The Drakensberg & iSimangaliso Wetland Park, A very special slice of Africa

The name Drakensberg in all her wondrous wonders was named so by the earliest Dutch settlers to the region, calling these rolling and seemingly endless mountains the Drakensbergen or “Mountain of Dragons”. I like to imagine that these mythical dragons did used to dwell in the many cliff side caves that are scattered along the region and that they lived during the time of the San people whose caves are still decorated with their art depicting their many battles and daily lives.

The massive mountains towering and peaking make up the Drakensberg range and forms a natural boarder between KwaZulu Natal and the Kingdom of Lesotho with the highest peak reaching a spectacular 3 482 meters, which is the highest in Southern Africa.

The Northern and Central Berg area has some of the most beautiful scenery, bursting with wildlife. Imagine valleys each with their own unique beauty rolling down the earth’s plateau all with exciting gorges to explore, crystal clear natural pools, bubbling brooks and caves. A hiker’s paradise!

The Amphitheater in the northern Drakensberg, is particularly magnificent and hosts The Tugela Falls; the highest waterfall in Africa and is regarded as the second largest in the world. The powerful roaring of the water tumbles 900 meters down. The pinnacles and crags provide a home for numerous raptors including black eagles, Cape vultures and the rare Lammergeyer or bearded vultures. A variety of antelope, particularly mountain reedbuck and eland, as well as troops of baboons are found on the lower slopes – the echoing calls of the male baboons is one you won’t forget.

A wonderful combination to the Drakensberg would be to include a trip to iSimangaliso Wetland Park; previously known as The Greater St Lucia Area. iSimangaliso means ‘Miracle’ or ‘Wonder’ and given its breathtaking beauty, it ‘s an appropriate name. This is South Africa’s third largest protected area that offers ecotourists some of the most diverse wildlife and outdoor activities. Besides Lake St Lucia, a unique 38 000ha expanse of lake, islands and estuary; the park also incorporates an astonishing variety habitats ranging from mountains to grasslands, wetlands, mangroves and the second highest vegetated dunes with magnificent beaches and coral reefs.

The diversity of the park gives rise to multiplicity of fauna and flora, unrivalled anywhere in South Africa. It supports an abundance of Nile crocodiles and hippo as well as leopard, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, waterbuck, nyala and impala amongst a host of other species including over 526 bird species. The park was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of this rich biodiversity and its unique ecosystems and beauty all occurring in this small area.

The coral reefs along the popular Sodwana Bay with its brightly coloured fish make this a perfect place to snorkel or scuba dive. Sandy beaches are perfect for you to walk for miles along the golden shores; or roam through the coastal forests or the grassy plains or explore the great dunes or you could even try your hand at canoeing or boating along the estuary. There is no doubt that iSimangaliso has just about everything your nature loving heart desires.

Wondrous adventures await you in these very special slices of Africa.

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