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Visiting the Drakensberg
We receive questions daily from people who would like to know more about the Drakensberg, require assistance for a hike, have questions about which accommodation they should use, what hiking kit they may need, safety in the Drakensberg and many more. 

It's also great to see many foreign tourists enquire and we do our best to point them in the right direction.

In order to assist visitors, the links below should cover most questions and assist you to make a choice for the accommodation and/or hikes you would like to do.

All the links you should need to plan and visit the Maloti-Drakensberg

Drakensberg Regions for details of each region, what is offered, where it is and their phone numbers. If the reserve numbers do not work then please phone Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife central reservations on 033 845 1000.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife entrance, accommodation, camping and overnight hiking fees can be downloaded here.

A guide to hiking in the Drakensberg for an overview of the regions, safety, hikes, kit and bushman paintings.

Hiking check list - a comprehensive list of the food, clothing and equipment you should have for a hike and multiday hikes. Download the printable version here.

How to book a cave - a list of caves that can be booked and the reserve phone numbers to use when you book a cave can be viewed here.

Mountain Rescue Register provides a useful form to use all your hikes, of fill in the mountain register at the reserve office before you start your hike.

Hiking ideas for a list of hikes by region in the Drakensberg.

Peaks, passes, huts, caves and bushman paintings - find a cave, peak that you may be interested in. Useful for planning your very own hike.

Finding Activities gives you a list of the different activities available, E.g. quad biking and the falcon ridge bird of prey centre.

Featured Hiker
Jonathan Newman

In the space of roughly 10 years since Jonathan did his first hike up one of Drakensberg passes he has completed just over 100 different Drakensberg passes.

An achievement that does not come easily and is to be admired for the sheer determination Jonathan has shown. We wholeheartedly congratulate you Jonathan, and are in awe of your achievement. Read more about Jonathan and his hikes on his website.

Featured Accommodation
Three Tree Hill Lodge

Against the magnificent backdrop of the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, and overlooking the secluded Mfazimnyama Valley of the Spioenkop Game Reserve, lies Three Tree Hill Lodge.

It is ideally positioned to explore the northern reaches of the Drakensberg mountains.

View more details...

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Amphitheatre Chain Ladders

On Saturday 21 September 2019 one of the shackles that bolts the bottom, right-hand chain ladder to the rocks on the Amphitheatre sheared off at the rockface, and has compromised the structure of that ladder. The left-hand ladder has no problems. These ladders are accessed from the Sentinel Peak Car Park by hikers who are hiking to the top of the Amphitheatre and on to Tugela Falls and Mont-aux-Sources.

No-one was injured, and the ladder is still attached to the rockface. Temporary nylon rope has been used to reduce the movement of the ladder, but that ladder is unquestionably not safe for use. The Sentinel Peak Hike is still open and hikers can either use the ladder on the left, which is open, or the Gully.

A meeting was held at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge on Wednesday 25th September with the Department of Environmental Affairs and their Implementing Agent to determine the next steps.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has confirmed that they have allocated funds for access projects in the area, and are in the process of submitting plans to include the complete replacement of the Chain Ladders in that project. In the interim the lower ladder on the right remains closed to hikers. 

Management of Witsieshoek are currently getting experts to assess repair and stabilization options pending the full replacement of the ladders.

In summary, for now the Chain Ladders Hike is still open and hikers can either use the ladder on the left or the Gully.

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Featured Hike

Nine Caves in three days

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We just love visiting and sleeping in the Drakensberg caves, so why not plan a hike to see as many as possible over three days. Five friends agreed to go with on this adventure knowing we would be spending the majority of this hike on no path.

On the first day starting at Bushman's Nek we walked 10km's with 850m elevation again and were privileged to see three caves, sleeping in Whyte's Cave for the night.

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Day two was the day for adventure where getting stuck on top of a mountain if the gully down is not found is a possibility. You hike 10km's with 570m elevation gain and can see five caves, sleeping in Secret cave for the night.

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Day three is a longish hike back to Bushman's Nek of 17km's and 520m elevation gain with one cave to view along the way. The full details of the hike and track have been added to our blog here.

Featured Accommodation

little acres

Little Acres B&B and self catering

Belinda and Andrew are excellent hosts, their knowledge and insights about the area and the Drakensberg will make your stay a memorable one.

