Category Archives: Kwazulu Natal Province

Our experiences in the reserves of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

Mountain folk

There’s so much more animal life occurring in the mountainous habitats of the Royal Natal National Park than the butterflies we’ve already shown you, many of them wonderfully adapted to the harsh environmental extremes at these altitudes.

 

 

Feeling small in the Drakensberg

This mountain, the arched back of the earth risen before us, it made me feel humble, like a beggar, just lucky to be here at all, even briefly.” (Bridget Asher)

Do the mountains have the same profound impact on you as it does for us?

These mountains, which have seen untold sunrises, long to thunder praise but stand reverent, silent so that man’s weak praise should be given God’s attention.” (Donald Miller)

 

A bouquet from the ‘Berg

The mountainous grasslands and forested riverbanks around Mahai in the Royal Natal National Park are adorned by the most beautiful, though hardy, plants – a treat to even the most amateurish of botanists like me; so if you can help with identifying most of these beauties I’d be forever in your debt (I know at least that mushrooms aren’t plants, strictly speaking…)

 

The hills are alive… with butterflies!

I know this is a post that will be very pleasing to several of our regular followers!

With bright sunshine and warm autumn weather in the Drakensberg the butterflies come out to play in their numbers, and we go chasing them with camera in hand. These little beauties were all fluttering around Mahai in the Royal Natal National Park on Monday.

Picturesque Camping at Mahai

Mahai is the larger of the two camping areas at Royal Natal National Park, and there aren’t very many camping sites that can compete with it for scenic beauty!

Isolation, the way we like it…

With South Africa preparing for a nationwide “lock-down” of a minimum three week duration in the face of the global pandemic, we’ve returned from the Drakensberg grateful for having had a chance to recharge our batteries in beautiful natural surroundings. We’ll be sharing many more photos from our latest trip in days to come and hope that they’ll bring you as much joy as the memories will for us in these trying times.

God bless you and keep you.

Fresh air and fresh water at Royal Natal

With a massive storm looming over the Drakensberg this evening we can look back on another fun-filled day in the great outdoors at Royal Natal.

Reflections at Mahai

The Cascades in the Mahai stream

We fled to the Mountains

Well, not really – our bookings were made long before the current health crisis and we opted not to cancel, figuring that it is nice to know that for a while at least we can breathe the fresh mountain air of the Royal Natal National Park again. So here we are.

Winter Highland Holidays – Giant’s Castle

Just two days after we returned from Shingwedzi in the Kruger National Park (which we’ll be telling you all about soon, promise!), we headed back to Giant’s Castle in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park to pick up where we left off when we had to cut our trip in March short due to illness.

Part of the planning for our original trip was to spend a day visiting the crafters and speciality shops in the KZN Midlands between Mooi River and Howick along the R103-road, particularly to stock up on a variety of cheeses and other delights to enjoy in the evenings in front of the fireplace. With check-in at Giants Castle being only from 14:00 onwards, we decided for this return visit to then get the “shopping” out of the way first before heading to the reserve. An early (04:00am) start out of Pretoria allowed us to visit all the nice stalls and shops we wanted to, discover a few new ones and do some birdwatching along the Lower Loteni and Kamberg roads on the way before arriving at Giant’s Castle just after 16:00 in the evening (dusk comes really early in the ‘Berg in winter!).

We were allocated Chalet 26 for our 4 night stay, a 2-bedroom unit which is very privately situated and offers a spectacular view of the slumbering Giant that looms over the reserve named after it below.

In a scenically grand environment like you’ll find at Giant’s Castle there’s beautiful landscapes all around, making hiking an absolute joy and the reason why we spent so much time on the different trails (thankfully we had really good weather during our visit)

Of course, being one of South Africa’s oldest protected environments there’s no shortage of wildlife to be found at Giant’s Castle, even if it can often be easily overlooked in the grand environs they inhabit!

Horses and ponies are an invaluable tool to rangers in mountainous areas, and while they’re not indigenous these beautiful animals look very much at home in their highland abode.

The Drakensberg may not boast the richest variety of birdlife in South Africa, especially in winter, but we still had a great time bird-watching while out and about, and often the birds came to visit us while we were relaxing at the chalet.

We had a wonderful time at Giant’s Castle, and are incredibly grateful that we could return so soon. Along the most direct route, Giant’s Castle lies about 500km from our home in Pretoria, but with our four days in the mountains flying past unbelievably quickly we decided to prolong our return journey by taking a more scenic road over Oliviershoek Pass and through Golden Gate Highlands National Park (where our Autumn Highlands Holidays kicked off in March 2019).

 

Autumn Highlands Holidays – uKhahlamba Drakensberg

After kicking off at Glen Reenen in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, the next destination on our Autumn Highlands Holidays itinerary was the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in Kwazulu-Natal Province – we planned to spend five nights at Thendele in the Royal Natal National Park followed by five nights at the Giant’s Castle Game Reserve.

The Drakensberg is a favourite destination for many South Africans (like us!) and international visitors alike – with such magnificent scenery and diverse activities on offer to enjoy the great outdoors it is easy to understand why! We’ve already shown off the beauty of the Amphitheatre and the Cascades but the Drakensberg has so much more to see – just look:!

One would expect that any plants occurring in the often difficult climatic conditions of the Drakensberg would be very tough and hardy – and they are, but that doesn’t mean the plants found here are any less pretty than those found in more tropical climes! We’ll be showcasing a few of them in more detail in the coming weeks.

The number of invertebrates that find a home in these harsh highland habitats always astounds me – there are interesting insects and spiders to be found almost everywhere you look! You can look forward to new posts featuring a few of these in the coming weeks as well!

Do you still remember the great fun Joubert had photographing the guineafowls in Thendele? They’re just one of 83 species of birds we managed to identify during our time in “The ‘Berg” – here’s a few more of the feathered inhabitants of the Royal Natal section of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and some of them will soon feature in their own posts here at de Wets Wild.

We’ve already shown you some of the amphibians we found at Mahai, but Royal Natal is also home to many other kinds of four-footed creatures, both cold- and warm blooded.

Thendele is the only accommodation option in the Royal Natal National Park (campers can set up their caravans and tents at Mahai or Rugged Glen) and is built in two sections – the older Lower Camp and the newer Upper Camp. All units have lovely views of the Amphitheatre, but those units in the Upper Camp are more spacious and has more privacy. On this trip however we stayed in unit 12, a 2-bedroomed chalet in the Lower Camp, for 5 nights, and had no reason for complaint – everything was in good working order and it was a very comfortable place to rest after a day exploring the scenic splendour on offer at Royal Natal.

From Thendele we departed for Giant’s Castle, further south into the Drakensberg range, on the 26th of March. We were booked to stay at Giant’s Castle for 5 nights as well, but due to me feeling quite unwell we opted to return to Pretoria after just one night there. Unfortunately this meant that we left Giant’s Castle with very few photographs, but that’s a good excuse to return soon we think!

The Royal Natal National Park and Giant’s Castle Game Reserve are our two favourite destinations in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park. Both of these places can be booked through Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Location of Royal Natal and Giant’s Castle (drawn with Google Maps)