of the late afternoon sun.

Tugela FallsThe source of the Tugela River (Zulu for ‘sudden’) is at Mont-Aux-Sources several kilometers from the escarpment from which the falls drop. The water is pure and safe to drink above the falls.

Hiking Trails to the Tugela Falls

  • The Gorge Walk to the base of the Tugela Falls: From Tendele Camp, proceed down to the Tugela river, where the main Gorge path will be reached. From here the route is obvious. There is no more popular nor picturesque walk than the Gorge walk; it should not be missed, and to enable you to make the most of the trip, take a full day over it. (Return trip 22,5 km : 6 hours 30 minutes).
  • Sentinel Peak car park to the top of the amphitheatre via the chain ladder. 5 hour return hike. This is the only day hiking trail that will get you to the top of the Drakensberg escarpment in a reasonable day. The path ends at the top of the Tugela Falls.

 

Accommodation near Tugela Falls

Royal Natal National Park

Royal Natal National Park

Royal Natal National Park is one of the most popular  icon attractions of the Drakensberg Mountains. Its little wonder with the craggy peaks, countryside painted in forest greens, impressive rock formations that flush red in the afternoon light. The Central and Northern Drakensberg all show these characteristics but nowhere else will you find a feature like the Amphitheatre where the vertical rock face surrounds you in Royal Natal National Park.

Royal Natal National Park

It is here in Royal Natal National park that you also find one of South Africa’s highest peaks, Mont-aux-Sources, and the world’s second highest waterfall, Tugela Falls, though some controversially believe it deserves the highest waterfall in the world. Royal Natal National Park offers numerous hiking trails navigating the lush forests and many a babbling brook carved through the park. Royal Natal is not a place to just come and relax. Though an afternoon spent idly in the shadow of the cliffs would not be a wasted one.

If you have the time you could easily spend weeks exploring this beautiful part of the Drakensberg mountains.

ROYAL NATAL NATIONAL PARK HIKING TRAILS

With trails carved through forests, along cliff tops and across rivers in this serene pocket of nature, hiking is easily the main attraction in Royal Natal National Park with some of the best Drakensberg hiking on offer. While the most spectacular walks are also the most challenging, there are hiking trails to suit all abilities.
  • The Amphitheater trail to the top of Mont aux Sourses. – Ths trail to the top of Tugela Falls is perhaps one of the most spectacular in the Drakensberg The views aare incredible with a valley ridged in textures of mossy greens rising into the folds and furrows of the cliff face and upward to the escarpment blanketed in sheaths of golden grass. If you do just one hike in the area, make it this one. Though it is demanding and weather is a major factor to consider.
  • The Tugela Gorge hike. One of the more popular walks in Royal Natal National Park, the Tugela Gorge Trail takes in the sights from below, passing through lush forest and zigzagging across the Tugela River in the shadow of the cliff face.The main hiking trail ends at the tunnel, a narrow section of undulating rock that delivers the crystal clear waters further downstream. Getting here requires some rock hopping and it seems many turn back before reaching this point. For the more intrepid hikers though, a small and rarely used trail continues onward via a chain ladder to the right. This path is far more overgrown, you’ll probably take a few spider webs to the face and if your feet aren’t already wet they soon will be as the now very vague ‘trail’ frequently crosses the river and eventually leads towards the base of Tugela Falls. Rock hop as close as you dare.
  • The Cascades. One of Royal Natal National Park’s more relaxed hiking trails, the Cascades is flat and easy walk alongside the Mahai River where bushbuck congregate in the grassy clearings and the delicate arched bridges are straight from a fairy tale. If you’re looking to take the pace down a few notches, but not quite resolved to spending the afternoon curled up in a rocking chair with a warm beverage, this meandering trail is a good option. The Cascades trail continues on to McKinlay’s Pools for those looking to wander a little further.

ROYAL NATAL NATIONAL PARK ACCOMMODATION

  • Inside the park is the perfectly situated Thendele Camp has a number of fully-equipped self-catering chalets (starting at R800 (US$60) per person) with panoramic views over the Amphitheatre cliff face – easily the best breakfast view around.
  • Camping in Royal Natal National Park is also possible with two campgrounds in the park: the spacious Mahai Campground which sits alongside the river, and the smaller and more secluded Rugged Glen Campsite. There are a combined 140 campsites available with barbecue and ablution facilities and a limited number of powered spots at each camp.
  • Just a thirty-minute drive from Royal Natal National Park’s entrance gate we found the Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge. Set in a large grassy area with views of the mountains, this is a great budget option with quirky decorations throughout the property, wide variety of accommodations options on offer and excellent facilities including several guest kitchens, a barbecue area, pool, jacuzzi, bar and restaurant.
  • Closer to the park entrance, Berghouse and Cottages is a slightly more upmarket option with a gorgeous location looking directly onto the Amphitheatre. Lodgings are in beautiful private chalets with meals available on site.
  • Another budget-friendly option is Karma Backpackers. Located in Kestell, this lovely hostel is the ideal base for the Amphitheatre Hike sitting a little over an hour from the trailhead. Bright, colourful rooms are set around a garden with natural products sourced from the surrounding region made available for guests.

PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO ROYAL NATAL NATIONAL PARK

  • The Royal Natal National Park entrance fee costs R45 per person, per day payable at the gate. Closing times are signposted at the entrance gate so be sure to leave enough time to drive back to the gate after your walk, unless of course you are staying at Thendele Camp of camping within the park.
  • The visitor centre has a miniature model of the park showing all the Royal Natal hiking trails and individual brochures outlining each hike which can be purchased for R3 each.
  • If you’re planning to self-cater at your accommodation, we would recommend that you stock up on food and supplies on your way in, either at Bergville or Harrismith, as there are no large shops nearby the park. There’s a small souvenir shop and only limited basic supplies available at both the visitor centre and Thendele Camp.

 

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.

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.

Cavern Resort and Spa

Cavern Resort and Spa

The Cavern Resort & Spa, named after the infamous Cannibal Cavern, is nestled in the foothills of the Northern Drakensberg in the Amphitheatre World Heritage Site area. A place of captivating beauty, it is surrounded by majestic, lush indigenous forests and clear ‘berg streams. Once a humble homestead, rustic and simple, today The Cavern is a comfortable home-from-home for many families who holiday in these majestic Drakensberg Mountains.

The Carte family has owned the Cavern for 75 years and from the outset have given guests memorable family holidays – not just a stay at a good hotel. At The Cavern we appreciate that it is people who make your holiday – people with whom to laugh, share a drink, and participate in all the many fun activities. Without obliging anyone to do anything, we encourage our guests to mix on outings and activities. Friendships form here and folk come back time and again – hence the slogan originated by our guests in 1958: “The resort of many happy returns”

The Cavern is a Drakensberg holiday resort offering two types of accommodation – standard and superior.

Rooms are set in landscaped gardens where a vibrant mix of indigenous plants attracts hundreds of birds that fill the days with birdsong and the evenings with the sounds of crickets, frogs and other friendly creatures. Superior suites overlook an ancient fern forest and each unit has its own private patio where you can relax in the sun, listen to the forest streams and unwind in the peace of untouched mountain wilderness.

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.

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.

Wellness travel in the Drakensberg

Drakensberg pictures

The Drakensberg and Kwazulu Natal Midlands offer wellness travelers creative and specialized wellness experiences that cater to this latest trend of wellness travel and experiences.

Yoga retreats and spa getaways are some of the wellness travel opportunities that are on offer. Guests can fill their days with mountain yoga classes or couples’ massages, dine on healthy fare, and lounge poolside. The days of one-size-fits-all wellness travel are long gone with personalised experiences that cater for  your exact need. While most people hope to leave a wellness trip more relaxed and rejuvenated than when they first arrived, that’s where the commonalities in wellness travel end. Products are tapping into your passions, thought processes and comfort levels.

So if you are a traveler is looking for a spiritual reboot, they may consider a visit to a sweat lodge, heated by volcano stones offering a meditative transforming cultural experience to purify, detox, and heal one’s soul with copal incense burning and scattered rose petals.”

If sweating it out isn’t your idea of a rejuvenating time,  you might prefer a trip to the Buhdist Retreat Center in Ixopo. It’s spiritual atmosphere and diverse retreat offerings are perfect for those travelers with a desire of soul searching.

Berg Adventures, a mountain trail hiking business has made adjustments to their hikes, based on a traveler’s goals, capabilities, and preferences. Their program is incredibly customized hosting small groups of  guests with tailor made hiking experience where you feel alone with the mountains.

Some Drakensberg getaways are even geared to narrower health needs. Brookdale Health Hydro offers a cleanse retreat, complete with acupuncture sessions and a personalized health plan.

So if you are celebrating physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional wellness through special gourmet, vegan, and healthy meals as well as yoga, fitness, meditation, skin care, aromatherapy workshops, sound therapy, and spiritual fire rituals then the Drakensberg and Natal Midlands is the destination of choice.

 

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.

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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