Set in an idyllic, lush 1,2ha garden, secured with an electric fence and ample safe parking, Little Acres is well located in relation to everything there is to do in the Central Drakensberg - you are close to everything in either direction.

Next time you are looking for a weekend away give them a try, you won't regret it.

Read more...

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This must be the warmest winter in many years and snow in the Drakensberg mountains has been scarce. We saw a little early on in May during a hike in the Southern Berg. We then spent a week in the Eastern Cape hiking the Wild Coast, I don't think they have a winter!

More recently we spent a warm week in Limpopo, the mornings were mildly cool and refreshing. Back to the beautiful Drakensberg mountains and still no real winter. Climate change is real.

Winter Trek up Bannerman Pass - Nicola Freitas
A three day circular hike from Giant's Castle camp to Bannerman Hut on day one; 10km and 690m elevation gain. Day two is a steep hike up Bannerman Pass to Bannerman Cave; 5km and 980m elevation gain and day three is a hike along the escarpment and down Langalibalele Pass back to Giant's Castle camp; 12km and 1400m elevation loss.

For more info about hiking to Bannerman Hut and up Bannerman pass read this article.

Featured Hike
Caracal Cave - Highmoor

Highmoor holds some of the fondest memories of time spent with family and friends. If planning to visit the Drakensberg for the first time with the family or in search of beautiful, quiet and relaxing time in the Drakensberg then this is for you.

Caracal Cave easily accommodates 8 people (12 with children) and is approximately 5.2 km's from the Highmoor Reserve parking area. This is an easy hike to the Cave and a bit of a climb back to the parking area, the kids will love the day out.

We recommend staying the night in the cave. Water supply is seasonal, although water flowing over the top of the cave has been seen in winter months when there has been a wet summer. The cave is well sheltered from strong winds and rain and there is plenty exploring to do from the cave.

Read more...

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Hiking Clubs

Are there any hiking clubs I can join that do hikes in the Drakensberg?

There are two well known and respected hiking clubs we can recommend. You can join either or both. Explore the Drakensberg with an experienced, knowledgeable leader in whom you can place your confidence and trust.

 

1. Mountain Backpackers Clublogo default

To become a member of the Club the cost is R290 per single person or R370 per family per annum.

The hiking club offers the following:

  • The Club has a core of experienced, knowledgeable leaders in whom you can place your confidence and trust.
  • We welcome members of all ages and abilities.
  • We offer several activities each week, catering for a wide range of abilities.
  • Members receive a quarterly magazine containing a fixture list and other useful information.
  • Beginners can hire equipment while they decide what is best for them to purchase for themselves.
  • Members qualify for discounts at leading outdoor equipment suppliers.
  • Regular talks and presentations by guest speakers allow you the opportunity to learn from their knowledge and experiences.

 

mcosa kzn2. The Mountain Club of South Africa - KwaZulu-Natal Section

The annual membership fees vary from R135 to R520.

The hiking club offers:

  • Regular hiking meets in the Drakensberg and elsewhere.
  • Regular climbing meets in KZN and throughout SA.
  • Regular sport and competition climbing events.
  • Privileged access to a significant number of Club-owned properties country-wide, most of which are in wild, isolated and incredibly scenic locations.
  • Exclusive use of Cambalala house on Mikes Pass.
  • Reduced fees for, and access to, other huts owned by the Mountain Club of SA throughout the country.
  • Reduced climbing competition entry fees (for some events).
  • Social and slide/video evenings in Durban and PMB.
  • Access to Mountain Club libraries both in Durban and around the country.
  • Opportunities to attend national and international mountaineering events.
  • The national MCSA body to whom we are affiliated is a member of the world mountaineering body, the UIAA. This provides club members with a growing range of priviledges internationally, through reciprocity agreements.
  • High quality quarterly newsletters.
  • Professional, hardcover journal.

 

Featured Hike

 

Langalibalele Pass Hike (by Jonathan Newman)

If you want to hike up a Drakensberg pass and you haven't yet joined one of the hiking clubs above, or you and your friends feel like adventure awaits and you want to try hiking up a pass. This is the hike for you!

