UNESCO World Heritage Site #264: Maloti-Drakensberg Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #264: Maloti-Drakensberg Park
UNESCO World Heritage Site #264: Maloti-Drakensberg Park

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Maloti-Drakensberg Park is a transboundary site composed of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg National Park in South Africa and the Sehlathebe National Park in Lesotho. The site has exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts as well as visually spectacular sculptured arches, caves, cliffs, pillars and rock pools. The site’s diversity of habitats protects a high level of endemic and globally important plants. The site harbors endangered species such as the Cape vulture (Gyps coprotheres) and the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). Lesotho’s Sehlabathebe National Park also harbors the Maloti minnow (Pseudobarbus quathlambae), a critically endangered fish species only found in this park. This spectacular natural site contains many caves and rock-shelters with the largest and most concentrated group of paintings in Africa south of the Sahara. They represent the spiritual life of the San people, who lived in this area over a period of 4,000 years.

One of the pleasures of visiting World Heritage Sites is discovering great places you didn’t know about before hand. I had heard of the Drakensberg Mountains before I visited, but really knew nothing about them. I found them to be unlike anything I’ve seen South Africa. Mountainous and green, it was almost like driving through a well manicured lawn.

Maloti-Drakensberg is one of a small number of mixed world heritage sites which have been recognized for both their cultural and natural value. In addition to the stunning scenery, there are also Sani bushmen paintings scattered throughout the park. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any of the paintings on my trip, but it would be the top priority on any return visits I make.

I did a day trip through the Drakensberg, up the Sani Pass, to Lesotho. The winding, gravel Sani Pass is the only road which connects the state of Kwazulu-Natal to the mountainous country of Lesotho. I wouldn’t attempt to drive up the Sani Pass yourself unless you have a sturdy 4×4 vehicle. It is probably easiest to join a tour for the Sani Pass. The rest of the park can be explored on your own.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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