Archive for Off the beaten path

The History of Sani Pass

As most Lesotho adventure travelers are aware the Sani Pass is a must do on their travels around this little known country. Sani Pass is the only access from KwaZulu Natal to the Lesotho Highlands, the domain of the endangered Bearded Vulture, Basotho shepherds and their animals.

This steep zigzagging pass climbs the face of the Drakensberg escarpment to an altitude of 2874m. It’s generally not a difficult drive in any modern 4×4 vehicle and is a wonderfully scenic drive, if the weather plays its part.

Approaching Sani Top

Approaching Sani Top (Photo by Jonathan of Sani Top Chalets)

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Planning to visit Lesotho?

Planning a trip to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho doesn’t have to be looked upon as a daunting task requiring hours of research and a mountain of gear.

The truth is that Lesotho is very accessible and regardless of whether you’re planning a weekend away, a week long pony trek through the mountain villages or even a backpacking adventure, Lesotho is the place.

The general rule of thumb is taken from the Boy Scouts motto of always being prepared.  Good planning is vital for a fun, hassle-free trip regardless of where you travel and especially when travelling around Lesotho.

Visa requirements:

All travellers will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date from Lesotho. You are able to check the visa requirements at VisaHQ.

Sani Pass border post

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The Roof of Africa Circular Route

The “Roof of Africa” circular route should not be confused with the endurance race of the same name, as it refers to a complete circuit/loop encompassing the towns of Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka, Katse Dam, Pitseng, Butha-Buthe and Oxbow.

The roof of Africa circuit map

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The Basotho Pony

The horse is a source of pride in Lesotho and the Basotho are renowned as a nation of horsemen.

For generations, the sure-footed Basotho pony has been bred as the ideal form of transport in the rugged mountains. Even today, the pony is still the most effective means of reaching the more inaccessible mountain villages.

Basotho pony treking in Lesotho

Pony trekking holidays on the hardy Basotho ponies are immensely popular and a fantastic way of exploring Lesotho’s beautiful rugged terrain as the bridle paths that criss-cross Lesotho are barely wide enough for vehicles but the ponies effortlessly dodge obstacles and loose rocks.

The oldest Sesotho word for horse is “khomo-ea-haka”, which means “livestock called haka” (Hacqua is Khoi for horse). There is no original word in Sesotho for horse, and by the 1950’s the word “pere”, derived from the Dutch and Afrikaans “perd”, was common. Read more

Camping in Lesotho

 

The mountain kingdom of Lesotho offers some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes anywhere in Southern Africa. Lesotho is a fascinating country to travel around by vehicle, with the mountainous terrain offering 4×4 enthusiasts hundreds of exciting rugged routes through the countryside.

Katse Dam

Image: Johan Lötter - 4x4 Community - Katse Dam

There are no fences in Lesotho and the wildlife have the freedom to roam about where they wish, the most common are mountain reedbuck, rhebok, eland, baboon, jackals, meerkat and mongooses. Read more

Lesotho’s Natural Heritage

The National parks and reserves of Lesotho are just as diverse that the country itself. Sehlabathebe boasts open grassland, lakes and striking rock formations. Ts’ehlanyane is awe-inspiring with its indigenous forests, wildlife and dominating mountain peaks. Bokong is perched high above Katse Dam and offers uninterrupted views of the Lepaqoa Valley, while Liphofung has unique cultural and historical significance.

All of Lesotho’s parks and reserves are part of The Maloti-Drakensberg Transfontier Conservation and Development Project (MDTP). This is a collaborative initiative between South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho to protect the exceptional biodiversity of the Drakensberg and Maloti mountains through conservation. This includes, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Qwa Qwa Nature reserve, Sterkfontein Dam Nature reserve, Royal Natal National Park and the Malekgonyane (Ongeluksnek) Nature Reserve.

Maloti-Drakensburg Conservation Project Area

Liphofung Cave and Cultural Site

The Liphofung “place of the eland” cave occupies an important place in Lesotho history. This is the smallest of the LHDA reserves at about 4 hectares. The cave is in fact a large sandstone overhang, which is a typical feature of the Lesotho lowlands region.

Originally used by the San and other Stone Age people, the walls contain important rock art and a rich archaeological deposit of Stone Age implements. Later, King Moshoeshoe “the Great” used the cave as a stopover when visiting that part of the kingdom.Liphofung Caves - San Drawings

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Get ONTO the 4×4 track in Lesotho

The Lesotho Highlands offer some of the most fantastic off road driving you will encounter anywhere in Southern Africa. It is full of beautiful mountain passes and deep river valleys with tremendous scenery where ever you look.

Since Lesotho is so mountainous, 4×4 vehicles make many parts of Lesotho far more accessible to the Lesotho traveller. Sani Pass for example, is a spectacular mountain road and well-known entry point into Lesotho from South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal Drakensberg. Known as the gateway to the ‘Roof of Africa’ scenic route, it links the spectacular scenery of the Drakensberg with the Maluti Mountains of northern Lesotho. Once at the top, visitors can have lunch at the highest pub in Southern Africa, Sani Top Chalets.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtXYAV4HDoo
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Ts’ehlanyane National Park

This National Park is as underrated as it is underused. This is the largest park in Lesotho and no other place is about as far away from it all as Ts’ehlanyane. Lying further north in the district of Leribe, it is reachable by tar roads. This Lesotho Northern Park protects a beautiful high-altitude, 5600-hectare patch of rugged wilderness, including one of Lesotho’s only stands of indigenous forest with a number of rare undergrowth plants that are unique to this woodland habitat. Here indigenous “Ouhout” (Leaucosidea) trees of significant size are preserved.

Maliba Mountain Lodge - Tsehlanyane National Park

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Sehlabathebe National Park

Lesotho’s first national park, proclaimed in 1970, is remote, rugged and beautiful, and getting there is always a worthwhile adventure, especially if you’re into wilderness, seclusion and fishing. Sehlabathebe means the “Shield of the Plateau”, mirroring the rolling grasslands, wild flowers and silence provide a sense of complete isolation.

Situated in the south-east corner of Lesotho, At an average elevation of some 2,400 metres, the main attraction of the spectacular Sehlabethebe National Park is its exceptional peace and solitude. It is wonderfully peaceful, and yet exciting, many small lakes, huge rock overhangs and striking sandstone formations, especially the many “Arches” which characterise this park.Rock Arches - Sehlabathebe National Park

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