The Drakensberg Mountains
The Drakensberg Mountains has some of the most beautiful scenery that the South Africa offers. The Drakensberg consists of four valleys, beginning with the Champagne Valley in the Central Drakensberg, through the Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley, then the Royal Natal National Park and the Amphitheatre, and finally the Bushmans River valley headed at Giants Castle. Each of the four valleys has its own kind of beauty and character; all have magnificent mountain views.
Giant’s Castle Game Reserve takes its name from the silhouette of the peaks and escarpment that resemble the profile of a sleeping giant. Giant’s Castle camp is situated on a gassy plateau among the deep valleys running down from the face of the High Drakensberg, offering glorious views for hikers and mountain climbers. Superb rock art is high among its special attractions. Visit the Main Caves Museum for fascinating insight into the past lifestyle of the San people. The renowned vulture restaurant is open for visitors to watch bearded vultures and other endangered species feeding. Black-backed jackal, baboon, serval and caracal are found, and there are trout in the Bushmans and Injasuti rivers. A hide from which visitors may watch the rare lammergeyer and other birds of prey may be reserved, and birding enthusiasts will enjoy looking out for the more than 140 species that have been recorded.
Royal Natal National Park
This area of the Drakensberg is particularly well known as a tourist attraction and accommodation area. Situated in the Northern Drakensberg, the most famous feature is the Amphitheatre. Here the Drakensberg, for the length of 5 kms raises straight up to the sky, to a height of over 3000 feet. It is here that the brave can climb up a chain ladder and view the escarpment from the top. A further feature of the Drakensberg is the Tugela Falls cascading down 5 drops forming the second highest waterfall in the world. Although the highest waterfall, the Tugela is by no means the only waterfall in the Drakensberg. Indeed the Drakensberg has many splendid falls of interest to the tourist. In the 8000 ha of the Royal Natal National Park is situated the Cannibal Cave, where tribal people had to resort to cannibalism whilst hiding from the wrath of Shaka Zulu as he purged the Drakensberg area of his enemies.This area has numerous walks and hikes to challenge the tourist, from easy to day long treks.Tourists are encouraged to register their presence when challenging this area of the Drakensberg, as the weather can change dangerously quickly.
Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley
The Cathedral Peak Area of the Drakensberg has splendid scenery with the Dorian Falls as an excellent example of a Drakensberg waterfall. Views of the Central Drakensberg can be had by venturing to the top of Mike’s Pass (accessable with a 4×4 vehicle) and a natural feature of breath-taking nature is the Rainbow Gorge, with two enormous boulders forming a wedge, surely only seen in the Drakensberg Mountains.
The recently built Didima Resort and San Art Centre, a KZN Wildlife Project is well worth a visit whilst in this area of the Drakensberg. A 4×4 trail leads from the Amphitheatre in the Northern.Drakensberg to Cathedral Peak via the Mweni Valley. It provides a challenging drive as well as a remoteness that is unique in today’s world.The Mweni Cultural Centre, which provides accommodation, trails and guides, is also in this area as well as some of the most challenging climbs in the entire Drakensberg.
The Cathkin and Champagne Valley
Cathkin Peak and Champagne Castle have peaks at 3149m and 3248m respectfively. These, together with Monk’s Cowl (3234m) are some of the highest peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains. Cathkin was named after an area around Glasgow, Scotland by the first Scottish settlers in the Drakensberg. The Champagne Peak received its name as a result of the first climber to reach its peak taking a bottle of Champagne to celebrate his achievment and accidently dropping it. Champagne Valley is noted for its many different sporting activites, especially golf, for which there are numerous challenging golf courses.
The San people or Bushmen first populated this area of the Drakensberg and 17 shelters and over 4000 Bushmans paintings are to be found in Drakensberg caves and cliff overhangs.The Bushmen are believed to have been exterminated in the 1800’s by farmers and bounty hunters, although in 1926 a bow, quiver and fresh grass bed were discovered in this area of the Drakensberg. The Giant’s Castle area of the Drakensberg is rich in San Art Paintings and a visit to the Cave Museum showing San family life with clothes, tools and weapons is extremely interesting. Near to Giant’s Castle is a Vulture Restaurant where birds of prey like the Lemmergeier and Black Eagle can be seen from a camouflaged hide. A remote game reserve was established in 1903 between Champagne Valley and Giant’s Castle near Injusuthi Dome (3409m), the highest peak in the Drakensberg.
The Boer War Battlesites
The Drakensberg Mountains form a backdrop to Ladysmith and Colenso, towns which featured highly during the Boer War. Both towns have museums of great interest to students of this conflict. Numerous graveyards exist in the area and tour guides of considerable knowledge of the conflict can bring history alive for the tourist.The Siege and relief of Ladysmith is perhaps the single most told incident of the entire war, and was in fact a series of battles before Ladysmith was finally relieved and this area of the Drakensberg returned to British control. Tourists can spend many interesting hours visiting the Beor War Battlesites where heroism and carnage were performed by both the British and the Boer forces, and the names of people like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Ghandi, Emily Hobhouse, JanSmuts, Danie Smit and Louis Botha became household names and world famous later in time.