Sani Pass South Africa

The Sani Pass to Lesotho

“An assault on the senses as you climb upwards through windy, bumpy and rocky roads, hairpin bends and just breathtakingly amazing views”

Kwazulu Natal, South Africa and The Kingdom of Lesotho

The famous but dangerous Sani Pass is a mountain pass joining the Western KwaZulu Natal province in South Africa with Lesotho.  It climbs the escarpment to an altitude of 2874m and is known as the gateway to the ‘Roof of Africa’

The views from the Southern Drakensberg mountains are awe inspiring and just get better and better the higher you climb.  The pass is not for the faint hearted and if you do not have a suitable 4 x 4 or are not skilled in advanced driving then my recommendation is to make sure you book with a tour company that has drivers trained to get you up safely.  We booked with the aptly named tour company – Roof of Africa!

The pass is merely a single track in most parts, the closer you get to the top you will notice that the roads have been widened in order to get around those hairpin bends.  It is made up of dirt and gravel causing the 4 x 4 to bounce along unevenly, making your teeth and bones rattle.  As you look up you are greeted by towering basalt cliffs, to the left and right luscious vegetation, waterfalls and the Umkomazana River. Look down and you see an amazing valley, mountains stretching ahead and the Sani pass weaving its way down, down, down like a snake.

The vegetation keeps changing the higher you go, with no trees growing at the top of the pass.  As a world heritage site it is not only known for its flora but fauna too!  We were luckily enough to spot a baboon perched high on a rock, a young jackal cowering from the rain and the closest living relative of the elephant, a small furry mammal called the dassie or rock hyrax.  Although wildlife is in abundance you do have to keep your eye out for them, that is if you happy looking down into the steep valley below, with the vehicle being millimetres from the edge.

Our tour took most of the day.  Our guide Sundile was informative and full of local knowledge. He was also well prepared for the border crossing.  In Covid times immigration is a bit more complicated and requires completed health questionnaires for both exit and entry and a rapid “negative’ Covid test which you can get at the crossing – a requirement to enter Lesotho!

The South African crossing is not at the border and one of the reasons is for making sure all vehicles are suitable to make the ascent to the top.  It is from the crossing that you travel the slow 8kms of ‘No Man’s Land’ to the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Upon crossing into Lesotho we visited the highest pub in Africa at the Sani Mountain Lodge for a well deserved beer.  Be prepared for a complete weather change when up at the top. By the time we reached the pub the temperature had dropped significantly and the clouds started rolling in, making the scenery even more dramatic.  Before you knew it we were witnessing a fantastic electrical storm, starting off with hail, thunder roaring loudly across the escarpment and lightening crossing the sky. Thank goodness we were inside the pub, when a bolt from the blue gave an almighty crack as it hit the ground and every person jumped in their seats!  It was a sign to enjoy another cold beverage and keep safe from the storm.

The descent was just as stomach churning as the ascent especially in the rain and mist but our tour guide handled the pass perfectly – just at the right speed never making your worry.  It was the same bumpy, teeth and bone rattling feeling all the way down.

Unfortunately we did not visit a typical Basotho village on our trip due to the weather and slight changes to make sure we all kept up with social distancing practices but we did see a few ‘people of the blanket’ in the distance and maybe one day we will visit again.

Our trip to the Drakensberg started and ended at the peaceful Moorcroft Manor Boutique Hotel just outside Himeville, a stone’s throw away from Sani Pass.  A real special place to relax and enjoy nature.

Sani Pass Tour: Booked with Roof of Africa
Roof of Africa tour company was very professional and kept in constant contact with us with regards to who will be meeting us, timings and any changes at immigration control we need to comply with.

Where we stayed:
Moorcroft Manor Boutique Country Hotel, Himeville
Beautiful spacious rooms with a terrace to enjoy the view of the mountains.  Delicious selection of food served at the restaurant and will accommodate dietary requirements – just make sure to confirm when checking in.

Between the shipwreck

Durban, South Africa

I waited breathlessly one eye focused on the water and one eye focused on my camera screen. Wondering where this graceful creature would break through the water into the air and thrill us all with it’s perfectly executed somersault. I missed the shot but was given the opportunity to view this lovely bottle-nosed dolphin in action on the replay screen.

