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The Sani Pass; gateway between the Southern Drakensberg and Les
The Sani Pass was originally developed as a bridal path in 1913. This steep zigzagging pass climbs the face of the Drakensberg escarpment to an altitude of 2874m. The first vehicle negotiated the path in 1948 when it was no more wide boulder littered donkey track. It is now used for the most part by 4x4 vehicles and has become a highlight for tourists visiting the Southern Drakensberg.
The Sani Pass is the only access from KwaZulu Natal to the harsh environment of the Lesotho Highlands, the domain of the endangered Bearded Vulture, Basotho shepherds and their animals. The Route, aptly called the "roof of Africa", boasts to be the highest road in Africa and third highest in the world and peaks at a heady height of 3200m above sea level! Close to the Sani Pass summit, within a couple of kilometres, is the highest peak in Southern Africa, Thabane Ntlenyana, 3482m high.
Ascending to the rim of the escarpment, the awe inspiring Sani Pass climbs 900 m over the 8 km between the South African border post and the ‘Moutains Kingdom’ of Lesotho. It is the gateway to the ‘Roof of Africa’. The spectacular Sani Pass pierces the Drakensberg Mountains through a narrow defile cut by the Mkomazana River. Once it was nothing more than a vague footpath used by Bushmen, those little ‘People of the Mist’, whose last stock raid from the caves and overhangs of the Southern Drakensberg took place in 1872. Later, the Sani Pass became the main route for the early traders, missionaries, adventurers and travelers from Natal into the highest, coldest and most remote district of the old Crown Colony of Basutoland. Today, the Sani Pass, the only road into the Southern Berg, is a rugged vehicle track, twisting and clawing upward to breach the forbidden ramparts of Quathlamba, the Barriers of Spears, at 2874 m above sea level and over 1200 m above the foothills where it starts. The last 8 km of the Sani Pass is restricted to four wheel drive vehicles. Big four wheel drive trucks of Mokhotlong Mountain Transport (which pioneered the use of vehicles for commerce and tourism on the Sani Pass), each haul seven tons of trade goods or essential supplies on their aduous trek to remote Mokhotlong. Sometimes they still have to reverse against fearsome drops to negotiate the sharpest of the hairpin bends, but tourists are conveyed safely to the welcoming chalet at the summit. Although the richness of the flora in the Sani Pass is always interesting, the wild flowers are at their most splendid from November to March. In the lower reaches, Protea roupelliae attract Gurney’s Sugarbird. Steep mountain sides blaze with watsonias and Malachite Sunbirds flit amongst ranks of ‘red hot pokers’ (Kniphofia sp). Blue heads of agapanthus carpet the upper slopes where there are groves of Protea subcestita. There are many species of Erica a profusion of pink Diascia, blue Wahkenbergia and yellow Macowania. The road twists through a protected wilderness area populated by eland. Other antelope in the area are mountain reedbuck, Vaal Rhebuck and duiker. A fleeting glimpse of the shy bushbuck would be a rare experience. On the summit you could come across the endearing, hamster like Sloggest’s ice rat scampering or warming itself in the sun. Winter presents a spectacular display of ice falls, frozen streams and the promise of snow – a magic world of blanketed horsemen, icicles on the thatched roofs of stone huts and, at the end of your journey, the warmth of a fire.
The original fort at Himeville houses the Himeville Museum. The displays are of tremendous historical interest and well worth a visit. The mission at Reichenau with it’s magnificent turn of the century church, as well as the church at Centocow are examples of the architecture of the past.
Sani Pass Wild Flower Walk – January
Drakensberg Challenge Canoe Marathon – February
Underberg Golf Classic – March
Bell’s Fishing Festival – May
Glenfiddich Fishing Festival – August
Underberg Farmers Association Show – September
Sani Stagger – December. Polo, tennis, bowls and other sporting events throughout the year
Arts & Crafts
Hand painted ceramics and base materials (brushes, paints, bisque), original pastel paintings. Displayed in garden studio. Orders taken.
Local and imported crafts. Embroidery – original design and kits, curios, giftware, arts and antiques, novelties. Also pantry jams and pickles. Photocopying and colour copies.
