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Drakensberg Mountains

Updated on June 26, 2015
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Natasha Pelati has published three books of poetry and writes on real-life experiences with the help of psychology.

Drakensberg "Dragon Mountain"

There is absolutely nothing better than escaping the routine of every day life in the city, away from the chaos, traffic, smog and noise to a peaceful and picturesque destination.

Usually we cannot afford to get away for a quick escape and finding a place that you can afford is also always an issue but if you really want to escape from stress than the Drakensberg is the place to go.

Drakensberg is situated in the Midlands of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa and it's name originated from the Afrikaans, meaning "Dragon Mountains." The Zulu's also have a name for the Drakensberg, "uKhahlamba" which means "Barrier of Spears."

The greatest altitude in this region reaches 3000 metres and the escarpment stretches for over 1000 metres from the Eastern Cape forming a border between Lesotho and Kwazulu Natal as well as the Mpumalanga Province.

It is the central point for the Provinces to meet up and with it's beautiful mountain range, unites all South Africans at some time.

The ecology in the Drakensberg has Flaura and Fauna, with over 299 bird species to view.

Mountain ranges can have snow at certain times of the year and it gets so cold that all the chalets have fireplaces for you to keep warm with.

People come from all over the world to take a look at the mountain range with its picturesque and breathtaking views but for the South African fisherman, this is where they go to find Trout.

Trout fishing is a big concern in the Drakensberg area and many of the guest lodges have a catch and release policy.

On a clear night in the "Berg" you can see a blanket of stars covering the night sky, which is absolutely incredible and very soothing to the eye.

Let's go Trout fishing in the Drakensberg

Fishing in the Drakensberg is great fun
Fishing in the Drakensberg is great fun

Where to stay in Drakensberg

Depending on what sort of holiday you are wanting there are many options of accommodation in the Midlands.

Hotels with room service and restaurants, pools and fishing are on the list but for me, it is to escape and although I am not a fan of self catering units, it is a great way to escape people and be on your own in a tranquil environment.

There are a number of lodges, hotels and backpackers to select as well as camp sites,(only recommended in Summer) as they get extremely cold and if you are not equipped it could be an unpleasant experience.

Staying as close to the mountains as possible is where I like to be and if you go far into the Drakensberg you can get snow for a completely different adventure.

My favourite place to stay is in Underberg, which is where you are most likely to experience the snow, tucked away in a cosy cottage with a coal stove and a warm fireplace, absolutely nothing in front of you but the night sky, surrounded by the sparkle of stars which light up the lakes that reflect into the bungalow, views of the mountains and nothing to do but relax, you could not ask for anything better than that.

Underberg is a 3 to 4 hour drive away from Durban and there are a few bumpy and dusty roads to follow but it is worth it.

Self catering cottages can sleep up to 8 people and you get your own boat, private lake and a trail that can keep you busy hiking for an entire day.

Bring your own food, ensure that you have your fishing gear and something warm to wear at night. Charcoal for a fire can keep you and your family warm whilst you are hypnotised by the myriads of stars above you.

It is very secluded and there are no shops to get to if you run out of food or drink, so ensure that you pack enough food to last you for your trip.

Lake St Bernard, Underberg Chalets are very private and sleeps up to 8 people.
Lake St Bernard, Underberg Chalets are very private and sleeps up to 8 people.
Underberg, South Africa

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Lake St Bernard, Underberg, Drakensberg
Lake St Bernard, Underberg, Drakensberg
nottingham road drakensberg:
Drakensberg Mountains

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Nottingham Road

For those who do not wish to travel for 3 to 4 hours then Nottingham Road is an hour and a half away from Durban.

There are a few hotels in the area as well as backpacking and hostels too. Self catering units can also be found but if you are wanting to experience snow, then this is not the place to be. It is fun to go up for the day and take a look at the cheese farms, have a look at the fantastic and creative arts and crafts, home - made candles and naturally, the beautiful views of the mountains.

Lake naverone drakensberg:
Drakensberg Mountains

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Southern Drakensberg

A World Heritage Site can be seen here and this area is about 30 km away from Underberg. You will definitely experience snow here and the best time to go to see the snow is in August.

I spent time in Lake Naverone, which has a secluded lake and a bird sanctuary. It is peaceful, you are allowed to fish (catch and release policy) and there are boats for hire.

The cottages are incredible and very rustic on one side, with newer cottages alongside the lake.

It has a kitchen with a coal stove, dining area, fireplace and spacious bedrooms. The most incredible thing is that you are on the lake and the mountains are in your direct view. There are hikes and trails to follow and if you are wanting adventure and peace at the same time, then this is a great place to go.

Snow in the Drakensberg

Lake Naverone, Drakensberg
Lake Naverone, Drakensberg

Giants Peak

This area is located in the Southern part of Drakensberg and offers panoramic views. The trails and hikes available along the grassy plateau which is nestled in the deep valleys. The escarpment and peaks resemble a sleeping giant, which is where the name comes from. There is also a Game Reserve to see and snow can be experienced here too, if you are lucky enough.

Sani Pass cannot be driven to without an experienced off road 4x4 and driver
Sani Pass cannot be driven to without an experienced off road 4x4 and driver

Sani Pass

Sani Pass is located on the West end of Kwazulu Natal, between Underberg and Lesotho. It is an extremely dangerous road and has to be travelled on with a 4x4. You can camp here as there are sites.

It has the highest road in Africa and a 4wd can go as far as 2874 metres, where after you will need to go the remainder of the way by foot. The top of the peak stands at 3200 metres.

The border post between the two countries; Lesotho and South Africa, closes at 18hoo everyday.

The mountain is dangerous and cannot be travelled to by a regular car. Should you wish to stay there, you need to book with a hotel or agent whom will then organise you transport to get up the mountain. Only professional drivers and experienced off road travellers are allowed to drive.

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What to See and Do in the Drakensberg

The Drakensberg Boys Choir is known all over the world and it is a fantastic experience for the ears to take a listen to the talented and sweet sounding voices of the boys.

Naturally there is fishing, hiking, horse riding, golf and bowls but the main feature is the Mountain range. It is breathtakingly beautiful and you could get hypnotised by your surroundings. A trail or hike is fantastic and the most thrilling experience is to go up to Sani Pass with a 4wd and walk to the tip of the peak. This adventure is not for the faint hearted.

Mountain biking is also available to do and there are a number of scenic trails to select.

Giants Castle has a 4 hour hike to the Grindstone Caves which is great to have a look at.

There are so many trails to follow, mountain passes to go through, even the extreme ones and fishing is plentiful in the "Berg," however, there are other things to explore if you are not that adventurous.

A wide variety of cheese farms are here as well as the brewery which makes Drakensberg's own beer. You can see how it is made and even buy some for a souvenir.

Kamberg is situated 31km's away from Drakensberg and you can have a look at the fascinating rock art that has been there for a hundred years. You do need to climb there and that takes an hour and a half.

For the Archeologists, Elliot is the place to be to study the rock paintings that are still clear today and tell the story of those who there long before the settlers.

Tugela Falls in the Royal Natal National Park has a 954 metre drop with three free leaping falls. This is the source of the Tugela River which goes all the way down to the beach on the North Coast of Kwazulu Natal.

Glamosa Glass Makers in Estcourt, was established in 1958 and you can see how the lamps, mosaics and vases are made with a guided tour in the factory.

The beautiful Drakensberg Mountains at Lake St Bernard
The beautiful Drakensberg Mountains at Lake St Bernard
Lake Naverone, A world Heritage site in the Drakensberg
Lake Naverone, A world Heritage site in the Drakensberg

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