Adventure Tourism in the Drakensberg
With its spectacular and varied terrain the Maloti-Drakensberg Route offers thrill-seekers a host of opportunities for adventure. Rock climbing enthusiasts will be spoiled for choice with the area’s sheer cliff faces, rugged ridges and challenging chimneys. Climbers travel from all over the world to test their skills in an area known to have more peaks per square kilometer than any other African destination. In the high Drakensberg, climbers will encounter volcanic rock with rounded overhangs, blocks, gullies and consecutive rock faces with narrow grass ledges in between – something to challenge every level of skill.
The winter months bring ice to Giant’s Castle, Sani Pass and some other areas of the Maloti-Drakensberg Route, providing some interesting terrain for ice-climbing. While there may be ice on the high cliffs from late May through to late August, the best time to ice-climb in this spectacular area is generally in July. A grading system is in place to assist climbers in matching their skills to the difficulty of the climb.
Abseiling is another adventure activity available in the area. Recognised as a sport separate from mountaineering, abseiling involves walking backwards down a cliff face, strapped into a harness and supported by a rope. Abseilers can control the speed of descent, giving them time to admire the view, or experiencing the thrill of a sudden drop. Rapp jumping is another option, where participants descend face first with the ropes attached to their backs.
Competitive and casual mountain biking enthusiasts will find a variety of self-guided trails, offering everything from gentle gradients, to really steep ascent and descent trails, such as the Sani Pass at the border of South Africa and Lesotho. Many of the area’s hiking trails are also suitable for exploring on mountain bikes.
In the rainy summer months, rivers that have their source high in the Drakensberg and Maloti Mountains become rushing torrents in places – perfect for exploring by raft, kayak, canoe or even tube. Rapids are graded for difficulty and local adventure tourism operators are valuable resources when deciding what options to tackle.
For those who want to explore the area in 4×4 vehicles, there is a network of trails for that purpose and drivers are requested to respect the environment and stick to the trails. Climbing to a height of 2874 meters, the Sani Pass is a well-known 4×4 and quad bike route. The views are breathtaking and the hospitality at the Sani Mountain Lodge (previously Sani Top Chalet) is legendary. Drive responsibly – and enjoy!