In the south of Lesotho, grand rivers converge and swirl and, in the right season, pitch off high plateaus to continue their journeys below.
This route will take you to two of them – Maletsunyane and Botsoela falls. Both are close to two of the country’s most exciting lodges too – and there’s plenty to do at each.
We found all these wonderful waterfalls in the Toyota Fortuner.
The way of the waterfalls
Semonkong Lodge to Malealea Lodge
Grade: 3/5 – Challenging. 4X4 essential, some off-road experience is required.
The first, Semonkong Lodge, is an easy drive on tar – much of it along the Senqu River – from the Qacha’s Nek border post. From the border, take the A4 to Mount Moorosi and then turn right (S30° 3.108’, E28° 17.041’) at Seforong. This road was recently tarred and has cut the trip from the border down significantly so the driving time from the border to the town of Semonkong will be about four hours at most.
Take the first left as you enter the town (S29° 50.476’, E28° 3.200’) and then continue right at the ‘fuel station’ (it’s just a single pump beside a tank) and over the low-level bridge on the Maletsunyane River to Semonkong Lodge.
From there, you can do a variety of 4×4 drives in the area (half- to full-day, easy to extreme) with maps and directions provided by the lodge. For those who want to give their wheels a break, there’s also pony trekking, fly fishing and hiking, but a must-do is a drive to spectacular Maletsunyane Falls (S29° 52.111’, E28° 3.099’), which is 30 minutes up a 4×4 track (S29° 49.575’ E28° 2.136’) that diverges from the A5 a few kilometres west of Semonkong.
From Semonkong, take the A5 north-west to Ramabanta Trading Post. There is accommodation for those who want to turn this into a three- day route, but it’s a great lunch stop regardless (call ahead to make sure the kitchen is open) with wonderful views over the Makhaleng valley.
Further along the A5, the fun starts – a small gravel road splits off the main drag (S29° 34.499, E27° 44.471’) and heads into the hills and valleys where some of the annual Roof of Africa enduro motorcycle routes traverse.
Turn left at the first crossroad (S29° 34.642’ E27° 43.728’) and head south to Raleqheka and then over the Mamaebana River (S29° 43.237’ E27° 38.093’) until you get to a crossroad (S29° 44.177 E27° 36.793’). Left takes you on an incredible 4×4 route down into the valley, where you can park and take a short walk to the Botsoela Waterfall (S29° 47.857, E27° 36.860’).
From there the route climbs back out of the valley – keep left at the next split (S29° 47.829’, E27° 36.157) – and rounds a hillside dotted with villages and tiered farmland before turning back on itself and taking you to Malealea Lodge. Allow at least six hours for this drive from Semonkong. You’ll spend a good four of them on the gravel and 4X4 track that starts after Ramabanta.
The navigation can be tricky in places and there are quite a few side roads that head into small villages along the way that can often look like the ‘main’ route. Keep an eye out for markers, take note of your general heading (Malealea) to make sure you’re going in the right direction.
At the end of a fun day of driving through some incredible landscapes you’ll be able to sit back and relax with a Maluti beer and look out over the Thaba Putsoa mountain range as the sun sets behind you.
Lesotho waterfall route map
The road from Qacha’s Nek to Semonkong is tar. The 4X4 track from Semonkong to Maletsunyane Falls is pretty easy when dry but can be muddy after rains. The A5 from Semonkong past Ramabanta is good tar with great bends. The gravel road to the Malealea turn-off is generally well-graded but deteriorates around villages where there’s heavier traffic. The 4X4 track to the Botsoeala Waterfall is steep with tight switchbacks and requires low range.
Semonkong Mountain Lodge (S29° 50.583’ E28° 2.613’) exudes a special kind of magic. It’s splendid stone rondavels are thoughtfully appointed, warm and cosy and the food is extraordinarily good. Rondavels from R490 pp sharing. Camping is from R150 per person. Tel +26662021021
Ramabanta Trading Post (S29° 39.943’ E27° 47.808’) is peaceful and isolated. Rooms are basic but comfortable. From R475 per person B&B. Camping from R110 per person. Tel +26658442309
Malealea Lodge (S29° 49.678’ E27° 35.998’) is a wonderful family-friendly spot with excellent facilities and thoughtful staff. Accommodation ranges from cosy rondavels to self-catering family rooms that sleep four people. Rondavels from R400 per person sharing B&B. Camping from R120 per person. Tel +26658407186 or +27825524215.
Pony trek from Malealea to Semonkong over the Thaba Putsoa Mountains. The self-catering trek takes three days and meanders through beautiful valleys, with accommodation in hikers’ huts. From R520 per person per day, plus R130 per person for each overnight stay. Tel +26658407186
Guided mountain biking from R250 per person (includes bike rental) and guided hikes from R15 per person per hour. Tel +26658407186
Tackle 4×4 routes at Semonkong. Routes vary from two to four hours. A 4×4 ride can also be arranged to the Maletsuyane Falls. From R250 per person. Tel +26662021021
This Lesotho 4X4 route was researched and travelled to in association with Toyota.