I felt like a kid all over again sitting on the stairs at uShaka Marine World in Durban watching the Dolphin show. These graceful creatures always seem to entertain through their displays of speed, high jumps and sometimes squeaky noises. It was also fantastic to see Gambit – the oldest Dolphin in the park and the largest bottle-nosed dolphin in captivity to perform his tricks and it was weird to think that some 20 odd years previously I had watched the very same Dolphin in action.

uShaka Marine world is the the sea world of South Africa. Centered around a 1920s recreated shipwreck it brings together a number of things to do from visiting the huge aquarium, snorkeling the in the lagoon, taking wild water rides to sampling tasty cuisine next to the Shark tank. I was fascinated with the perfectly reconstructed shipwreck and how it magically contained all those marine animals you are only lucky to see in the wild.

The park is well laid out and gives you information on the marine life and how you can best preserve them through looking after your environment. This is doubly emphasized by the big recycling bank at the entrance where you can throw away all your rubbish in the correct bins.

The water rides where not working the day I arrived but with so many other things to see and do it did not matter too much. Anyway with the beach right on the door step, you could always venture off for a swim in the warm Indian ocean and return to the park for more action.

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Cap Classique

Cape Town, South Africa

I spent only a few days in Cape Town visiting family and friends. As per usual Cape Town’s scenery was just beautiful from Mountains, to oceans to vineyards.

Thanks to friends and family for a great week of fun on the beach, sipping champagne at the pool side, having cocktails at the 12 Apostles and simply catching up.


Stillness in the african bush

Rust de Winter, South Africa

The one thing I love about going back home is having the luxury of staying at my Dad’s lodge in the middle of the Pride of Africa Nature Reserve. Is situated in the north-west of the Gauteng Province of South Africa roughly one hours drive from my hometown of Johannesburg.

What attracts me is the peacefulness, the sweet smell of the bushveld, the intensity of the rain when a typical highveld storm hits and of course the animals. Filled with a range of antelope, warthog, jackals and giraffe it now forms part of a government initiative to bring together a host of private game farms to form the Dikoneng Big Five Nature Reserve. So the next time I can be sure to add Rhino and Lion to the list!

This little peace of heaven has the ability to bring all my family together and this weekend was no exception. We spent every evening watching the beautiful sunsets and throwing bones onto the fire so that we could get the jackals to howl. During the day we drove around for hours looking for game and enjoying the fresh air only Africa can give you. Occasionally we spent some time at the pool where we could lie and gaze up at the sky and the big Soetdoering trees watching for butterflies or trying to avoid those nasty wasps.

I can only say that this is the true African lifestyle – beautiful surroundings and peacefulness!


Wildlife of Hluhluwe & iMfolozi

iMfolozi and Hluhluwe Game Reserve, South Africa

I had not visited the Hluhluwe (pronounced ‘shoeshloee’) game reserve since I was a little child. All I could remember from memory was that it was very hilly and filled with Giraffe. It is amazing what your mind can retain and for the most part the game reserve is hilly and it does have lots of giraffe but how I did not remember the abundance of rhinos is beyond me.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game reserve lies in the heart of Zululand, South Africa. It is one of the oldest game reserves in the country and is well known for its conservation of the white Rhino. The reserve is set in two the Hluhluwe part which is the hilliest part of the reserve and the iMfolozi section which is flatter and makes it easier for wildlife spotting.

I travelled with my family from outside Durban just for the day. Yip it was a long drive but well worth it in photographs and admiring the beautiful wildlife in their own habitat. It took us about 2.5 hours driving to get there. For the most part we travelled along the main coastal road before turning towards the Mtubatuba village which is some 48kms from the central Nyalazi gate. It was a slow drive along these parts as you drive through remote villages and you need to keep an eye out for the goats wandering across the roads.

The Big Five are said to be around but we were only lucky enough to spot Elephants, Buffalo and Rhino but I guess 3 out of 5 is not too bad. I enjoyed the lazy drive around the game reserve and was very intrigued to follow a big Secretary bird while it strutted it stuff in the bush and looked for food in the form of snakes by stomping on the dry shrubs.

We took a break from driving half way through the day to have some lunch at the Mlipa camp site. Even while having a picnic lunch you can be entertained by families of warthog walking through the camp or by watching the hard working dung beetles roll their supplies down the hill.

Our day ended off by looking at the rolling hills from the Hilltop camp and wondering how that Rhino managed to make its way up the hill so fast…