Home to the mighty Tugela Falls, the awe-inspiring Drakensberg Amphitheatre and many, many hiking trails and hidden treasures. The Royal Natal and Rugged Glen allows for adventures for all – no matter your level of skill or fitness.
Forming part of the uKhalamba-Drakensberg Park in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, the Royal Natal National Park is around 81 square kilometres big and is home to various flora, fauna and adventurous activities. The mountains of the Drakensberg are unmistakable and form some of the highest elevations in Southern Africa with the Thabana Ntlenyana Mountain peaking at 3,482m. The mountain range forms a boundary between South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho and together they form part of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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The Royal Natal National Park is best known for some of the most prominent and beautiful natural features in South Africa including the Amphitheatre and the Tugela Falls. The Amphitheatre is a five kilometre long rock face and is up to 1200m high, amongst other tributaries and waterfalls cascading over the edge of this rock face, the most famous is the Tugela Falls. This waterfall has a height of 948m making it the second highest waterfall in the world, after Angel Falls in Venezuela.
The Park offers a variety of hikes from a stroll, Fairy Glen and Otto’s Walk Trails are around 2km roundtrip, to the ever famous Mount-Aux-Sources via Mahai Valley Route – a total of around 45km and a sleepover in the mountains. No matter what hike you chose to do make sure you do your research, prepare your properly, take all the necessary odds and ends with and try not to go alone. Don’t forget to sign in at the necessary hiking registers.
We were spending a few hours in the park so we chose a route that allowed us to see something new and was a manageable distance. We did the Sunday Falls Trail, a 6km hike to a ravine with a beautiful waterfall running into a refreshing rock pool. The hike was pleasant without any steep inclines, we just got toasted by the sun! If you’re visiting Royal Natal and don’t have much time a few quick trails include the Cascades, Fairy Glen, Otto’s Walk and Devil’s Hoek Valley. Get your map from the gate or reception when you arrive. Remember Wild Card holders get free entrance, otherwise the daily conservation fee is paid at the gate upon entry.
If you’re really short on time, a drive through the park to marvel at the mountain ranges towering over you is always a good idea. The green hills that roll into towering peaks into the clouds allows you to see the beautiful views of the Amphitheatre, Beacon Buttress and Western Buttress. (We might be biased but driving through the park is no where near as inspiring as walking through it – lace up those hiking boots and hit the trails).
Accommodation options in or near the park:
In the park there is the option of camping or staying in chalets including Mahai Campsite and Thendele Lodge, you can check out the various options on the Ezemvelo KZNWild website or click here.
We stayed outside the park at Hlalanathi Drakensberg Resort and had a wonderful stay – clean ablutions, unbelievable views from the campsites and incredible birdlife (You can book your stay here). Other options are the Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, Cathedral Peak Hotel and Witsieshoek Mountain Resort.
A trip to the mountains is always filled with a sense of calm and leaves us feeling reenergised and motivated. Our recent trip to the Drakensberg was also featured in the Feb/March 2021 version of the Go!/Weg! Magazines so go grab a copy and check it out. We hope to see more of your adventures in the mountains soon.