Drakensberg

Drakensberg

The Drakensberg actually starts in Mpumalanga and forms the escarpment between the highveld and the coastal plain. It turns westwards to the Freestate and forms the border between KZN and Lesotho. This part of the range is generally known as “The Drakensberg”. The name was given by the early Boer settlers and meant mountains of the dragon. The Zulu call it uKhahlamba, “the barrier of spears”. The range is spectacular with towering peaks of up to 3,300m, deep ravines, sparking cascades and plateaus brimming with over 2,000 species of flowers and trees. The Drakensberg is a World Heritage Site.

Activities and sightseeing in the area

Hiking and climbing

These are the two main activities in the Berg. The Berg is a summer rainfall area with warm to hot days and odd thunderstorms in the rainy season. Winters are dry and crisp with frost in the mornings and mild clear days. This is excellent weather for hiking. On top the winters are severe with temperatures at night going down to -15’C. Snow may occur in winter. The autumn months of March and April offer the best weather, while the weather in spring tends to be unpredictable. Having said all this, one should stress that with good planning and common sense hiking can happily be done in the Drakensberg throughout the year.

Opportunities for day walks to suit any level of fitness are offered in all the areas. The rivers are pollution and bilharzia free and you may drink the water. Backpackers generally provide the maps for day walks. For more serious walkers and climbers 1: 50 000 topographical maps are available for all the regions. These maps are not infallible and care should be taken to obtain sound advice from an expert before embarking on any ambitious routes. Guides are available in some regions. Rock climbing is best done with people who know the area. The walk-ins are strenuous and the routes are difficult to find. The rock is basalt which tends to be very friable and extra care should be taken when placing protection. This said, climbing in the ‘Berg is fantastic and very rewarding. Some ice climbing can be done in the south in the winter months.

San rock art

In the Beginning The San (Bushmen) were the original inhabitants of the Drakensberg. They were hunter gatherers and left a rich legacy of art which many visitors find captivating. Tragically these people were wiped out by Zulu tribes and the white settlers in the 19th century. There are rock shelters with San painting all over the Drakensberg. Interpretive centres for San rock art have been established at Didima (Cathedral Peak), Giant’s Castle and at Kamberg. The Drakensberg was declared a World Heritage site on the basis of the 35 000 rock art specimens found.

Flora and fauna

Of the  2000 species of flowers and trees found in the Drakensberg, 400 species are unique to this region.

Wildlife

The Drakensberg is an excellent area for birding and also hosts many species of antelope and other animals such as baboon, porcupine, jackal, otter and even the odd leopard.

Battlefield sites

Many of the battlefield sites are within a short drive from the northern and central Berg.