HIMEVILLE UNDERBER AND SANI PASS
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SANI PASS - UNDERBERG AND HIMEVILLE
Southern Drakensberg: The Southern Drakensberg lies a bit off the beaten tourist track and is not very well known. Here the nature lover finds alpine landscapes of dramatic beauty. Trout anglers consider the "Southern Drakensberg" to be a favorite, since the region has an abundance of crystal clear lakes and rivers.
Drakensberg Nature Reserves: There are several nature reserves, of which particularly the Kamberg and the Loteni are worth a visit. In both reserves live the almost extinct reedbuck, blessbuck, eland, bushbuck and oribi. A wonderful circular trail leads through the Loteni Reserve.
But the breathtaking view of the rugged alpine landscape is a memorable reward. It is highly recommended to cross the border, because on the Lesotho side there is a little restaurant and a Basotho village. The border is open daily between 8.00 am and 4.00 pm.
Underberg: Provision centres for the southern part of the Drakensberg are the towns of Underberg, Himeville and Bulwer, where there accommodation in different price ranges is available. Himeville: Himeville has an excellent museum which gives mainly information about the first white settlers who came here as long ago as the 1890's. One gets to the Southern Drakesberg either by travelling the R103 (Midlands Meander) via Nottingham Road (from there the Sani Pass is sign-posted) or over the southern access via Bulwer (easier drive, but less scenic).
Central Drakensberg: The Central Drakensberg is for me without any doubt the most spectacular region of the majestic Drakensberg. The Drakensberg is South Africa's highest and most impressive mountain range rising to over 3 000 meters and the highest peaks are found in the Central Drakensberg.
The Central Drakensberg escarpment is frequently covered in snow in the winter months, transforming the area into a picture-postcard winter wonderland. Popular with hikers, rock climbers, trout fishermen, and other holidaymakers, the Central Drakensberg area offers a wide range of hotels, country lodges, and bed and breakfast accommodation venues, as well as camping sites and caravan parks.
For the more adventurous there are also many trails which use caves up in the mountains as overnight stops. A weekend of hiking and climbing, interspersed with dips in the icy pools and rivers, goes a long way to restoring those weary of city life. Most of the Central Drakensberg makes up a good part of the Natal Drakensberg Park, a wilderness area with an abundance of wildlife. Hikers are frequently surprised by bushbuck, oribi, mountain reedbuck, tiny duiker, and the largest of South Africa’s antelope species, the eland, as well as many others. Enormous lammergeier, or bearded vultures, fly overhead and baboons bark from the cliffs.
The spring is heralded by carpets of wild flowers and the pink and orange watsonia, like miniature gladioli, bloom thickly on the hillsides. In autumn the fields and lower reaches of the Drakensberg are often a waist-high sea of confetti-like pink, white and deep velvet red cosmos blossoms. In the higher reaches on the slopes of the Little Berg, varieties of protea trees show their prehistoric flowers, and ancient tree ferns and the odd cycad dot the gullies.
Hikers should note that there are 24 species of snakes in these mountains, and not all of them are willing to give way to humans. The Central Drakensberg mountains also contain thousands of Bushman Rock Art sites, evidence of the small, primitive San people who practiced a prehistoric life style in the area long ago. The earliest of these paintings are about 800 years old, and the golden age of the painters was between 400 and 200 years ago.
Sani Pass: The Sani Pass is a spectacular mountain road that is a well-known entry point into Lesotho from South Africa’s Natal Drakensberg Park. It is the gateway to the ‘Roof of Africa’ scenic route that links the spectacular scenery of the Drakensberg with the mountains of northern Lesotho. The Sani Pass is the only border post between Kwazulu-Natal and Lesotho. A 4X4 vehicle is necessary for this road especially if the weather is bad.
Never underestimate the changeability of the weather in Lesotho. A common truth is that you can have four seasons in one day, so be prepared. Have lunch at the top of the Sani Pass at the highest pub in Southern Africa.
Sani Pass History:Once, the Sani Pass was a rough mule trail descending the Eastern Highlands of old Basutoland into Natal. Tough drovers brought wool and mohair down the Pass on donkeys and mules to be exchanged for blankets … clothing … maize meal … the essentials for life in a remote, impoverished country. And a young man had a dream … of operating a motor vehicle service up this fantastic Pass, using the 4-wheel drive vehicles he had seen on service in World War II. His name was David Alexander and he founded this Company in 1955. It has operated on the Sani Pass ever since.