Nature Reserves near Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds
*Distances are shown as the crow flies and are not necessarily the actual travelling
Drakensberg (6.7 km from Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds)
The Lotheni Nature Reserve is situated within the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park. There are many scenic walking trails for the young and old as well as a moderate 14 km mountain biking trail.
The longest trail is a circular route of 11.8 km called the Emadundwini Trail. This trail crosses a number of small fresh-water streams and carries on up a steep incline. It is the best trail for viewing the spectacular scenery of the Drakensberg Mountains. The other trails include the Eagle, Falls, Canyon, Jacobs Ladder, and the historically significant Gelib tree trail.
There is a variety of wildlife including duiker, eland, grey rhebuck and mountain reedbuck. There is also a diversity of more than 172 bird species such as lanner falcons, giant kingfishers, and Cape vultures. Trout fishing is also popular at Lotheni and a refreshing swim at the Cool Pools is a must.
Drakensberg (19.1 km from Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds)
The Kamberg Nature Reserve is located on the foothills of the mountains in the Natal Drakensberg Park. There are many picnic sites near the river, trout dams, and well-maintained walks, one of which is handicap friendly.
The self-guided and guided trails pass through the surrounding areas of the 'Little Berg' and along the Mooi River. There is also a rock art shelter with original Bushman rock art. The San people inhabited the area before they encountered violent clashes with the white settlers and the Nguni tribes.
Wildlife in the reserve includes reedbuck, blesbok, black wildebeest, grey rhebuck, eland, duiker, red hartebeest, and oribi.
Drakensberg (41.2 km from Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds)
The Monks Cowl Nature Reserve is located in the Ukhahlamba Darkensberg Park. It is named after the peak located between the scenic mountains of Champagne Castle and Cathkin Peak.
There are numerous hiking routes that pass through the magnificent valleys and forests of the Northern Drakensberg. The routes vary in intensity and length, ranging from a few hours to a few days. Accommodation has to be arranged beforehand for those who are interested in doing more than a one-day hike.
The foothills have many caves to explore, most of which were used by the San people. The 'Battle Cave' has rock art portraying a battle between two San tribes.
Howick (73 km from Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds)
Situated just seven kilometres from Howick and 24 kilometres from Pietermaritzburg, the Midmar Dam Nature Reserve is a great spot for locals and visitors alike. The large fresh water dam is fed by the uMngeni River, offering a fun water sports and fishing venue. Day trippers often make use of numerous shady picnic areas and braai facilities along the shoreline.
Windsurfing, canoeing, swimming and mountain biking are popular activities around the Midmar Dam. In certain areas it is zoned for yachts and powerboats. The world’s largest open water swimming event, the Midmar Mile, draws over 16 000 international and local competitors annually to swim the dam in record time.
The reserve is also home to numerous red hartebeest, blesbok, reedbuck, black wildebeest, oribi and zebra. Carp, bass, scalies and bluegill fish proliferate in the dam. Pick up a freshwater fishing licence at the office near the entrance gates. Below the dam, the uMngeni River plummets over the Howick Falls on its way to the Indian Ocean.
Weenen (77 km from Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds)
Weenen Game Reserve presents many scenic and game viewing opportunities for visitors on foot or from their vehicle. The Bushman’s River surges through a spectacular gorge carved into undulating hills and valleys of KwaZulu-Natal thornveld.
Black and white rhino as well as giraffe, red hartebeest, eland, zebra, kudu, ostrich and common reedbuck have been re-introduced. Other species to spot include grey duiker, bushbuck, steenbok, mountain reedbuck, hyena and black-backed jackal. With more than 251 bird species, stunning scenery and the rich wildlife and vegetation, Weenen is growing in popularity as a small but worthwhile wildlife destination for both day trippers and stopovers.
Features include a hide at one of the waterholes, a vulture feeding site and three picnic sites all equipped with braai facilities, one with a magnificent view site. Accommodation facilities at the camp include 12 camping or caravan sites, some with electricity connections; and ablution facilities. There is also a fully-equipped cottage with a braai spot and an exclusive picnic site next to a waterhole. Weenen has three self-guided trails, and guided walks can be arranged.
Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve (78.8 km from Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds)
An easy 35-kilometre drive from Ladismith or 14 kilometres from Winterton will get you to Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve, a popular weekend getaway for watersport junkies. The savannah landscape around the dam is home to interesting wildlife including white rhino, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, numerous antelope and prolific bird life.
The views from the summit of Spioenkop Mountain are breathtaking. You can spend hours gazing out over lush green plains to the mesmerising Drakensberg peaks extending from Giant’s Castle to the Sentinel in Royal Natal Park.
The Discovery Trail presents two wonderful hiking options, a 3 or 6 kilometre loop around the southern shore in an area free of dangerous game. Various picnic sites are dotted around the dam’s edge.
Winterskloof (86.2 km from Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds)
The Doreen Clark Nature Reserve is only a short distance from the north of Pietermaritzburg. The seven hectare nature reserve consists of a podocarpus forest with grassland running along its edges.
There are quaint picnic spots scattered around the reserve, as well as hiking trails ranging in difficulty but suitable for all ages. The reserve is a bird watcher's paradise with regular visitors such as the African emerald cuckoo, narina trogon,and white-starred robin. The magnificent African crowned eagle is also a resident bird of the nature reserve, and visitors can spot more than five different species of cuckoo during the summer season.
Hilton (89 km from Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds)
Serving as the headquarters of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, KwaZulu-Natal’s nature conservation service, this small reserve offers an outdoor leisure and environmental education facility for the Natal Midlands.
Situated in Hilton, Queen Elizabeth Park Nature Reserve is home to impala, zebra, blesbok, bushbuck, grey and blue duiker, dassies, and crowned eagles. Numerous indigenous and exotic plants grow throughout the park. Of special interest are several cycads species and endangered Hilton daisies occurring naturally in the grasslands.
There is no accommodation but day trippers can make use of three picnic areas with braai and ablution facilities. More energetic folk can do the circular self-guided iDube trail.
Albert Falls (96 km from Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds)
One of the largest dams in KwaZulu-Natal, Albert Falls Dam and Nature Reserve is a popular playground for sailors, canoeists, twitchers, hikers, horse riders and fisherfolk.
The dam is rated one of the best bass fishing dams in the world and an international bass fishing competition is held there annually.
The reserve has abundant bird life as well as zebra and several antelope species. In winter Otto's Bluff is worth checking out when the aloes are flowering.
Did you know? Drakensberg Park (World Heritage Site) and surrounds Nature Reserves is often misspelt. Here are some variations:
Draken Nature Reserves, Drakenberg Nature Reserves, Drakensberge Nature Reserves, DrakensbergPark(WorldHeritageSite)andsurrounds Nature Reserves, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park Nature Reserves,