Crafters Trading Store
The store down Drakensberg Gardens Road. Wide range of all your general grocery needs include fresh produce daily.
Wide selection of local and imported crafts, linens, pottery, Indonesian jewellery, glassware, ceramics and basketware.
Duck & Dolittle
Unique selection of crafts. Animal farm and playground for the kids. Information and accommodation booking centre.
Trivia, trinkets and treasures. Outstanding collection of original art. Imported and local collectibles. A fascinating combination of old and new. Excitingly different.
Parnassos Fine Art Studio
Animal and wildlife studies, landscapes. Commissioned work undertaken.
Rose & Quail
Fresh and dried flowers. Home baked bread, muffins, pies and cakes. Pickles and jams, fresh milk and eggs. Firewood split and delivered. Member of Teleflorist.
Sani Pass Tea Garden & Crafts
Home made ice cream, fudge and jams. Specializing in local and African crafts: Mohair tapestries, stone and wood carvings, basket ware, ceramics, handspun wool gear, paintings, aromatherapy, candles and creams, books and maps on Lesotho and the Berg, photo cards
Dragon Mount Iris Nursery
Open Gardens October to January or by arrangement. View fields of irises covering 14 acres and enjoy a cup of tea; browse through library of pictures.
Himeville Trout Fishing Club
The club controls fishing rights on approximately 60 dams providing 400 ha of Stillwater fishing and 170 km of river on five river systems, ranging from Bulwer through to Loteni in the north and Bushmans Nek in the South. River fishing is open to members only and the season closes during the winter. Daily rod tickets are available to visitors for Stillwater fishing and booking is essential.
The annual music festival at Splashy Fen are one of the foremost entertainment attractions on the Saunter. The folk music festival takes places over three days in May and the classic festival on the 25th of September
‘Open Garden’ Shows
A number of Saunter sites host ‘ open garden’ shows in early December providing a spectacular and colourful display. Kenmo Lake at Hazeldene is surrounded by exotic trees and the autumn colours are magnificent.
Jevon & Christine Krogh. ‘Put ‘n take’. Fully stocked trout dam. Fun fishing for the whole family. No experience required. All equipment supplied on hire. Picnicking, braai packs and cold drinks on sale.
Russel & Simone Sichet. The world of the Bushmen – guided walks to see rock art with detailed interpretation. Experience Zulu culture with an overnight stay with a Zulu family. Trips to Lesotho arranged. Drakensberg Adventures offer all inclusive 3 – 5 night packages.
Giants Cup Wilderness Reserve
Unquestionably one of the premier trout fishing destinations in South Africa. Widely acclaimed. Your host is a leading authority on trout habitat and entomology. A professional fly angler. Angling restricted to resident guests. Clinics. Day and tickets. Day boat hire. Guiding and ghillie service.
Khotso Horse Trails
Experience the beauty of the Southern Drakensberg on horse back. One hour / two hours, full day, three to four day trails. Bring sleeping bags / bed rolls, rain jackets, warm jackets, gloves, beanies, hat, swimming costumes, towel.
Major Adventures & Tourist Centre
Visits to local attractions by mini bus, 4 x 4 trips up Sani Pass and into Lesotho. Tours may be tailor made to suit your requirements. Visit them at the Underberg Inn for accommodation bookings.
Rainbow Adventures SA
Hourly, daily and overnight horse and 4 x 4 trips up Sani Pass and Mokotlong. Trout and bass fishing. Picnic lunches by arrangement.
Sani Pass Tours
Daily 4 x 4 trips up Sani Pass. Meet the people of the ‘Mountain Kingdom’. Passport required. Booking essential
Sani Top Tours
4 x 4 Tours every day (except Christmas Day). depart Himeville, lunch at Sani Top Chalet included. SATOUR accredited guides. An exciting adventure trip. Passport required. Booking essential.
Seaforth Horse Trails – Three hours rides twice daily, day rides and overnight
Southern Drakensberg Tours
Roof of Africa discovery tours into Lesotho. Visit Katse dam and meet the people of the kingdom in the sky. 4 x 4 Training and team building with qualified facilitor.
