Ts’ehlanyane National Park is a marvellous high-altitude park with some excellent floral rarities and a real highlight for nature lovers.
It is home to one of the country’s last remaining indigenous woodlands, rare mountain fynbos that’s found nowhere else on the planet and berg bamboo that grows on the banks of the streams that pour down from the Maloti Mountains. You can hike, ride a horse, enjoy one of the 4X4 routes (these are just outside the park) or relax and birdwatch from the deck at Maliba Lodge, set high above the Hlotse River with a view into the heart of the park and the towering Malotis in the distance.
This easy route from Johannesburg was driven in the Toyota Fortuner.
The golden way to Ts’ehlanyane
Golden Gate National Park to Golden Gate National Park
Grade: 2/5 – Moderate. Mostly gravel but still doable in a high-clearance 2X4 in good conditions. A 4X4 is advisable for inclement conditions.
This route to the park is for nature lovers with a sense of adventure and takes you along a lesser-seen side of an equally impressive park: Golden Gate Highlands National Park. It starts and ends at Glen Reenen Rest Camp in South Africa (try to spend a day here on either end of the trip, there’s much to do) but you can use Clarens as a starting point too.
The first day takes you along the wonderfully winding Lichens Pass and then along the outskirts of Phuthaditjhaba up the steep Monantsa Pass to the South African border post (S28° 34.938’, E28° 41.935’). It’s a big climb and then descent to the Lesotho border post (no more than a single container at the roadside) but the pass is concrete so it’s easy going.
From there it’s about four hours on gravel along the Caledon River. While interesting in places (it can be quite lovely in spring when the peach trees blossom) it can feel like a bit of a slog at times. Keep a lookout for wildlife on the opposite banks of the river. You’ll finally emerge on the tar A1 (S28° 42.255’, E28° 21.538’) about 15 kilometres east of Butha-Buthe. From Butha- Buthe it’s about five kilometres to the turn-off to Ts’ehlanyane (S28° 47.940’, E28° 12.794’) and then a 45-minute drive along sweeping tar roads to the entrance to the park (it costs R40 per person and R10 per vehicle to enter).
There are three accommodation options in the park – a campsite, the self-catering Maliba River Lodge and the gorgeous five-star Maliba Mountain Lodge, which has large, elegantly appointed rooms each with their own fireplace, lounge area and private viewing deck. With much on offer, you can easily spend a few days here. The hiking is excellent, horse rides through the wilderness provide a special way to see the fauna (look out for Cape clawless otters along the riverbeds) and flora, and there are seven different 4×4 routes of varying difficulties to try.
To return to South Africa, take the tar road back to Butha-Buthe and then head to Fouriesburg via the Caledonspoort border post. From Fouriesburg it’s an easy dash along the R711 to Clarens and then the R712 back into Golden Gate. This return leg takes about two-and-a-half hours and is all on tar, which makes it possible to do a version of this trip in a sedan (you’ll just enter and exit Lesotho via Caledonspoort instead of doing the loop through Monantsa) or if you’re simply looking to spend less time on the road.
The road from Golden Gate to the Monantsa border post is tar and Monantsa Pass is concrete (take care over the speed humps, they’re huge). The gravel from Monantsa to the A1 is a mix of decent easy-going gravel and worn rocky sections with substantial step-ups in places, but is still doable in a high- clearance vehicle. The road from Butha-Buthe to Ts’ehlanyane is tar and in good condition.
Know the approach, break-over, and departure angles of your vehicle (you’ll find these in your driver’s manual). It’s important for obstacles with sudden gradient changes and will change the way you approach tricky sections, steep inclines and tracks with large variances in depression.
Ts’ehlanyane route map
The lovely five-star Mailba Mountain Lodge chalets. Glen Reenen Rest Camp (S28° 30.398’, E28° 37.056’) is set at the foot of a large sandstone buttress and has self-catering rondavels and a campsite. Rondavels from R810 for two people and camping from R215 for two people. Excludes R44 pp conservation fee. Tel +27582551000
Maliba Lodge (S28° 54.886’, E28° 26.237’) provides a great-value five-star experience at its Mountain Lodge, while the River Lodge is a more affordable self-catering option. Mountain Lodge from R1995 per person sharing (includes all meals and some activities). River Lodge from R415 per person (sleeps eight). Tel +27317028971
Ts’ehlanyane Campsite is at the picnic site near the entrance of the park. From R100 per person. Tel +26622313034
Ride a horse in Ts’ehlanyane. You can do a two-hour trail or a longer half-day ride up into the valley. From R400 per person for five to six people. +2731-702-8971
Drive the Maliba 4×4 routes, which range from short half-day dawdles to longer challenging outings. The routes are free for guests staying at Maliba and drivers are provided with information sheets (with GPS coordinates) with details of the routes. Tel +27317028971
This Lesotho 4X4 route was researched and travelled to in association with Toyota