An introduction to the Drakensberg

The Amphitheatre, in the Northern Drakensberg (Source: South African Tourism)
The Amphitheatre, in the Northern Drakensberg (Source: South African Tourism)

The awe-inspiring Drakensberg Mountains, just by virtue of topography, is an adventurer’s paradise and offers a wealth of outdoor activities to satisfy all fitness levels and age group. The Drakensberg is a 243 000 hectare mountainous region, named ‘Ukhahlamba’ by the Zulu people, well deserves its international status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers massive cliffs towering over riverine bush, lush evergreen forests and cascading waterfalls and mountain streams as well as hiking paths that invite exploration. The Drakensberg has seasonally snow-capped peaks, sheer cliffs and deep gorges and rolling hills offers memorable experiences and activities to suit everyone, from the adrenalin rush of tubing down the mighty Thukela to a leisurely round of golf.

The Drakensberg is divided into three regions, southern, central and northern Drakensberg and all three Drakensberg regions are easily accessible by road which makes the transportation of delegates uncomplicated. Visitors to each of these regions have a wide variety of venues to choose from, ranging from luxury boutique hotels ideal for executive breaks, hotels catering larger groups with onsite teambuilding facilities, to picturesque ‘camps’ with chalets set in the Drakensberg. Conference and Incentive Planners will be spoilt for choice with any number of options available when planning a ‘must-do’ memorable event.

The SOUTHERN DRAKENSBERG offers visitors a wealth of outdoor activities; from trout fishing, and hiking to 4×4 excursions. The Sani Pass Hotel caters for medium-sized conferences and is the ideal start for traversing the highest pass-road in South Africa by 4×4. This route takes visitors along the upper Mkomazana River up Sani Pass to the border with Lesotho (2874 metres above sea-level) – here delegates can enjoy lunch at the highest pub in Africa. Or experience the awesome Drakensberg on horseback. From hour-long rides in the foothills to a three-day expedition into Lesotho in the safe hands of a local guide and a sure-footed Basotho pony.

Selecting a country lodge or guest house for your conference invariably offers a more bespoke option, with them likely to be more flexible with regards to meals, activities and even the location for meetings, e.g. elsewhere in the lodge or in the gardens. For a venue offering on-site golf, the Drakensberg Gardens Golf and Spa Resort is ideal. The rocky hillsides in the vicinity of Ixopo and Creighton are ablaze with aloes during the winter months – a great excursion is aboard the Sisonke Stimela, a restored steam train, which during July operates the Creighton Aloe Festival excursion.

THE CENTRAL DRAKENSBERG is a mecca for the adventurous and offers a number of teambuilding options… take the challenge of one on the many rock-climbing routes in the central Drakensberg or feel the adrenalin rush provided by abseiling, kloofing and white water rafting or take a helicopter ride to view the majestic peaks from above –- a great ‘wow’ experience to include in an incentive itinerary. This part of the Drakensberg is home to the world-renowned Drakensberg Boys Choir, a boarding school for boys where choral music is used as a vehicle for holistic education. Visit the school to hear the Choir perform (their schedule permitting), or invite them to perform at a gala dinner or special event.

The NORTHERN DRAKENSBERG is home to the spectacular Amphitheatre, which is possibly the most photographed feature of the region, as well as the source of the Tugela (uThukela) River which plunges some 950 metres over the edge of the Mont-aux-Sources Plateau in spectacular fashion. This region has a number of options catering for medium to small conferences such as aha Alpine Heath Resort, with its breathtaking mountain views, teambuilding and adventure. Adrenalin junkies will appreciate the close proximity of All-Out-Adventures, an adventure company offering guests and delegates breath-taking experiences and teambuilding events. The Mweni Cultural Centre offers a glimpse into the local culture and the option to purchase handcrafted goods and medicinal plants. The centre also provides accommodation and a range of activities including hiking, swimming, canoeing, horse riding, and bird watching.

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Events:

Music in the Mountains – End of March/ Beginning April

Drakensberg Boys Choir School. Normally at the beginning of April.

Splashy Fen Music Festival – Easter Weekend

Splashy Fen, held in Himeville near Underberg, is the longest running music festival in the country. This annual event brings thousands of people together for what has become the ultimate outdoor music experience.

Royal Drakensberg MTB Challenge – May

Held near Bergville in the northern Drakensberg, this is a fun-filled weekend with races for all fitness and experience levels. The event culminates in the 45 kilometres MTB Classic with its mountain biking offering spectacular views.

The Polar Bear Swim Challenge – June

Held at the Dragon Peaks Dam, normally towards the end of June. There is a 25m and 100m event. No wetsuits allowed 🙂 .

Creighton Aloe Steam Train & Hot Air Balloon Festival – July

Enjoy an amazing three-hour return steam train ride from Creighton alongside the Ngogwaan River through hillsides ablaze with flowering aloes. In addition to this there is an accompanying MTB and trail run during one of the weekends.

(Source: James Seymour – https://thedrakensberg.net or http://drakensberg.website)