Rising above the valley below, the 1000-metre high basalt cliff of the Northern Drakensberg’s Amphitheatre is a mesmerising sight. This imposing wall of rock spans five-kilometres, curving to create a natural amphitheatre. Its majesty demands an audience.
This area, a World Heritage Site, is criss-crossed with hiking trails that march across the hills of the Lower Drakensberg and up to the top of the Lesotho Plateau at 3,000 metres above sea level. It is up here that you will find the source of the Tugela River and where this stream, still in its infancy, tumbles over the edge of the Amphitheatre to drop 948 metres into the Royal Natal National Park. The Tugela Falls is the world’s second tallest waterfall and the highest in Africa.
Hiking this route with a laden backpack, loaded with food, clothing and gear for a few nights on the mountain is usually the domain of very fit and experienced hikers. The Amphitheatre Slackpacking Trail makes the top of the Amphitheatre accessible by taking the weight off your shoulders - literally.
Walk at a comfortable pace with only a light day pack (your luggage is transported ahead), sleep comfortably for the three nights of the tour at conveniently located hotels and lodges along the way and be rewarded by reaching the summit to enjoy unsurpassed views from the top of the Amphitheatre.
An experienced trail guide accompanies you for the 40-kilometre distance, which is split over three days of hiking. With 1300 metres of elevation gain, this slackpacking trail is not for the faint-hearted. But, you will get to relax at your comfortable overnight stop where a hot shower, delicious meal and comfortable bed will have you refreshed and ready for the next day’s adventure.
Trip Duration: Standard Package: 3 Days/ 3 Nights
Extra days & customised trails offered on request
Day 1: 13km/ 5.5-6.5hr (900m Elevation Gain)
Day 2:14-16km / 6-7hr (700m Elevation Gain)
Day 3:11km / 4-5hrs (-813m Elevation Descent)
Physical Fitness: Grade 3.5 – Steep ascent on Day’s 1 & 2 but not with a heavy backpack
Technicality: Grade 3 – head for heights on Day 2 recommended (chain-ladder section & being at the top of the escarpment)
** Day 2 is an optional day & there is a gully alternative to the chain-ladders.
Trail starts at an altitude of 1500m going up through grasslands & protea stands to an altitude of 2286m (Witsieshoek) and 3150m on the top of Beacon Buttress, escarpment - watershed of the Orange & Tugela Rivers.
1 Night at Cavern Berg Hotel - Northern Drakensberg Valley
2 Nights at Witsies Mountain Lodge
This is a fully-catered trail, sleeping in comfortable lodges with bedding provided – you need only bring your clothes.
Guide for first 2 days, self-guided on 3rd day (easy descent), but guide can also be arranged for 3rd day.
Optional: Porter-supported option
Protea banks & sandstone caves, panoramic views from Broome Hill & Basotho Gate, vulture restaurant at Witsieshoek, the enormity of the Sentinel massif, zig-zag path past the Witches, climbing the chain-ladders, being atop the World’s 2nd highest waterfall… and unsurpassed views from the ‘Roof of Africa’.
Birding, Flyfishing, Pony-trekking, Fauna & Flora Drakensberg Montane Grassland, Yellowood forests and Protea stands. Baboons, Eland, Mountain Reedbuck, Grey Rhebok & endemic birds such as the Drakensberg Rockjumper & Siskin.
Summer (Nov -May) is wet and warm, with most rain during Oct -Mar. Daily temps can climb to 25 - 30 deg C & rain falls mainly as afternoon thunderstorms. Winter (June to Oct) consists of mainly dry, sunny, clear, crisp days with daytime temps avg 15-20 deg C & night-time temps dropping below zero. Snow and ice is more common, but only remains for any length of time on the highest ground.
Seasonality & Best Time Year
All year round. In Summer it is wise to make the most of the mornings, and presume afternoons will be wet. Whilst days are shorter in winter because the weather is more stable, the whole day can usually be used for hiking. Spring & summer are the best months for wild flowers.
Availability: Preferred to be outside of peak holiday & long weekends
Group Size: Possible from 1 person. No max (will appoint more guides on larger groups. Max 12 pax per guide)
Price / PP
Price dependent on group size, but based on a group of 6 persons:
From R3,900 or R5,500/pp – dependent on accom & catering options selected.
Price Includes - OPT A Fully Catered
3 Nights Accommodation (1 Night Cavern Berg Hotel, 2 nights Witsies Lodge)
All meals - 3 dinners, 3 packed lunches, 3 breakfasts
Local Hiking Guide for 2 days
Hiking Permit for Sentinel Day
Transfer to Sentinel Car Park & return
Pick-up from Royal Natal - transfer back to Vehicles
Optional: Porters available at R320 & R390 - for Day 1 & 3.