The Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa - Unique Places Around the World

A view of South Africa's Royal Natal National Park. The park is crossed by the Drakensberg Mountains, and houses some of its highest peaks.

5. Description

The Drakensberg Mountain Range is located in parts of eastern South Africa and across the Kingdom of Lesotho. The name "Drakensberg" comes from Old Dutch (now evolved into Afrikaans), meaning "dragon". This is because the Voortrekkers, Dutch pioneers spreading from southwest South Africa, believed a dragon lived in these rugged mountains. Many areas of the Drakensberg Mountain Range are difficult to access due to their untamed, rugged terrains. However, there are still some excellent hiking routes in the area. The average temperatures vary with the season in the Drakensberg Mountains, with colder weather in July and August and warmer weather in December and January. Due to the altitude, the days in the Drakensberg Mountains are generally quite warmer, often giving way to rather cold nights.

4. Tourism

While the Drakensberg Mountains can be difficult to access, a trip there is definitely worth the effort. Tourism in the mountains is geared towards outdoorsy people looking for adventure, challenge, and spectacular views. Hikes in this part of South Africa, including along the border with Lesotho, have stunning views of the mountain range, and lead to views of the famed "Devil's Tooth". While independent hikes are possible, the trails are not monitored and can be precarious, so it is safest to travel with an experienced guide. Day hikes and multi-day treks are both possible in this area, but hikers should use their discretion when choosing the difficulty level of their prospective hikes there. Tourist numbers are just high enough for a reliable infrastructure to have developed based in the mountains, though only a limited number of tourists visit this area every year. If you are traveling in South Africa and interested in visiting a unique and beautiful mountain range, definitely make the Drakensberg Mountains a priority.

3. Uniqueness

The Drakensberg Mountain Range is one of the largest national parks in eastern South Africa, even greater in size than the famous Kruger National Park. There are some small South African and Basutho communities in the mountains, allowing visitors to meet and connect with the local people. These communities have handiwork-based business initiatives, wherein they generate revenues through creating beautiful traditional crafts. Additionally, it is possible to see the cave art of the San people in some areas in South Africa and Lesotho. This cave art is not well known, and unfortunately little effort has gone into ensuring its preservation. The art is very impressive in how it has withstood the climate, and is definitely worth taking a look at. Additionally, the Drakensberg Mountains have the second highest waterfall in the world in terms of elevation, with a total top-to-bottom drop distance of 3,107 feet (947 meters).

2. Habitat

The Drakensberg Mountains are home to many rivers, and a select array of flora and fauna. Several of its plants are only to be found in the Drakensberg Mountains themselves, making them unique to the area. There is a special aloe plant found here that grows its leaves in a spiral formation. The most commonly seen animals in the mountains are Cape vultures and baboons. It is possible to hear wind in the wings of vultures when near a precipice. The environment is relatively uninhabitable to humans, due to the minimal agricultural potential resultant from the mountainous terrain. It is important for visitors to invest in the economies of the local communities to the people living in the mountains, because it affords unto them economic independence, and ultimately encourages education and community development. Visitors can buy grass-woven baskets and handmade metal and beaded jewelry.

1. Threats

The Drakensberg Mountains are not without their dangers. Geographically, the mountains have sheer cliffs, and visitors should maintain a reasonable distance from their edges. Baboons run freely along the plateaus, and are notorious for stealing food. If a baboon happens to rob a backpack with food in it, it is best to allow the baboon to take the pack without a fight, since they can become very aggressive. The main threat in the area to its ecological balance of the mountains is the people who live and visit it. Litter and pollution have the potential to corrupt the landscape, and should therefore be kept to an absolute minimum.


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