I’m spending my first night of Year in the Wild 2013-14 in the Royal Natal National Park in uKhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage Site! I’ve got another 15 months of travel ahead of me, exploring about 50 of South Africa’s most special protected areas, as well as the transfrontier parks on the borders of the country.
It’s the middle of winter here, but it feels like summer! The Drakensberg mountains are often covered in snow at this time of year, but the sky is blue, the sun is out and the only indication of winter is the golden grass and the reduced flow of water in the rivers. (This part of the country has dry winters, and rain falls in summer).
The Royal Natal National Park isn’t a national park, despite its name. It just one of several Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal provincial reserves that protect South Africa’s biggest mountain range, and gets its regal tag from a visit from the British Royal family in 1947, which included the current Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by General Jan Smuts.
Without a doubt, the beautiful camp of Thendele has one of the best views in the country. The massive 4 km long amphitheatre of basalt cliffs looms large in front of every cottage, climbing 1 500 metres to 3 282 metres at Mont aux Sources, the highest peak. This is the source of the Thukela River (meaning “startling” in Zulu), one of the most powerful in South Africa, with an appropriately high cascading waterfall of around 800 metres, although the single biggest vertical drop is around 150 metres.
The Drakensberg mountains supplies about 30% of all South Africa’s fresh water, and it’s conservation is critical for economic and social reasons. Not only do big cities like Joburg depend on these mountains’ rivers, but so do the local Zulu people, who live on its slopes. I loved driving through the little villages today, which have some of the most beautiful views in the country! When I arrived at Thendele I was greeted by a troop of baboons! I remember them from last time I was here, and its good to see wild animals again, even if these mountains don’t have the typical array of African wildlife. Check out the photos below…
For more, go to www.yearinthewild.com and www.facebook.com/yearinthewild. Check out my Flickr photos at www.flickr.com/scottnramsay and my Instagram photos at www.instagram.com/wildscotty. Twitter on www.twitter.com/yearinthewild.
Conservation partners BirdLife South Africa, Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks, CapeNature, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Gorongosa National Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South African National Parks and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.