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Drakensberg Mountains
 
 

Amphitheatre

Hand Picked Accommodation in the Amphitheatre region

The Amphitheatre, a crescent shaped massif of sheer basalt cliffs, forms the spectacular backdrop to the northern Drakensberg’s Royal Natal National Park, so named after the 1947 visit of Britain’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. In 1836, the French missionaries Arbousset and Daumas named the largest of its peaks Mont-aux-Sources, as it is the source of five rivers. The Tugela plummets nearly 947m in five clear leaps, making it the world’s second highest waterfall. The Tugela Falls occasionally freeze in winter, creating dazzling columns of ice.

Amphitheatre - Royal Natal National Park
Amphitheatre - Royal Natal National Park

The Voortrekkers were renowned for their free spirit of independence and for their hardy resilience. Retief’s Klip
(Retief’s Stone) is where Piet Retief’s party of Voortrekkers descended the Drakensberg and entered Natal on 14th December 1837. They had decided not to proceed with the rest of the Voortrekkers to what was to become the Transvaal Republic. Retief’s group consisted of some 66 wagons and these were the first wheeled vehicles to enter Natal. At Voortrekker Pass, near Bergville, stands a monument of a woman walking away from Natal. Known as Kaalvoet Vrou (barefoot woman), this monument is in memory of Susanna Smit, sister of Gert Maritz, who declared that she would rather trek barefoot back over the Berg than live in Natal under British rule.

Fallen tree near Gudu falls Royal Natal National Park
Fallen Tree near Gudu Falls - Royal Natal National Park

Rock dassie or hyrax are found throughout the Drakensberg. These gregarious and territorial animals congregate in colonies of up to 50. They shelter in and around boulders and cliffs and spend much of the day basking in the sun on large rocks to conserve energy. This habit is most noticeable during the morning and later afternoon. In the cold or at night dassies retreat into tightly packed huddles in their dark shelters. Being herbivores they live mostly on grasses, but do vary their diet with shrubs, leaves and other plants. Their main predators are leopard, cape cobra, caracal and black eagles.

The high peaks of the Drakensberg act as a major watershed. The Orange and Vaal Rivers are born in these Mountains, while the mighty Tugela bubbles out of a small spring on the escarpment before dramatically plunging 947m down into the foothills of the Little Berg. As it winds through the sun-filtered forests of the Royal Natal National Park, its cool waters cascade through gorges and rock pools. Constantly fed by tributaries, the burgeoning Tugela follows a 502km route through the KZN midlands, before meeting the Indian Ocean north of Durban, a proud and mighty river.

Tugela Falls
Tugela Falls

In the Drakensberg, all observant and patient visitor might be rewarded by a fascinating display from Nature’s master of disguise, the chameleon. Blending seamlessly into its surroundings, the chameleon changes colour before one’s eyes. As it moves forward with slow and stealthy steps, its tiny, bulging eyes swivel independently up and down in search of a tasty morsel, be it spider, moth, grasshopper, caterpillar or fly. With its long tail wrapped around a twig for extra support, it slowly opens its jaws wide as if to yawn, then shoots out a long and sinewy tongue with lightning speed to grab its unsuspecting victim.


 

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