Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg is a relatively new new park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. As is becoming increasingly the norm in South Africa, it is comprised of a number of existing parks that have been joined together in order to form a larger park.
Technically the Royal Natal National Park also forms part of Ukhahlamba Drakensberg, but since that park is still free standing and will be experienced as a separate entity by the traveler, it is also treated here as a separate article.
The park is located in the central Drakensberg mountain range, on the border with the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Champagne Castle at 3377 meters above sea level is one of the highest peaks in the park. The higher peaks consist mostly of basalt rock, but at lower elevations it is mostly sandstone. A large number of caves, many of them inscribes with San rock art can be found in the sandstone. Many rivers, including the Tugela, have their origin in this part of the Drakensberg.
Flora and fauna
Bushbuck, oribi, mountain reedbuck, tiny duiker, and the largest of South Africa’s antelope species, the eland, as well as many others can be found here. Enormous lammergeier, or bearded vultures, fly overhead and baboons bark from the cliffs.
The spring is heralded by carpets of wild flowers and the pink and orange watsonia, like miniature gladioli, bloom thickly on the hillsides. In autumn the fields and lower reaches of the Drakensberg are often a waist-high sea of confetti-like pink, white and deep velvet red cosmos blossoms.
In the higher reaches on the slopes of the Little Berg, varieties of protea trees show their prehistoric flowers, and ancient tree ferns and the odd cycad dot the gullies. Hikers should note that there are 24 species of snakes in these mountains, and not all of them are willing to give way to humans!