Stretching for over a thousand kilometres, the Drakensberg Mountain range sits like a beacon at the heart of South Africa, enticing many tourists with its majestic vistas and adventurous activities. At the very core of this exquisite, natural formation is the Central Drakensberg and it’s easily reached from both Durban and Joburg. With one of the most comprehensive tourist routes in the region, this part of the mountain range is perfect for weekend escapes or week-long holidays with the family. After spending a few nights in this spectacular part of the country, Janine Avery compiled this list of the top 7 things to do in the Drakensberg.
1. Discover the area on a Scootour
These Swiss-designed scooters can be found at six locations around South Africa and offer visitors an exhilarating way to explore the countryside. The Drakensberg was the one who pioneered the scooters in South Africa and remains one of the best Scootour devisions in the country. At the start of our morning scootouring, we were driven up the mountain from where we enjoyed a downhill adventure on the scooter – taking in the fabulous views of the region. Magical mountain scenery quickly changed to forested yellowwood canopies, dotted with wooden bridges, before we found ourselves popping out on a field of horses. Along the way our trusty guide gave us a good insight into the area as well as advice on how to control the scooter’s speed in the 5.4-kilometre descent down the mountain. Scootours Drakensberg is definitely an activity the whole family can enjoy and if you really want to see the mountains then you won’t get better views than the ones offered at the start of the tour.
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2. Grab a bite to eat at Valley Bakery
After a hike in the mountains or a game of golf at one of the fantastic courses, you are sure to be in need of some sustenance. Valley Bakery is your go-to for some of the best nosh in the Drakensberg. Located just off the R600, the bakery is well-known for its baked breads and pastries. You’ll find spans of sweet treats to choose from as well as a great selection of salads that’ll fill up any hungry hiker.
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3. Go quad biking
Being a sucker for the off-road adventure lifestyle, I simply had to participate in a 4×4 quad bike tour. Four Rivers Rafting and Adventures offers a variety of adrenalin-fueled activities in the region and while it was way too cold to get into the water, a guided quad trail of the surrounding village and environment was right up my alley. Discovering a different side to the region, I really loved bumping along through dry riverbeds and fields of Acacia trees before reaching a local village.
4. Spend the night in a tree house
While there are a myriad of accommodation options available in the Central Drakensberg, from budget backpackers to all-inclusive hotels, we simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay in a tree house. Bahati Tree lodge, located on the Treks, Trips and Trails property, offers a unique and romantic spot that is unlike any other in the region. Be transported into a fairy tale as one tree even rises up through the centre of the bedroom. The tree house also offers panoramic views of the mountains and a nearby lake, as well its own boma area where you can enjoy a braai under the stars. It’s just so heavenly you may never want to leave.
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5. See the scenery on foot
The Drakensberg is a World Heritage Site and exploring the mountains on foot is a must-do while in the area. A variety of hikes are on offer, from day trails, to overnight stays in caves and even a multi-day adventure that traverses the entire range. Since we’re not serious hikers, we wanted a chance to discover nature without breaking too much of a sweat, and the walk to the Sterkspruit Falls and pools from the Monks Cowl entrance was the perfect compromise. The water glistened with absolute clarity and I can’t wait to return in summer with a picnic and time to just bask in the sun.
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6. Decadent indulgence at the Drakensberg Sun
While there are endless options of ways to enjoy the Drakensberg by day, it’s at night when it really comes into its own. Offering up a sky full of twinkling starlight, tourists come from near and far just to gaze heavenward. However, on overcast nights or even when your neck gets tired from looking skyward, the Drakensberg Sun offers a tempting place to spend an evening. Their famous restaurant buffet with a wide variety of dishes, is a must. Do try their typical KwaZulu-Natal curries or taste the fresh trout from the grill – it will have you coming back for more.
7. Hear the music of the mountains
With their home at the heart of the Berg, the Drakensberg Boys Choir has been operating for over 50 years and is an institution in the region. One of only a few of its kind, and modeled on the Vienna Boys Choir, this is an award-winning choir school that is famous worldwide. You can listen to their angelic voices in person every Wednesday evening and seeing them on home soil is an experience not to be missed.
Words and photography Janine Avery