#13 Drakensberg Mountains

South Africa Travel Blog

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The first European settlers called them 'Dragon Mountains'; the Zulus call them 'Barrier of Spears' - whatever you know them as, the Drakensberg mountain range is one of the most spectacular natural features of Africa.

The Drakensberg is situated in the Eastern parts of South Africa running approximately 1000km northeast and forming the north-eastern border of South Africa and Lesotho. Known in Zulu as uKhahlamba (”Barrier of Spears”) these are the highest mountains in South Africa with peaks reaching well over 3000m. The highest peaks in the range are Thabana Ntlenyana (3482m) in Lesotho and Mafadi (3450m) in South Africa. This giant mountain range separates the South African provinces of Kwazulu-Natal and the Free State. The Drakensberg is often referred to just as “the ‘Berg” by local mountaineers. The mountain range is mainly basalt rock situated on a base of sandstone which gives the mountains its characteristic look of giant blocks and steep pinnacle peaks. Nature has carved many caves into the soft sandstone and some of these caves have rock art paintings of the San (”Bushman”) people.

The Drakensberg is home to many spectacular natural features, not least of which is the impressive Tugela Falls which tumble some 947m over the Amphitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park. The Tugela Falls is the second highest waterfall in the world and feeds into the mighty Tugela River flowing over 520km through the Natal Midlands before reaching the Indian Ocean. Vegetation in the ‘Berg is mostly Afro-montane in the lower foothills changing to Afro-alpine in the summit regions. Open grass with occasional protea bushes is common on North facing slopes with the Southern slopes usually covered with forest or thick bush.

Various animals can be found around the ‘Berg including jackal, baboon and various species of buck, bird and reptile.

Weather patterns in the Drakensberg can be very unpredictable and mountaineers should always be prepared for the worst. Summers are mostly warm with very fearsome thunderstorms; Autumn usually brings low cloud, heavy mist and cool temperatures; Winter can be extreme with snow, ice, wind and dry conditions while Spring can be a surprising combination of the other seasons. Due to this unpredictable weather it is important that visitors to the ‘Berg be prepared for all conditions, from hot to freezing cold.

The Drakensberg is an enchanting area with untouched wilderness, high mountain peaks, incredible views and nature’s ancient architecture. It offers challenging trekking and mountaineering opportunities. It is a place of legend and magic.

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