About the Drakensberg
The Drakensberg (meaning “Dragon Mountain”) is situated in the Eastern parts of South Africa running approximately 1000km northeast and forming the north-eastern border of South Africa and Lesotho. Known in Zulu as uKhahlamba (”Barrier of Spears”) these are the highest mountains in South Africa with peaks reaching well over 3000m. The highest peaks in the range are Thabana Ntlenyana (3482m) in Lesotho and Mafadi (3450m) in South Africa. This giant mountain range separates the South African provinces of Kwazulu-Natal and the Free State. The Drakensberg is often referred to as simply ”the ‘Berg” by local mountaineers.
The mountain range is mainly basalt rock and situated on a base of sandstone which gives the mountains its characteristic look of giant blocks and steep pinnacle peaks. Nature has carved many caves into the soft sandstone and some of these caves have rock art paintings of the San (”Bushman”) people.
The Drakensberg is home to many spectacular natural features, not least of which is the impressive Tugela Falls which tumble some 947m over the Amphitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park. The Tugela Falls is the second highest waterfall in the world and feeds into the mighty Tugela River flowing over 520km through the Natal Midlands before reaching the Indian Ocean. Vegetation in the ‘Berg is mostly Afro-montane in the lower foothills, changing to Afro-alpine in the summit regions. Open grass with occasional protea bushes is common on North facing slopes with the Southern slopes usually covered with forest or thick bush.
Various animals can be found around the ‘Berg including jackal, baboon and various species of buck, bird and reptile.
Weather patterns in the Drakensberg can be very unpredictable and mountaineers should always be prepared for the worst. Summers are mostly warm with very fearsome thunderstorms; Autumn usually brings low cloud, heavy mist and cool temperatures; Winter can be extreme with snow, ice, wind and dry conditions while Spring can be a surprising combination of the other seasons. Due to this unpredictable weather it is important that visitors to the ‘Berg be prepared for all conditions, from hot to freezing cold.
The Drakensberg is an enchanting area with untouched wilderness, high mountain peaks, incredible views and nature’s ancient architecture. It offers challenging trekking and mountaineering opportunities. It is a place of legend and magic.
Drakensberg Traverse - Sentinel to Cathedral
7 days - classic trek.
It is possible to do an entire traverse of the Drakensberg, known as The Grand Traverse, an undertaking that can take 14 days on average and covers over 240km. Many consider the section between Sentinel and Cathedral as the best part of the traverse and it still makes for a challenging and very memorable trek.
Day 1 (Travel Day)
We are collected from Durban airport and then we travel by road to the Witsieshoek Resort near the Sentinel Car Park where we overnight and do final preparation for the trek. Depending on season and timing we may do a short hike today to get the legs working.
Day 2 (12km; 8-10 hours hiking)
The trek starts at Sentinel Car Park, where we sign the rescue register before following the zigzags past the imposing Sentinel Peak towards the Chain Ladders. We gain the Escarpment by climbing the twin via ferrate-like metal ladders. We then cross the Tugela River and continue southwards into the Khubedu Valley and onwards to Ifidi Cave where we spend the night.
Day 3 (11km; 8-10 hours hiking)
Today takes us along the Stimela Ridge from where the impressive Mbundini area can be viewed and, if time allows, we take a detour to Mbundini Abbey for views over the Fangs. We push on to Rwanqa Cave where we spend the night.
Day 4 (15km; 10-12 hours hiking)
Today sees us moving inland around the Mnweni Cutback, Hanging Valleys and Ukikicane before moving back towards the Escarpment. We cross the Senqu River, source of the mighty Orange River, and onto a height above the Rockeries, Mnweni Needles and Rockeries Tower. We overnight at either Mponjwane Cave or Ledger’s Cave.
Day 5 (15km; 10-12 hours hiking)
We wake up to an impressive sunrise and then continue inland towards Rockeries Pass and a waterfall on the Senqu River before turning South-East and back to the Escarpment. We continue to the back of the Cathedral Range with views of the Twins and the Mitre. We overnight at Twins Cave.
Day 6 (11km, 8-10 hours hiking)
Today we descend to the Cathedral Peak Hotel via the steep Mlambonja Pass following the river course. We overnight in well deserved luxury at the famous Cathedral Peak Hotel.
Day 7 (Travel Day)
We return by road to Durban Airport or continue our tour, depending on the itinerary.
Add-ons and Options for this adventure:
- For the truly adventurous we can add a day for a summit climb of Sentinel Peak at the beginning of the trek or an ascent of Cathedral Peak before the last day of trekking. Both peaks have various route options offering adventurous climbing and great views.
- After the trek we can continue on an adventurous tour of Kwazulu-Natal or further into the Drakensberg. Activities can include rock climbing, abseiling, quad-biking, paddling, ocean kayaking, bungy jumping, scuba diving, surfing or game viewing. Contact us for a proposed itinerary.
- The Drakensberg can be incorporated into an excellent Adventure Road Trip of South Africa. Speak to us about various options.
Numbers and Guide/Client ratio:
- We can accommodate 1 to 15 people per group. Larger groups on special request only.
- Minimum of 1 guide: 6 clients.
Trekkers must be of at least average trekking fitness and able to carry a fully loaded backpack continuously for 5 days at high elevations. Expect long days of off-trail walking. You will need to carry some of the group equipment as well as your own food, even on a catered trek. No previous trekking experience is required.
Catering and Porters:
Trekkers can be self-sufficient or the trek can be fully catered. Porters are not available as an option on this trek.
You will require full overnight trekking equipment for mountain conditions and appropriate clothing. Tents are required as sleeping in the caves cannot always be guaranteed. Certain items can be hired from Venture Forth. Please download the Drakensberg Traverse Packing List.
Transport ex-Durban airport return is supplied by Venture Forth in an air conditioned minibus or by overland truck depending on group size and full itinerary.
Recommended follow-up programs:
- A day at a spa! (or any other Soft Adventure)
- MDT Advanced Mountain Leader course
- Guided rock climbing ascent of Sentinel Peak
- Climb to the Roof of Africa and summit Kilimanjaro