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The Royal Natal National Park is part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site covering 242,813 hectares in KwaZulu Natal and Lesotho. UNESCO describes the area as having “exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts...the site’s diversity of habitats protects a high level of endemic and globally threatened species, especially birds and plants...[and it] also contains many caves and rock-shelters with the largest and most concentrated group of paintings in Africa south of the Sahara”.
The park also consists of many game reserves and wilderness areas including the largest privately owned game park in the KwaZulu Natal Drakensberg region: Cathkin Estates Conservation and Wildlife Sanctuary consisting of 1044 hectares of stunning grassland. The area is recognised as a Global Centre of Plant Diversity and endemism.
The park is separated into two distinct physiographic regions: the foothills are escarpments and valleys at below 2000m and the high main escarpment which rises to over 3,400m. The Drakensberg is one of the best watered, least drought-prone areas of southern Africa, and has particular significance for catchments protection and the provision of high-quality water supplies for surrounding communities.
There are a total of 2153 species of plant including a large number of internationally and nationally threatened species as well as 48 mammal species, 296 bird species, 48 reptile species, 26 amphibian and 8 fish species. A number of globally threatened species including the long-toed tree frog, the yellow-breasted pippin and the Natal Midlands dwarf chameleon make the area their home.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the area has been inhabited by humans for well over the last million years, making the region of huge archaeological importance.
Royal Natal National Park easily features some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Africa. The star of the show is the famous Amphitheatre, a massive 500-metre high rock wall that stretches for five kilometres. Standing like a sentinel above the Amphitheatre is Mont-aux-Sources peak. From here, Tugela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world cascades down the face of the Amphitheatre on its journey to the Indian Ocean.
The park is a hiker’s paradise offering a network of hiking paths ranging from a gentle stroll to Fairy Glen and the challenging Crack and Mudslide. A detailed hiking guide is available at the visitor centre, Thendele Camp office and the main entrance gate. Trout fishing is also a popular activity with options of the Mahai River, Thukela River or in a dam. There are some lovely spots for picnicking and swimming in sparkling mountain streams. Rugged Glen stables offer horse rides into the mountains with stunning views and sightings of mountain reedbuck and grey reedbuck.