uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park – There’s magic in the mountains

by ShevonaMay 26, 2017

The largest mountain range in South Africa is a truly magical place. It’s no wonder that J.R.R. Tolkien saw this landscape as inspiration for the part of Middle Earth called the Misty Mountains.

The highest peak in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg is Thabana Ntlenyana, at 3 482m. The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is home to 35 000 examples of San rock paintings and a huge diversity of protected plant and animal species. While there are many mountains in South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal’s 200km long uKhahlamba Drakensberg escarpment is by far the most impressive. With peaks that exceed 3000m, the Berg – as locals like to call it – forms the backbone of the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Area between the Kingdom of Lesotho and South Africa.

The uKhahlamba (“barrier of spears” in Zulu) is a dynamic wonderland of river valleys, mountain streams, rugged cliffs, hiking trails and stunning scenery that attracts thousands of travellers every year, mainly during the hotter summer months of December to February. In winter the mountains are dusted with snow, transforming designated slopes into a winter playground for snowboarders and skiing enthusiasts. That’s right, you can ski in South Africa!

If you prefer adventures without snow there’s no shortage of options. You can go kayaking, tube riding, horse riding, do 4×4 trails, hiking, hang gliding, mountain climbing, swimming, canyoning, fly-fishing and so much more. Take the time to explore the hundreds of caves that can be found in the valleys and sandstone cliffs of the Drakensberg. Many of these cave walls tell the story of the nomadic San people who recorded their lives in rock art paintings throughout this area. In fact there are around 600 rock art sites with over 35 000 images depecting humans, animals and the complex spiritual life of the San over a 4000 year period. Other 19th and 20th century paintings are attributable to the Bantu.

The Drakensberg is also acknowledged as a Ramsar site for its high-altitude wetlands, which lie above 2750m, and for its amazing birdlife. The Ramsar Convention is actually the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, which provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Drakensberg falls perfectly into that category and deserves all our protection.


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