The Maloti-Drakensberg park: Head for the hills

2014-09-07 15:00

This month we celebrate our heritage, what it means to be South African and the myriad reasons we can be proud. For the next eight weeks, we will be showcasing our World Heritage Sites, beginning withthe Maloti-Drakensberg Park, which was added to the World Heritage List in 2000. Denise Slabbert includes a guide to getting there, where to stay, and what to see and eat while you celebrate your heritage. Enjoy!

The Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Park is expansive and there are plenty of entry points into the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the eastern Free State.

The latter is situated within a triangle between Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein, and is accessible via the R712, just a short drive off the N3 via the N5 highway from both Johannesburg and Durban. Full directions are available on the SANParks website.

Places to rest

On the way to Golden Gate National Park or the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, it is easy to stop at Harrismith for a break when driving from Johannesburg. If you’re looking for something a little bit more “country”, then head a bit further on to the village of Clarens, which is packed with art galleries, delis and restaurants, as well as a craft brewery. There is also a range of accommodation in Clarens to suit any budget or taste.

Where to stay

SANParks offers a variety of accommodation in the Golden Gate National Park that caters for couples, small families and large groups.

.?Glen Reenen Rest Camp offers self-catering rondavels, guest cottages and camp sites for visitors. Camp sites start at R205 a night, and the larger family cottages can cost up to R1?390 a night during peak season.

.?Golden Gate Hotel, which was recently renovated, offers more luxurious accommodation in the national park. A self-catering chalet starts at R1?075 a night and a premier suite will set you back about R3?818 a night in peak season.

.?Basotho Cultural Village. The Basotho people of the Golden Gate National Park provide both museum tours and accommodation. This cultural experience is really educational and fun, especially for those who want to learn more about their traditions and customs. There are three types of self-catering rondavels available with different room configurations. These start at R745 a night during peak season.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife manages different nature reserves across the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. Most of these reserves offer some form of accommodation, ranging from camping and caravanning to luxury lodges. Here is a small selection of what is available to visitors to the area:

.?Mkhomazi. This section within the Drakensberg is one of the most isolated areas and is ready to be explored by the adventurous traveller. Although there is no formal accommodation, there are two caves that are perfect for overnight stays. One is only a 4km walk from the KZN Wildlife office and the other is a tough 12km hike that rewards travellers with views over the Inzinga Valley.

.?Injisuthi. Located in the central section of this World Heritage Site, Injisuthi falls between the Little Tugela River and the Cowl Fork River. It’s known for its views of Cathkin Peak, Champagne Castle and Monk’s Cowl. These self-catering cabins are great for small families that want to spend plenty of time outdoors hiking, birding and relaxing. The starting rate for a cabin that sleeps three is R870 a night.

Where to eat

While most of the reserves and parks have small restaurants, these can be few and far between, and most accommodation inside the parks tends to be self-catering. There are a few small towns along the way to stock up on goods, and restaurants just outside the parks are worth a visit if you’re looking to treat yourself.

.?Clementines in Clarens. One of the best meals in Clarens, just outside the Golden Gate National Park, can be found here. The warm interior of Clementines and fine fare make for a great dinner spot.

.?The Purple Onion Deli in Clarens. If you’re into your epicurean delights, stop by The Purple Onion Deli. You can pick up some great local cheese, home-made preserves and a loaf of freshly baked bread. Don’t forget to stop at the nearby local brewery for some craft beers.

.?Monk’s Cowl Tea Garden. A perfect place to enjoy some scones and tea after a hike, while staring out over the gorgeous scenery. This quaint tea garden is a great spot to have a rest.

Most supplies will be available from the small towns along the way, including firewood, food, drinks, and other bits and pieces you may have left behind.

Remember to find out if the place you’ll be staying at has a freezer for meat storage before arriving because not all places have this facility.

Some of the reserves have a small shop where basic supplies can be found, but it’s better to bring in what you’ll need during your stay because these shops run low on stock from time to time.

When to go

Visiting the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park throughout the year is a great idea. If you’re looking for a quieter period, try visiting outside of the school holiday period. The warmer months of the year tend to be popular in the Drakensberg because of the array of outdoor activities.

Although winters can be very cold in the Drakensberg as snow settles on some of the highest peaks, there are lots of lodges with fireplaces. Establishments are also geared for the cold and kit out rooms with electric blankets and extra bedding, just in case the weather is too much to handle.

Fun activities and attractions

.?Horse riding

.?Hiking

.?A visit to the Basotho Cultural Village

.?Herbal trail conducted by residents of the Basotho Cultural Village

.?Game viewing

.?Tennis

.?Abseiling

.?Canoeing

.?Environmental education courses

.?Holiday programmes conducted throughout the year

.?Khoisan rock art

.?Mountain biking

.?Fishing

Additional costs

A daily conservation fee is required, in addition to accommodation fees at the Golden Gate National

Park – R38 per adult per day and R19 per child per day. A 1% community levy, which is channelled back into local community initiatives surrounding the park, is also included alongside accommodation fees.

Visitors to the reserves managed by KZN Wildlife can expect to pay a day rate upon entry of R20 to R30 per adult, and R10 to R15 per child. If you are driving in and out of different reserves, you will be expected to pay the entry at each one along your route.

Information and contact details

Bookings within any national park are essential. The parks’ facilities are often booked up months in advance. Day visitors are welcome in certain areas within the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Park (conservation and day visitor fees will apply) and public roads through the Golden Gate National Park make for a great scenic drive if you’re passing through.

Remember to let the authorities know should you be participating in any of the demarcated hikes – they are likely to request details about the route you plan to take as well as your contact details in case of an emergency. It is strongly advised to stick to the marked paths and suggested distances rather than making your own way.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

kznwildlife.com

Telephone: +27?033?845?1000

email: bookings@kznwildlife.com

SANParks

sanparks.org

Telephone: +27?012?428?9111

email: reservations@sanparks.org

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