Destinations Magazine

A 3 Day "luxury" Hike to the Amphitheatre - February 2011

By Spanafrican

The Elands River Falls from the top of the Chain Ladder.

Philippe was working in South Africa over an extended period so he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get to know some of highlights of the country, like the Drakensberg.His wife Anne and his 12-year old daughter Zoe were going to join him from France for a holiday, and he wanted to do something new this time: an overnight hike in the Drakensberg.
Being their first overnight hike I wasn’t expecting them to carry a full pack, so I had to offer an alternative. While porters are a possibility I considered the fact that they had limited time and as a family may enjoy a few more comforts. The Northern Drakensberg offers a great option. Sungubala Mountain Camp and Witsieshoek Mountain Resort are only 10km apart. Witsieshoek Mountain Resort is the ideal base for the most popular day hike in the Drakensberg: the Tugela Falls on top of the Amphitheatre. And Royal Natal National Park is just 8km from Witsieshoek. There are 2 lodges and 3 day hikes, so there really is no need for camping equipment.
  • Day 1: Sungubala Mountain Camp – Witsieshoek Mountain Resort: 10km , 800m
  • Day 2: Return day hike to the Amphitheatre from Sentinel Car Park: 12km, 600m
  • Day 3: Witsishoek Mountain Resort – Royal Natal National Park: 8km, 0m.

Philippe, Anne and Zoe hiked to areas that couldn’t have gone if they had to be fully self-sufficient. They climbed a total of 1700m and loved every minute of it. While Lammergeiers and jackal buzzards graced the skies over head, the trio braved the chain ladders and the slippery gullies and made it to the top of the mighty Amphitheatre.
While I’m not used to hot showers and great dinners at the end of long hard day’s hike, I have to admit I rather enjoyed this ‘luxury’ and could quite easily repeat!
If you would like to do this hike contact us at [email protected] or have a look at our website for other exciting options.

The start of our hike from Sungubala. Our local guide Godfrey showed us the way up to Witsieshoek Mountain Resort

We weren't alone on the trail that morning. The Sugarloaf (the pointy peak) is the most prominet peak in the area

Interesting creatures along the way

The Sugarlaf Gap, our access to the Sungubala Ridge

Once on the ridge the walk was a lot easier

Broome Hill behind us (note the Sugarloaf in the distance)

Our Arrival at Witsieshoek Mountain Resort, our spot for the night

An unusual hike I must say but I quite liked it, for a change.

The second day of the hike was a return day hike to the top of the Tugela Falls, Here at the Sentinel Car Park before our start.

The usual picture with the Witches and the Sentinel in the background

Unfortunately the clouds started to raise too early that day although we could still see something

The view point between the Witches and the Sentinel, with no so much of a view although there were some clearings at times

exhuberant Zoe motoring up the hill!

A great picture for a great spot. The Chain Ladders are just visible from here, right behind us.

Mom and daughter nogociating the Chain Ladder without any hesitation

Felicia Drakensbergensis

Jackal Buzzard

After a few minutes on top of the Tugela Falls (in the mist) the weather was threatening rain so we had to rush towards the Gully, our way down the Amphitheatre

The Gully - Littered with loose rocks, it's not the best option in wet conditions as we found out. We invested more than 1 hour for a distance of about 300m

Once back on the path, the rain stopped. We could relax and enjoy some good views again

Walking down by the Sentinel

The mist came back again and didn't leave us for the rest of the hike

It was a great experience for the Danielski family. It had been quite an adventurous day and they were up to it.

The third day was an easy 8km walk down to Royal Natal along the Mahai Valley.

Mahai Falls

Mahai Falls

On the way down we could walk through some beautiful indigenous forests.

The Mahai Valley

Zoe by a big tree fern.

Hesperantha coccinea

Signs, we were getting close to civilization

The Cascades - a great spot for swimming near Mahai Campsite

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