Honestly, on a scale of 1 to 10 there is no area better than any other, the authors of some guide books accentuate a certain area and visitors worry that they might lose out on a good experience if they do not visit a particular area. This is not true, visit as many as you can, but relax and enjoy a day or two in one place if you are short of time.
This is exactly why Inkosana Lodge in the Central ‘Berg is such a good place to stay.
Apart from the many attractions in this area:
To the north 45min away is Cathedral Peak
70min away is Royal Natal
To the south, 60min is Injisuthi
100min is Giant’s Castle.
REGIONS FROM NORTH TO SOUTH
Royal Natal National Park
This area is well known for the amphitheatre shape of the range there, from Eastern Buttress and Devil’s Peak in the east the Sentinal in the west. The Tugela Falls plunges in stages from the escarpment to the valley below.
For those planning on going to the ‘top‘ of the falls please note that that part of the mountain range is actually in the Free State. (The best place to stay here is Karma Backpackers in Kestell.) Access is via Phutidijaba and Sentinel car park. This is a serious walk and not for the unfit and inexperienced. Beware of changes in the weather. A useful guide is “ Drakensberg, 20 best day walks in 10 regions “. The high point here is Mont aux Sources.
(Please note the falls are dry for half the year. The top is often shrouded in mist in summer and pounded by strong winds in spring. There are better “waterfall experiences” to be had all over in the valleys of the little ‘Berg.)
The actual entrance to Royal Natal, is found on the R74 road below Oliviershoek Pass far down in the valley. There are many lovely self-guided walks here, one is the Gorge, taking you to a point below the main Amphitheatre If you know where to look and there has been plenty of rain, you may see the Tugela Falls way up high! There are rockart shelters here as well.
Just south of Royal Natal is the Mweni valley, a special conservation area, recently incorporated in the larger Drakenberg Park.
This area is home to Mponjwane Peak and offers access to the high mountains by wonderful passes such as Rockeries, Fangs and Mweni. There are numerous rock shelters for hikers to use.
Overseas visitors are unlikely to visit this area unless they are doing a serious multi-day hike.
Just south of Mweni are the twin peaks of the Saddle, then Ntonjelane and the next big valley is that of Cathedral.
This area is only 45 minutes drive north from Inkosana Lodge. There are a myriad of day walks starting both from Didima and the hotel entrance to the park. These are easily self guided. There is an interpretive Rock Art Centre. Walks can be taken to caves to view art, but a guide may be needed for these. A very special trip is to Eland cave to view the most spectacular paintings of Eland, this is a 10 hour day.
By way of the Bell Traverse or Mlambonja Pass overnight hikes to the high mountain can be undertaken from here.
For serious hikers Cathedral Peak can be tackled in a day. The way is not easy to find and the route can be treacherous, especially in wet weather. A guide is strongly recommended.
Mikes Pass is a road giving access to the ‘top’ of the little ‘Berg. Unfortunately due to lack of maintenance it is no longer passable.
Champagne Castle/Cathkin Peak/Monk’s Cowl
This is the heart of the central ‘Berg and home to Inkosana Lodge. Ed is available to offer sound advice on all the regions. Champagne Castle, 3377m is the third highest peak in the ‘Berg. Although a guide is strongly recommended, it can be done in a day by a rare few very, very fit, experienced hikers. The walk-in is long. Sterkhorn 2906m is a challenging peak which is more do-able in a day, but most definitely not for the average hiker !
Monk’s Cowl is illusively hidden behind Cathkin and is visible only from the north and south. These two peaks are rock climbs.
The Champagne Valley nestles below. There are excellent self-guided day walks to suite all levels of fitness. Not to be missed is the river walk with many forests and waterfalls. An interesting easy, guided walk to cave shelters with rock art and to gigantic yellowwood forests is on offer by a local guide.
To access the high mountain there are Gray’s and Ship’s Prow Passes.
One hour south of Inkosana Lodge on a slow, slow road lies Injisuthi. A great opportunity here is to visit Battle Cave by pre-arrangement, a guided walk to see great Bushman art.
There are other self-guided hikes to places like Marble Baths, van Heyningen’s Pass and many more. Many shelters are to be found for overnight hikers. Access to he high mountain is via Leslies Pass. The two highest points in the Drakensberg are found here, Mafadi 3450m and Injisuthi 3360m. They are not do-able in a day.
Draycott and Ntabamhlope. Coming from Durban the access is from exit 175 from the N3. This most beautiful valley is home to Main Cave, a rock art shelter with a museum with Bushman artifacts, it gives a good idea as to how the people lived. The walk is self-guided and the cave may be viewed on the hour from 09.00 to 15.00
There are other self-guided day walks along the river and to World’s View. The raptor hide may be booked to spend a day watching the birds at play.
Langalabilele Pass is relatively easy and do-able in a day by the fit and experienced. Other access to overnight hikes on top is via Giant’s Pass and Bannerman Pass.
Coming from the north access is through Ntabamhlope road which is found to be slow, it may be better to continue on the N3 into Mooi River, go through the town and follow the Giants Castle signs to the reserve 64 kms away
Following little roads south, hugging the little ‘Berg one comes across these gems. The area is more remote than further north, the mountains are slightly lower and just as beautiful.
A normal car will usually do well if not too wet and if you are patient.
Rewarding walks are found all over the area and there is a rock art centre at Kamberg.
It takes two hours get to Sani Pass Backpackers along this way from Giant’s. If you go back to the N3 from Giants and down to Howick and back in to Sani, it will take the same time, much further but faster.
At Sani, there are many things to do, walks, overnight hikes and also the Giant’s Cup Trail with huts. Sani Pass itself is accessible by 4×4 only, but day trips that can be arranged.
Further south from Sani there are the areas of Drakensberg Gardens and Bushman’s Nek.