Drakensberg Walking Tour

South Africa

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Spectacular day walks in the Drakensberg Mountains


Duration: 8 Days
Starts in: South Africa
Group Size: 2-6

Operated by:

World Expeditions

World Expeditions is an adventure travel and ecotourism company that offers guided small group trekking and adventure holidays.


In Johannesburg, trip concludes

Upon arrival at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, please make your way to the Information counter in the International Arrivals Hall where you will meet a representative from Safari Club Hotel who will arrange your complimentary shuttle. Check in and spend the rest of the day/evening at leisure. Overnight: Safari Club Hotel.

Transfer to the Drakensberg Mountains (World Heritage Site)

You will be collected from your hotel at 06.30 am and transferred to your lodge in the Drakensberg region (approx. 4 hours drive). Remainder of day at leisure. Dinner and overnight: The Cavern.

National Natal Park Grotto Hike (approx 20 kms; 8 hours)

Today we will be accompanied by an experienced mountain guide from the lodge. We will hike to the left after Top Gate. The path heads through the pine forest and then goes past Cowslip Falls – named not after a pretty flower, but after a cow that slipped to its doom on a dark and stormy night. Beyond Cowslip Dam the path forks. Go left, across the little bridge. Hike up and bear left past Pascoe’s Pool and along the contour and up the 2nd and 3rd ridge. At the top of Surprise Ridge there is a wonderful view of the main escarpment and the Amphitheatre. Go over the ridge and descend through the fence, and proceed along the contour path. The path weaves in and out of the mountain side and then up through Castle Rocks. A short walk from Castle Rocks into a lovely forest and you have arrived at the RNNP Grotto. Lunch is enjoyed in the cool of the forest with time to explore the many waterways, falls and tunnels, The Serpentine and The Shell. Return home the same way OR descend to the Royal Natal National Park for a ride home (this transfer can be arranged at an additional cost).Dinner and overnight: The Cavern.

“Cavern Big 5” Hike (approx 18 kms; 8 hours)

This morning we ascend for approximately two hours up to Hlolela (2127m), via Scilla Gully, and then on to the formation known as the Bridge of the Battleship. From the Battleship we will hike via several steep ascents and descents, taking the Devil's Staircase en route to our lunch stop in a large cavern. After lunch and a short break, we will hike along the ridges and then down to our lodge. There are several options to shorten the walk today if weather or energy levels require it. Today is the best chance to see Eland, the largest of the antelope family. Imposing and elegant, both males and females bear tightly spiralled horns, those of the males being heavier. The range of habitats we traverse and the ever-changing views today are also highlights. Dinner and overnight: The Cavern. NOTE - The next 2 nights we will be staying at a simple mountain lodge with limited storage space. If you have any excess luggage it can be stored tonight and will be collected at the end of Day 7 on our vehicle transfer back to Johannesburg.

Sugarloaf to Witsieshoek Rest Camp (approx 14 kms; 7 hours)

The terrain today is undulating with a few steep slopes and some fairly easy scrambles. There are several paths leading behind some hills to Sugar Loaf Gap. Vultures often soar over Sugar Loaf, with two species found here. The Cape Vulture is endemic, found only in this area of southern Africa. They are gregarious creatures and while they spread out to forage, each can see the next and they will all arrive at a carcass within a few minutes. The Bearded Vulture (or Lammergeyer) is solitary, preferring old kills and even dry bones that other scavengers cannot manage. If the bone is too big to swallow, the Lammergeyer carries it high in the air and drops it on a big rock to crack the bone open. If we are very lucky we may witness this process. The rusty colour of the Lammergeyer is derived from iron-rich rocks and must be renewed after every moult to impress the opposite sex. From Sugar Loaf Gap, the path to our mountain lodge is undulating and rises slowly on the ascent towards it. Overnight and dinner: Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge.

Amphitheatre ascent (approx 10km; 8 hours)

After breakfast at the lodge, we will be transferred by vehicle to the Sentinel carpark. The trek today is strenuous and the paths on the escarpment are at times indistinct so we must adhere to our guide's instructions. We will commence along a well- maintained path which ascends gradually towards the base of the Sentinel Massif. From here, the path passes below the Western buttresses, with the land sloping steeply to the north and east. There are wonderful views of the Malutis and the Witsieshoek plateaux. After about 3 km we will reach a section of the track with chain ladders. After negotiating two stages of the rock wall, it is only a short scramble from there to the top of the escarpment where we will spend the better part of the day in exploration. Weather permitting, we will walk to the edge of the Amphitheatre, where the Tugela Falls (second highest waterfall in the world) cascades 948m over the cliff-face into Tugela Gorge. This is a truly impressive sight. We will also explore other trails to interesting vantage points along the Amphitheatre escarpment. From elevations around 2500m the surrounding landscape is spectacular. Our return route is again via the Gulley of the Chain Ladders. After an exciting day we meet our vehicle for the transfer back to the mountain lodge where we can reflect on the challenges of the day. Overnight and dinner: Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge.

Descend to Mahai Camp (4 hours) then drive to Johannesburg

The hike to Mahai Camp is reasonably energetic, involving gentler hills rather than craggy mountains. The route is very scenic with waterfalls, paths skirting sandstone cliffs, and stands of yellowwood forest as we cross the Mahai river. (Please note: there is a compulsory 30 ZAR per person park fee payable locally at the exit gate for Kwazulu-Natal National Park. This cannot be paid in advance and is NOT included in the trip cost). The transfer vehicle will meet us while we enjoy a picnic lunch. We will drive to our first lodge, collect our stored luggage, and continue to our hotel in Johannesburg. Overnight: Safari Club Hotel.

In Johannesburg, where trip concludes

Safari Club Hotel will provide a complimentary transfer for you to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, where trip concludes.

Additional Information

The World Heritage listed Drakensberg Mountains are the highest mountain range in South Africa, known in Zulu as the 'Barrier of Spears', where towering peaks and pinnacles resemble spears. Spectacular canyons, cliffs, near vertical escarpments and gullies form an ideal terrain for the keen walker wishing to explore and scramble through this rugged wonderland on a series of day walks from our comfortable hotel bases. The highlight of the trip is the strenuous ascent of the Amphitheatre.


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