Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge is just 35km from the eastern border of Golden Gate Highlands National Park and forms part of an ambitious protected area called the Maloti Drakensberg Transfrontier Project.
This peace park, composed of uKhahlamba Drakensberg National Park in South Africa and Sehlathebe National Park in Lesotho, is an effort to create a consolidated conservation corridor of some 32690 hectares down the eastern curve of the Lesotho border.
Set up in the 1970s as a state enterprise, Witsieshoek is an impressive community project (owned by the Batlokoa community of QwaQwa) that went from two-percent occupancy levels to the current 38 percent since partnering with Transfrontier Park Destinations. The lodge also acquired Fair Trade certification recently and, at 2220 metres above sea level, claims to be the highest lodge in the Northern Drakensberg – perfect for exploring iconic peaks.
Plan your weekend to Witsieshoek
Cost: Around R1600 per person
Duration: Two nights
Special sights: Waterfalls and wild heights
Being part of the Royal Natal and Rugged Glen National Parks, there are a number of incredible day and overnight hikes on offer that can be walked alone or guided by locals. You can’t get closer to the dramatic Sentinel Peak than here, and it’s the perfect spot to look down over Mont-Aux-Sources and the iconic Amphitheatre. After check in, try squeeze in a three-hour walk that’ll take you to the Mahai Falls. It’s a prettty easy stroll recommended for all ages.
Stay here: A standard bungalow at Witsieshoek is from R695 per person a night, plus a park entry fee of R45 per person. It’s not self-catering; there is a restaurant offering hearty meals like stews and malva pudding. Tel 0587136361, witsieshoek.co.za
There are many day hikes from Witsieshoek; the most popular option is the Drakensberg Chain Ladder hike. You don’t have to be super-fit to do it, but keep in mind the effects of high altitude and allow eight hours for the full return journey. The trail winds beneath towering peaks with mind-spinning drops below – here at such lofty heights, various birds of prey swim the sky. There are two sections of chain ladder of about 50 rungs each that climb to the plateau. They’re best tackled with slow deliberate footing and calm nerves. Once at the top, it’s a 25-minute walk to the edge of the Amphitheatre. At 2926 metres you can gaze down into the Tugela Gorge a full thousand metres beneath you. Hiking fees are R75 per person. Instead of returning to Witsieshoek, it is possible to camp overnight on the plateau.
Also read: 8 Drakensberg hikes recommended by experts
This hiking escape first appeared in the October issue of Getaway magazine.
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