Archive for Off the beaten path

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

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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