South Africa is well known for amazing Big Five safari experience and the chic living in beautiful Cape Town, but not many realized that the country also offers some wonderful adventures for more active travelers
Planning a Trip in the time of COVID?Keep in mind that information found in this article may have been impacted by travel restrictions and other closures. Double check opening hours, tour providers and hotel status before you go. And don't leave your home without travel insurance! If you are looking for an insurance provider that covers COVID-19, we recommend SafetyWing. Get Medical and Travel Insurance starting at just $40/month and you can sign up even if your trip has already started!
On our recent visit, we wanted to experience the beaches, the bush, and the berg (mountains in Afrikaans), so we made our way to Drakensberg Mountain Range and spent a few days hiking in the northern Drakensberg Region while staying at the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge.
About Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge
Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge is located between Johannesburg and Durban in the Northern Drakensberg Mountains, the highest mountain range in South Africa and a World Heritage Site. It has all the charm you might expect from a mountain lodge and leans into the mountain aesthetic with its local stone and wood finishings.
The lodge overlooks Royal Natal National Park and offers an ideal Northern Drakensberg accommodation option for hikers exploring the area. It is one of the only places to stay in the Drakensberg with comfortable rooms and restaurant facilities.
We chose this lodge for its close proximity to the Sentinel Peak, one of the park’s most prominent geological features, that stands guard beside Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. We loved that many of the rooms and central facilities at the lodge offered great views of Sentinel Peak and the surrounding area.
The lodge offers accommodation suitable for every budget, in 8 Sentinel rooms, 5 Bungalows, and 6 Backpacker Cabin rooms. The rooms are decorated with works of art from local QwaQwa artists and offer a comfortable place to stay in Drakensberg region.
The lodges’ Sentinel rooms showcase the best of the natural surroundings. Each spacious en-suite room has floor to ceiling windows that look out toward the Sentinel Peak.
We stayed in one of the 5 Bungalows, designed in a traditional rondavel style. Each bungalow is split into 6 individual rooms and each room has a double bed, a desk and a private en suite. Despite sharing walls with 2 other rooms, we found these to be quiet and comfortable.
The Backpackers Cabin has six rooms with twin beds and a shared bathroom and shower blocks. The rooms are basic but aimed at hikers who just need a clean, warm place to rest their heads at night.
Food and Drink
Every stay at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge includes daily breakfast, which consists of a hearty selection of baked goods, fresh fruit, yogurt, as well as a selection of hot dishes. Breakfast is served in the lodge restaurant, located in the central facilities building, near reception.
The restaurant also serves South Africa inspired lunches, tea-time snacks, and dinner for an additional charge. For those hiking in the Drakensberg mountains during the day, Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge offers a pre-packed lunch.
Food at the lodge is nothing to write home about, it’s simple and affordable. And given that there are no other restaurants or places to eat in the nearby vicinity, it’s your only option. We would have liked to see more vegetarian options on the menu, so vegetarians/vegans – it may be a good idea to pack a few extra snacks to keep you well-nourished during the stay.
The dining area has floor to ceiling windows which capture the beauty of the Royal Natal Drakensberg Park and Drakensberg mountains. It is a great place to watch the sunset. The pub area is cozy and is a great place for guests to share stories of their day’s hike. There is a large fireplace to gather around and big comfy leather chairs to enjoy a drink.
Royal Natal Drakensberg Park is truly a hikers paradise. The dramatic landscape is made up of red rock formations, craggy peaks, waterfalls, and rolling green hills.
There are a number of hikes you can take from Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge.
The Gorge Trail takes you to the foot of the Amphitheatre, the Gudu Falls Trail takes you to swimmable pools, and the MetsiMatsho Dam Walk is known for its beautiful flora and fauna.
Our favourite hike and the highlight of any visit to Royal Natal Drakensberg Park was the hike up to Sentinel Peak and Tugela Falls. This trail is sometimes dubbed the chain ladder hike for the series of chain ladders that are strewn along the way and a necessary part of the trail. This trail also passes by the Amphitheatre, Drakensberg’s other famous attraction in this region.
All hiking trails can be completed with or without a guide. You can arrange for a guide at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge, your Drakensberg accommodation. Hiking guides are members of the local Batlokoa Community, so they know this area of South Africa terrain better than anyone.
Birding is another popular activity in this region. Over 300 species of birdlife have been recorded in the park and birders regularly spot the critically-endangered Bearded Vulture and the Lesser Kestrel from Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge facilities.
Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge is a Fair Trade Certified Lodge, which means that it has fulfilled over 220 criteria to be awarded the label. Fairtrade certified lodges ensure fair wages and working conditions for their staff, ethical purchasing operations and more. They aim for all people to be treated with respect.
The Batlokoa Community plays a large role in the operations of this Drakensberg mountains accommodation. Their community owns Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge, the land it rests on, and employs members of the local community.
The South Africa Transfrontier Park Destinations group manages Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge on behalf of the Batlokoa chiefdom. They strive to balance the needs of the local community with the needs of nature in their business practices. Most of the staff come from the Batlokoa community and revenue from the Witsieshoek goes back into the community.
The Bottom Line
Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge offers an affordable and sustainable accommodation option in the Drakensberg mountain region. It’s comfortable and simple, but its main appeal is the close proximity to hiking trails in the region.
Disclaimer: We were hosted at the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge during our time in South Africa, however all opinions expressed in this post are our own.