Looking back at all the places we stayed in while exploring South Africa’s wild places in 2019!
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.
At Royal Natal in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, there’s one spectacular natural feature that stands out above all the rest, literally and figuratively, and that is the amazing Amphitheatre – a wall of rock 5km wide with its highest peak, the Sentinel, towering over 1,800m above the Tugela River flowing in the valley below and 3,165m above sea level!
This afternoon we were relaxing on the veranda of our cottage here at Thendele in the Royal Natal National Park, when a flock of Helmeted Guineafowl came around for a visit, presenting Joubert with an excellent opportunity to practice some close-up bird photography – and with great success I might add!
The clouds also lifted just high enough for a while to provide a clear view of the Amphitheatre!
The 21st of March is celebrated as Human Rights Day in South Africa, and we’ve moved southwards into the Drakensberg to Thendele Camp in the Royal Natal National Park. Behind those thick clouds are hidden another of South Africa’s most inspiring natural features; the Amphitheatre, which we hope will be revealed in all its glory tomorrow!
The varied habitats of the Royal Natal National Park provides excellent habitat for a wide range of bird species. We’ve already introduced you to the rare Bush Blackcap, which is often recorded in the reserve, and the Lesser Striped Swallows that shared our accommodation unit, but there’s so many other feathered inhabitants in the Park that we can dedicate a whole blogpost just to them – in fact, this gallery contains just a few of the more than 60 species we ticked during our December visit!
Our December 2016 visit to Thendele in the Royal Natal National Park afforded us our first opportunity to photograph the Bush Blackcap, a rarely seen endemic South African bird with a very limited distribution along the Eastern Escarpment.
These small birds occur singly or in pairs in the dense canopy of mountain forests and their verges, moving down to coastal forests (and lush gardens) during winter. Breeding takes place in summer. They feed on fruits, berries and insects. The IUCN considers them “near threatened” due to a small population size (estimated at most around 5,000) and threats to their forest habitat.
From the moment we arrived at chalet 27 in Thendele Camp in the Royal Natal National Park in December, we just loved the unit’s setting. And we were not the only ones, as a pair of Greater Striped Swallows were diligently building their mud-walled nest on the veranda, quite unconcerned about the humans sitting below them and watching them go about the task.