The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a world heritage site located in South Africa that is known for its exceptional natural beauty and rich cultural history. The park is home to a diverse array of habitats that protect a high level of endemic and globally threatened species, particularly birds and plants.
One of the most notable features of the park is its rock art, which is the largest and most concentrated group of rock paintings in Africa south of the Sahara. The rock art was created by the San people over a period of 4,000 years and is outstanding in both quality and diversity of subject matter. The paintings depict animals and human beings and represent the spiritual life of the San people, who are recognized as the indigenous inhabitants of the sub-continent.
The park also contains many caves and rock-shelters that are home to these rock paintings. The ecological integrity of the area has been preserved since the last San people lived there, and the climate, vegetation, and fauna have not changed. It is possible to see the same animals depicted in the rock art, such as eland and rhebok, still living in the park today.
Popular activities at Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Some popular activities include:
Hiking and Trekking
The park is home to a variety of hiking trails that vary in difficulty and length, offering something for hikers of all skill levels. The park is particularly known for its challenging hikes up to the highest peaks, such as Thaba Ntlenyana, the highest point in southern Africa.
One of the most popular and challenging activities in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is the Drakensberg Grand Traverse hike. This epic hike starts at the Sentinel and finishes at Bushman’s Nek and typically takes between 12 to 15 days to complete, with an average duration of 14 days.
The hike is known for its rugged terrain and challenging conditions, and requires above average fitness levels. The elevation gain along the hike is in excess of 9000 metres, which is higher than the elevation of Mount Everest. The trail runs along the edge of the escarpment at high altitudes, frequently crossing the border between South Africa and Lesotho, and covers over 34 ridges and their accompanying valleys.
The hike offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and is an excellent way to experience the natural beauty of the park. However, it’s worth noting that it’s considered one of the toughest hikes in southern Africa, and hikers should choose their partners wisely and come prepared with the necessary gear and supplies.
The Drakensberg Grand Traverse hike is a must-do for adventurous hikers looking for a challenge and a chance to experience the stunning landscapes of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park. It is a one-of-a-kind experience that will test your fitness and endurance, but the rewards are well worth it.
Another popular activity in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is the Amphitheatre Heritage Trail, which is a slackpacking trail that starts at various entrances, one of which is Witsieshoek, and finishes at the Royal Natal National Park. The trail is 25 to 30 km long and takes three days to complete, with an average fitness level required, but it can be strenuous in some sections.
The Amphitheatre Heritage Trail offers hikers the opportunity to walk along the escarpment of the Drakensberg and scale the northern Drakensberg’s hallmark, the Amphitheatre, which is considered one of the world’s most impressive cliff faces. The Amphitheatre extends five kilometers and its sheer cliffs rise 1,220 meters along its length, forming an imposing and solid wall. The trail takes you between the Tugela Valley to the Lesotho plateau, nearly 3,000 meters above sea level and provides a view of the world’s second tallest falls, the Tugela Falls, which tumult down its craggy face into the Royal Natal National Park below.
The trail is designed to help those who are not exceptionally fit to share the experience of the summit and its incredible views, with tented camps and lodges en route that include a hot bath and a comfortable bed at the end of each day. There is also an option for a guided tour with porters to carry your bags, making it easier to conquer the ascent, although you will still need a good dose of stamina to reach the Roof of Africa, and determination to climb the chain ladders.
For those who are afraid of heights, there’s a gully alternative for the chain ladders, so that everyone can experience the hike regardless of their fitness level and comfort with heights.
The Amphitheatre Heritage Trail is a great way to experience the natural beauty of the Drakensberg and the views of the Tugela Falls, with different variations of the hike to suit different fitness levels and preferences. Whether you prefer to carry your own pack, have a porter carry your luggage, or rough it by sleeping in caves overnight, this trail offers something for everyone.
The park’s sandstone cliffs and rock formations offer some of the best rock climbing in the region. There are a variety of routes for climbers of all levels, from beginner to expert.
The park is home to a number of traditional villages where visitors can learn about the customs and traditions of the local communities, including the San people. Visitors can also learn about the history of the area and the significance of the rock art through guided tours.
The park’s rivers and streams offer some of the best fly fishing in the region. Visitors can try their hand at catching rainbow trout, yellowfish and bass.
Camping and picnicking
The park has a number of campgrounds and picnic areas where visitors can spend the night and enjoy the natural beauty of the park.
Popular Tourist Destinations In The Area
In addition to these activities, there are also a number of popular tourist destinations within the park that are worth visiting.
The Royal Natal National Park
This section of the park is home to the famous Amphitheatre, a massive cliff face that is one of the most iconic features of the park. The park also offers a number of hiking trails and campsites.
This popular peak is known for its impressive rock formations and offers some of the best hiking and rock climbing in the park.
This area of the park is home to a large number of rock art sites, as well as hiking trails and a campground.
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re interested in hiking, rock climbing, cultural tours, fishing, camping or picnicking, there is something for everyone in this beautiful and diverse World Heritage Site.
In addition to its cultural and ecological importance, the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park also offers visitors a chance to experience its spectacular natural beauty, including its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts. Rolling high altitude grasslands, pristine steep-sided river valleys, and rocky gorges also contribute to the park’s beauty.
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a unique and special place that offers visitors a chance to experience the rich cultural history of the San people, as well as the natural beauty of southern Africa. It’s a must-see destination for anyone interested in history, art, and nature.