Internationally renowned music festivals held annually. Folk music festival – May, Classical Festival – September. These two outstanding events have become on of the foremost attractions in the Southern Drakensberg. Enjoy incredibly warm hospitality and unforgettable entertainment.
Sandy Leask. Guided walks to Hodgsons Peaks, Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest point in Southern Africa. Daily tours up Sani Pass and Mokhotlong. Overnight to Katse dam. Trekking along the escarpment. Two to five day treks. Hire of mountain bikes, tubes and camping equipment.
Trout ‘n About
Guided fishing. Fish the legendary Underberg rivers for wild brown and rainbow trout. Learn how to read and fish the rivers successfully. Packed lunches by arrangement. Transport to and from Underberg provided.
Underberg Wild Sky Paragliding
Main activity, paragliding. Also hiking, birding and river tubing. Facilities available for canoeing and mountain biking. (Canoes and bikes not supplied).
Underberg Country Club
Visitors welcome. Facilities include restaurant, bar, DSTV, golf course, squash court, swimming pool.
uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park Wilderness Area
Scenic day walks and overnight hiking, camping in caves or tents
Hiking and Walking
Represent a major attraction on the Sani Saunter. The main escarpment and the ridges and valleys of the ‘Little Berg’ fall mostly into the Drakensberg Park area, controlled by KZN Nature Conservation Service. From any of the entry points at Loteni, Vergelegen, Sani, Cobham, Garden Castle and Bushmans Nek, a day walk could bring you past sparkling streams, clear pools, indigenous flora and fauna and abundant birdlife. Awaiting the serious hiker is spectacular scenery amongst the majestic peaks, Bushman rock art and the chance to overnight in caves, tents or trail huts in the heart of the unspoilt wilds. Many of the farms on the Saunter offer walks and hiking trails.
Giants Cup Hiking Trail
Five day hike in the ‘Little Berg’ and foothills. 9 – 13 km per day. Trail hut provide accommodation.
Horse Riding and Pony Trails
In the rolling country side are immensely popular. A wide range of day rides and overnight trails are available.
This district is a trout angler’s paradise. The rolling foothills are interlaced with fast flowing rivers and crystal streams, set below the mighty crags of the Drakensberg. The sheer scenic splendour provides much sought after peace and tranquility. The opportunities for quality trout and bass fishing are cast and almost all the establishments on the Saunter offer a facility. The Underberg area offers a wide variety of fly fishing opportunities. It is home to the Underberg / Himeville Trout Fishing Club, which, with 34 dams yielding a total surface area of 280 ha, and 140 km on six rivers, provides unequalled opportunities. This unique club was formed as a conservancy at the initiative of private landowners who invited anglers to form a co-operative organization to provide public access to quality fishing. The club has a nation wide membership of more than 800. On a star rating of one to three, most club dams would score a two or three. The club offers day tickets on it’s dams to visiting anglers. Trout was introduced to the area at the turn of the century and flourished. Nowhere in South Africa are so many heavy fish caught in such unspoilt surroundings.
Fly Fishing Resorts
Drakensberg Gardens Hotel, Giant’s Cup Wilderness Reserve, Himeville Nature Reserve, Lake Naverone, Sani Pass Hotel, Splashy Fen. The dam on the Umzimkulwana River at Giant’s Cup Wilderness Reserves provides a wild spawning population of trout used to stock many dams in the area. A full time fishing guide / ghillie is available. Many farm owners have guest cottages with access to select fishing on dams and rivers such as the Umzimkulu, Umzimkulwana, Ndwana, Polela, Ngangwana, Umkomozana, and Umkomaas. Kwazulu Natal Nature Conservation Service provides further access through camps at Loteni, Cobham, Coleford, Garden Castle and Himeville Nature Reserve.
Licences and Fly Tackle
It is a legal requirement that anglers possess a Kwazulu Natal Provincial angling licence. Anglers must obtain the personal permission of the landowner or the Underberg Himeville Fly fishing club. Only fly fishing tackle is allowed.
Clinics are offered by the KZNNCS. Information available from the Coleford Nature Reserve and Giant’s Cup Wilderness Reserve
Local Trout Records - Dam 5 kg: river 4,25 kg
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