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Hiking in the Royal Natal National Park, Kwazulu-Natal

The magnificent amphitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park.The Royal Natal National Park is dominated by the awe-inspiring Amphitheatre, a basalt wall that rises 700m above the Little Berg. Here, the Tugela Falls plunge over its edge and are among the highest falls in the world. This 8094ha park in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg is traversed by a network of trails that covers more than 100km. The scenery in the park is some of the most spectacular in the country.

There is an entrance fee to the park but no additional permit is required for walks within the park. At the reception you can acquire a fantastic guidebook to the park with maps of all the walks available in it. In the park, there is self-catering accommodation and camping sites available at Mahai and Glen Reenen or book at Thendele Resort.

Getting there: from Durban, take the N3 going through Mooi River and Estcourt. Turn off on the R616 going to Bergville. Here, take the road that crosses the Woodstock Dam going to the Royal Natal National Park.

To help you choose the right hike for you, following are some quick facts on some of the main trails in the park:

1. Gudu Falls, The Crack and Mudslide. 11 Km, 5 hours, steep gradients, chain ladders, not suitable for children or older people, circular route, access from the Mahai car park.

2. Cascades and McKinley’s Pool. 8 Km, 3 hours, some steep sections, runs along the Mahai River to McKinley’s Pool at the junction with the Gudu River, retrace your route or continue up steep gradient to Lookout Rock where you join the Tiger Falls path, circular route, access from the Mahai car park

3. Sunday Falls, Surprise Ridge and Cannibal Cave. 22.5 Km, 8 hours, very rewarding full day hike, views of Cathkin Peak, Cathedral Peak and Champagne Castle, return via Fairy Glen and the Grotto trail, circular route, access fro Mahai car park.

4. Fairy Glen and Grotto. 10 Km, 4 hours, relatively easy but some steep sections, popular picnic spot at Fairy Glen, two deep gorges at the Grotto, return on same route, access from Mahai car park.

5. Devil’s Hoek Valley and Vemaan Valley. after 1.6 Km choose right at a fork for Devil’s Valley or left for Vemaan Valley, both 9 Km, 4 hours, easy walk, return on same route, access from Gorge car park.

7. Tugela Tunnel and Gorge. 22.5 Km, 7 hours, most popular and scenic walk in the park, follows the bank of the Tugela River, several patches of forest, chain ladders, walk through the tunnel if level of river allows, spectacular views of the Amphitheatre, return on same route, access from Gorge car park.

There are 24 hikes in all – information from the park office.

Tel: Central Reservations +27 (0)33 845 1000   Email for bookings at Thendele.

More info on the town of Bergville More info on the Drakensberg area

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