Archive for Off the beaten path

Surfing in Durban to Skiing in Lesotho!

It was a week which started with surfing the Durban waves and ended with skiing in Lesotho. And neatly sandwiched in the middle was a close encounter with a herd of elephant. There are not many holiday destinations where you can spice up your life with such variety.

Game Drive at Umzolozolo Private Game Reserve

Game Drive at Umzolozolo Private Game Reserve

It started with a perfect winters day spent on the Durban beachfront, surfing the waves on my long board which others disdainfully call “the ship.”  The next day I made the two-and-half hour drive to Nambiti Reserves to visit Umzolozolo Private Game Reservewhich is near Ladysmith in Northern KZN. This hidden gem of 10 000 hectares boasts the Big Five and is right here on our doorstep.

This was, of course, a business trip and I was there on a site inspection for our new Bush/Berg package.  That afternoon I found myself sipping a gin and tonic, having just seen a herd of elephant, a serval and an abundance of general game. Africa is hell. Read more

Ice Climbing in Lesotho

While Ice Climbing may not be on everyone’s list of things to do during the winter months, the popularity of ice climbing as a sport is on the rise from both local and international climbers alike. Ice forms every year and is usually climbable from mid June till mid August.

With more peaks per square kilometre than any other country in Africa, Lesotho is sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of Africa” as it is blessed with spectacular cliff faces, ridges and chimneys.


Ice climbing in the Drakensberg was first properly probed by British climber, Jeff Ingman while on a work contract in South Africa. Ingman and various partners made the first ascents of some of the major water-ice routes of the Giant’s Castle area. From that time until the late ‘90s only a handful of enthusiasts continued climbing these routes. Then towards the end of the millennium the shorter and more accessible routes of the Sani Pass area were climbed. This development coupled with the publishing of all the winter routes in an addendum to the Rock Climbs of the Drakensberg, sparked a big interest in the sport. Read more

Maliba Lodge 4×4 Trails with Roads to Roam Adventure Holidays

Through one of the off-road forums, I heard that Maliba Lodge wanted to investigate the 4×4 trails in their area and offered my assistance. All was set up and pretty soon I headed for Ts’ehlanyane National Park to boldly go where no vehicle has gone before. At the time I did not know how true those words would be!

The original plan was to explore the tracks in two vehicles, but due to an unfortunate mishap, the second vehicle had to be withdrawn. This meant taking extra care not to get into trouble on these trails, as there was no vehicle to assist should there be a recovery situation.  It has been an extra-ordinary wet season and rained almost every night during my stay at Maliba. It made for some interesting off-road driving the next few days, but the driving conditions were probably at its worse and should only improve in dryer conditions. Read more

Skiing in Africa – No you’re not dreaming

Lesotho may not pop up on many people’s radar as the most obvious ski destination. Africa, is after all synonymous with the big five and open savannahs, not snow capped mountains. However, as the only country in the world that lies completely above 1,000m and with more peaks per square kilometre than any other African country, Lesotho is indeed blessed with fantastic topography. Does it get snow you ask? Yes it does, sometimes even year round on the very highest peaks.

Skiing is now one of the main tourist attractions for Lesotho, seeing thousands of enthusiasts streaming in from surrounding South Africa. Lesotho has only recently started to develop its commercial skiing and snowboarding, even though the first ski club (Club Maluti) was founded as far back as 1968, when the first hut was built in the northern Lesotho highlands. Read more

Mountain Biking in Lesotho

Among the different adventure sports enjoyed in Lesotho, mountain biking occupies an important place. Lesotho takes bikers amidst the highest and most beautiful mountain ranges in Southern Africa. It has therefore become one of the more popular activities among the young adventure loving tourists who visit the mountain kingdom on a regular basis.

Mountain biker riding on dirt road in Lesotho mountainsWhat makes Lesotho an excellent biking destination?

The terrain for starters is great, with wide valleys and mountain passes making for a varied and exciting riding.

Second, its network of bridle paths and tracks, usually only passable on horseback and 4×4, covers much of the countryside and provide bikers with predefined paths with which to navigate the countryside.

One of the most visited mountain biking trails of Lesotho begins from Underberg, a world heritage site located in Ukahlamba Drakensberg Park. The trail follows the Mkozama River and passes through the Sani Valley. While passing the Sani Pass, bikers can get a panoramic view of Hodgon’s Peak and the Giants Cup.

There are a number of popular MTB races held in or around Lesotho during the year. Here are just a few to wet your appetites. Read more

Katse Dam Wall Tours

One of the many highlights of Lesotho is a visit to Katse Dam, centrepiece of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which channels the water of the Lesotho Highlands via an incredible series of dams and tunnels through the mountains eventually coming out of the Ash River Outfall near the town of Clarens in South Africa’s Free State province where it gravity feeds to supply Johannesburg and Pretoria with water.

It was touted as the greatest engineering project in the southern hemisphere in the 1990’s when it was under construction. Nowadays the sight of the massive dam hemmed in by the mountain valley is well worth beholding!

Ash River Outfall monument

The Ash River Outfall monument

For visitors, there is an information centre, which features a model of the whole project, showing all the phases. You can also go on a tour of the dam wall which is arranged by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority Visitor Centre. The Katse Botanical Gardens is an added attraction. Read more

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

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