Northern Drakensberg Travel Guide

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The majestic Northern Drakensberg is the highest part and possibly the most impressive of the Drakensberg mountain range rising to over 3 000 meters. Known to the Zulu people as Ukhahlamba, or 'Barrier of Spears', the Mountains of the Dragon provide a magnificent semi-circular border between KwaZulu-Natal and the inland mountain kingdom of Lesotho. The watershed of the basalt peaks divide the rains and snows, some flowing westwards over the alpine plateau of Lesotho towards the Atlantic Ocean, and some down the frequently vertical slopes into KwaZulu-Natal, towards the warm Indian Ocean. 

The Northern Drakensberg is the source of the Tugela River, the largest river in the Province, and it plunges some 950 meters over the edge of the Mont-aux-Sources Plateau in a spectacular waterfall. This waterfall, the Tugela Falls, is the second highest waterfall in the world. The Amphitheatre is possibly the most photographed feature of the Northern Drakensberg.

Hikers on their way to Mont Aux Sources in the Northern Drakensberg. Visible in the background are the Eastern Buttress and Devil's Tooth. 

The Northern Drakensberg escarpment is frequently covered in snow in the winter months, transforming the area into a picture-postcard winter wonderland. Popular with hikers, rock climbers, trout fishermen, and other holidaymakers, the area offers a wide range of hotels, country lodges, and bed and breakfast accommodation venues, as well as camping sites and caravan parks. For the more adventurous there are also many trails which use caves up in the mountains as overnight stops. A weekend of hiking and climbing, interspersed with dips in the icy pools and rivers, goes a long way to restoring those weary of city life.

Most of the Northern Drakensberg makes up the Natal Drakensberg Park, a wilderness area with an abundance of wildlife. Hikers are frequently surprised by bushbuck, oribi, mountain reedbuck, tiny duiker, and the largest of South Africa’s antelope species, the eland, as well as many others. Enormous lammergeier, or bearded vultures, fly overhead and baboons bark from the cliffs. The spring is heralded by carpets of wild flowers and the pink and orange watsonia, like miniature gladioli, bloom thickly on the hillsides. In autumn the fields and lower reaches of the Drakensberg are often a waist-high sea of confetti-like pink, white and deep velvet red cosmos blossoms. In the higher reaches on the slopes of the Little Berg, varieties of protea trees show their prehistoric flowers, and ancient tree ferns and the odd cycad dot the gullies. Hikers should note that there are 24 species of snakes in these mountains, and not all of them are willing to give way to humans!

The Northern Drakensberg Mountains also contain thousands of Bushman painting sites, evidence of the small, primitive San people who practised a prehistoric life style in the area long ago. The earliest of these paintings are about 800 years old, and the golden age of the painters was between 400 and 200 years ago.

The Northern Drakensberg consists of the regions:

1. Mont-aux-Sources, Royal Natal National Park, Amphitheatre, Rugged Glen Nature Reserve

2. Singati Valley, Ifidi, Mnweni & Ntonjelana valleys, the Mnweni cutback, Mponjwane, the Saddle  

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: http://www.drakensberg-tourism.com/northern-drakensberg.html

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