This pass is one of the easiest routes to the Drakensberg Escarpment. It tops out between the Sanqebethu and Durnford ridges. With a good path along the entire route and no exceptionally steep sections. This route is suitable for beginners, or fast-and-light day hikers provided they are fit and sufficiently knowledgeable.

A full hike report on how to get to Giants Castle (your starting point) and detailed directions with pictures has kindly been written by Jonathan. Jonathan has probably done the pass more than most people.

hike Langalibalele

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Hiking in Winter

The winter months are a great time to hike the Drakensberg so long as you are prepared and have the correct gear. Below are some basic tips to ensure you have a successful winter hike.

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Never go alone

Dress appropriately

Dress like an onion - in layers.

The temperature will vary at the bottom of the trail and on the summit of the mountain. Having layers will help you regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable.

Avoid cotton (it holds moisture and will make you cold when wet) and rather use wool or synthetics for your base layer. A fleece is the ideal mid-layer and a waterproof and breathable shell jacket will protect you from bad weather.

On your legs use thermals, then walking pants and waterproof pants on top.

Frostbite is a real danger and is most likely to affect your fingers, toes and face so covering the extremities is vital. Consider two pairs of gloves, a warm liner and a waterproof outer pair. A good quality hat, a beanie and a buff or balaclava will help keep you warm.

Think about your feet

Your lightweight summer hiking boots will not work. A boot with a sturdy sole, designed for tougher conditions, is recommended. Always wear thick, winter-weight socks (Merino wool is a good choice) since your toes are the first place you’ll feel cold.

Be prepared

Always pack more water and food than you think you’ll need so you have enough in case of an emergency. Hot drinks like soup and hot chocolate will help to keep you warm.

Be prepared to turn around.

The mountains have been here for a long time, and they'll be here for a long time still.

Don’t hesitate to turn around if weather conditions change and look dangerous. Reaching your destination is only half of the hike, you must have time and energy left over for the return.

Start early and finish early

Sunlight hours are a lot less in winter so hike when the sun is rising so you can make best use of the available daylight and be realistic about what you can achieve in a day. Ice and snow make trails much slower than normal.

Use walking poles

If you’ve never used walking poles now’s the time to start. The extra contact points help your balance and are useful for finding snow banks and holes in the path that become hidden.

Take eye protection

Sunglasses with UV protection or goggles are essential for winter hiking as the glare from the snow can make it impossible to see. If the wind picks up you won’t be able to keep your eyes open and will get into trouble very quickly. The use lip balm to protect your lips from wind chill is essential.

Be wary of natural hazards

Frozen rivers covered with snow and ice can be very dangerous. Always be on the lookout for potential dangerous areas and use your walking poles to test the ground ahead when unsure of whats below the snow.

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Learn how to use an ice axe if you intend to hike in areas with snow

An ice axe is very useful when hiking in winter and can be used for support whilst ascending, cutting steps into hard packed snow and ice with the back of the axe or arresting your descent should you fall.

Learn how to ascend and descend in snow

Going uphill, take short steps and “kick in” to the snow bank. Do not to use old kicked steps from previous hikers as they may be icy. If traversing a slope, make sure you have your ice axe on the rise side for support.

Going downhill, learn a technique known as plunge stepping. This is a gravity assisted step down, not forward. Don’t lock out your leg otherwise you may end up jarring your knee. Keep your ice axe angled in front of you for self-arresting if you lose your footing.

If you do go on a winter hike stay safe and remember to tag us in Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, we would love to share your adventure and pictures with everyone.

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Featured Hike

 

Game Pass Shelter

If you have never seen bushman paintings this short hike suitable for the whole family is the one for you. 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.

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This three-hour guided trail starts at the Kamberg Rock Art centre, where you can watch a 20-minute DVD on the art and history of this famous rock-art site. As you walk, take heed of the poignant verse that is found on all the marketing brochures:  "No more do we Bushmen hunt in these hills. The fire is cold. Our songs are quiet. But listen carefully. You will hear us in the water. Look carefully, you will see us in the rock." And you will.

Leaving the centre, the trail heads south, then, after crossing a small stream, gradually meanders up the hill under the spray coming off the Waterfall Shelter. Shortly after this overhang, the path crosses a small river and then it’s a bit of a slog up a zigzagging path until, about 40 minutes from the start, you reach the gate of the shelter.

