Explore the Maloti-Drakensberg TFCA

Recognizing the area as having both cultural and natural features of universal value, the Maloti-Drakensberg Park was listed with the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site in June 2013. Nature is no respecter of man-made borders, and the collaboration between the governments of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho to establish the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation and Development Area in June 2001 shows an appreciation on both sides of the picturesque scenery and amazing biodiversity of this region, and an understanding of the need to protect it.

The Maloti-Drakensburg Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) stretches over 16,226 square kilometers and includes the QwaQwa National Park, Golden Gate Highlands National Park and Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve, all of which fall into the Free State Province of South Africa; the Royal Natal National Park and uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho’s Sehlabathebe National Park.

The Maloti-Drakensberg Route has been devised to assist visitors to get the most out of exploring this beautiful region and to experience the diverse cultures along the way, including Basotho, Xhosa, English and Afrikaans. There are a host of activities for visitors with an adventurous streak, including rock-climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, 4×4 and quad bike trails, mountain running, paragliding and hot-air ballooning. The peaks, cliff faces, chimneys and ridges of the Maloti Drakensberg Mountains offer a challenge to the most experienced of rock climbers, many of whom travel from all over the world to rise to the challenge.

With more than 350 recorded species, birding enthusiasts will be delighted by the diversity and volume of birds found in the Park. Birds endemic to the region include the Drakensberg Siskin, Orangebreasted Rockjumper and Mountain Pipit, while endangered species include the Wattled Crane, Cape Parrot, Bald Ibis, Bush Blackcap and Bearded Vulture. Due to the mistaken belief that they prey on livestock, the Bearded Vulture has been hunted to near extinction in parts of Africa, with the Maloti Drakensberg being the second most important breeding site on the African continent for these huge scavengers. Bearded Vultures prefer bone marrow over animal flesh, and are known to drop bones from great heights in order to shatter them and expose the marrow. With around 200 breeding pairs in the area, birders are likely to see them riding the thermals and scanning the ground below for carrion.

Botanists, and travelers who simply enjoy viewing the splendor of nature, can marvel at the more than 3,000 species of flora found in the Maloti Drakensberg, where up to 16 percent of the region’s flowers are endemic. While flowers and interesting plants can be seen all year around, the area is a kaleidoscope of colour from November through to February and well worth seeing.

Other activities along the Maloti Drakensberg Route include fly fishing, hiking and walking and pony trekking, as well as viewing the incredible wealth of San rock art – an estimated 22,000 paintings in various locations. Certainly, there are many reasons to consider exploring the Maloti Drakensberg Route.