Most of the paintings in the shelter are complex polychrome images and the first ones you’ll see as you enter are imposing therianthropic figures (mythological creatures that are part human, part animal) clad in long black karosses. The most frequently depicted animal is the eland, the largest antelope in the Drakensberg. Apart from providing meat, fat and skins, eland had symbolic importance to the San, who believed they had supernatural powers. Archaeologists studying these paintings uncovered a vital key to understanding the symbolism of San rock art(how hunters gained power from the animals they killed) so, in a sense, they "cracked the code" – hence, the site is commonly referred to as the "Rosetta Stone".

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It’s then downhill all the way back to the centre, which has a few books, posters and videos, as well as limited snacks, tea and coffee for sale.

Walks are limited to groups of 10 people and leave from the centre at 9am, 11am and 12.30pm or by special arrangement with community guides based at the centre.

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Why go camping?

There are eight camping options within Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, each has its own unique charm and reason why you would want to camp here. While many have a favourite camping destination, some of us have never tried camping or may have tried once and not enjoyed it.

So why should you go camping and why do some of us love camping so much? The answer is simple, it's the memories.

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As a teenager it's the memory of going on this big adventure with the folks who are so excited, (maybe not mom as much but who to this day fondly treasures the memories with her children) it's seeing the pack of  marshmallows your mom packed and it's the time spent with your folks in an environment outside of normal daily life, you really do have moments of connecting with your parents.

It's the stolen bottle of sherry you as a teenager shared with your friends and cousins in your tent at Injisuthi with the adults in the text next door in the middle of winter, a memory that connects you all.

It's learning about the stars and night photography from your eldest cousin, the start of a life-long passion for photography.

It's the time spent with parents, uncles and aunts on a day hike while camping, getting very lost and having to scramble down what then seemed like a large mountain (which is small in hindsight). My dad to this day is reminded of this trip by my aunts every time they see him.

As a young adult it's the excitement of preparing, organising and having a braai and beer or glass of wine with your friends at Monk's Cowl while the sun sets, an experience you will always remember.

It's the memory of the time the hail came down on the first afternoon in Highmoor, shredding one of the tents and everyone coming together to help fix the tent and offer (not always good) advice.

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It's the memory of breaking your toe while playing soccer with your children and still going out on a day hike the next day (not as fast as usual) to everyone's amusement.

It's the morning sunrise with a cup of coffee, sometimes by yourself and often with your loved one, a moment that's never forgotten.

It's the cold showers in the morning when the gas stops working, how awake you feel afterwards!

All of these and many more camping experiences make irreplaceable memories which connect you with your children and wife and stay with you forever. Go out there and give it a try with your family and friends and you will all create a treasured memory to value forever.

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All the Ezemvelo KZN Reserves can be viewed here.

Featured Hike

 

Bushman's Nek Camp to Thamathu Cave - 7km (636m elevation gain) to the Cave

Starting at the Bushman's Nek Office, where you fill in the mountain register. You pass the South African border post and then cross the stream twice and turn right (if you go straight you are heading towards Tarn Cave and would cross the stream a third time) thus walking with Bushman's River on your right. To your right on the other side of the river you will see Bushman's Nek Hut as you walk along a slightly upward path.

thamathu cave

After 300m where you turned right after the 2nd river crossing the path has two options, straight ahead which takes you to Bushman's Cave and left up the hill in front of you, this is your route, turn left and start up the hill.

After climbing the 1st hill the path flattens out for a short breather, then up the next hill. The path is visible all the way as you wind up this hill on the left-hand side. At the top you have now done 3.2km, the views start to show themselves all around you.

A nice flat section is next and then up the next hill. You are heading in a West / North West direction all the way from here until just before Thamathu cave. The gradient over this next hill is pretty similar to what you have already climbed. At 5.8km (you only have 1.1km's to go) the path again has two options, a short steep uphill (this path is not well defined) of about 150m uphill or to continue straight along the contours of the hill you are on. Both will get you to Thamathu cave.

Choosing to go left and up the hill now means that after this uphill the rest of the hike to the cave is along the contour path. Choosing to go straight at this point seems easier but your last 300m will then be uphill to the cave. The choice is yours.

This is a great family day hike (kids over ten). Enjoy your lunch and stunning views from the cave.

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