Royal Natal National Park

Travel Guide Africa South Africa Kwazulu-Natal Royal Natal National Park

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Introduction

The Royal Natal National Park is in the KwaZulu Natal province of South Africa and forms part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site. Notwithstanding the name, it is actually not a South African National Park managed by the SANParks, but rather a Provincial Park managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The park will be included into the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area Peace Park.

The main features of the park are the Drakensberg Amphitheatre, a rock wall 5 kilometres long by up to 1,200 metres high, Mont-Aux-Sources peak where the Orange and Tugela rivers have their source, and the 948-metre Tugela Falls, the world's second-highest waterfall.

The best time to visit is in late summer (March to May) when all the rivers are full, the air is crystal clear and vegetation is lush and green.

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Geography and Climate

Bushbuck and baboons are common. Other animal that may be encountered are Rock Dassies, Otters, Mountain Reedbuck, Duiker and Black-backed Jackal. The only animal that poses any real danger to humans are the baboons and contact with them should be avoided while hiking.

Rainy season is between October and March, mostly as short lived afternoon thundershowers. There is a possibility of snow between April and September. Winters (April to September) is dry and wind is common in late winter.

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Sights and Activities

  • Tugela Falls - The second highest waterfall in the world, with a total drop of 947 metres in 5 leaps. The highest single drop is 411 metres. Accessible via the Gorge walk. Only walk this if you are young and fit and there's not been heavy rainfall. If you walk up from the bottom, having entered the Park and gone past the visitor centre, you will have to cross three fast flowing rivers when you get to the top. Then there is a metal ladder over a boulder and a swim through a tunnel. This is not explained to you at all - those in the know dress with bathing costume under their clothes, take no valuables or cameras or phones, and then swim through the tunnel. It's for the brave and those in the know rather than visitors from overseas. Ask, ask, ask for details before you go. In Autumn/Winter the river can be at very low levels and you can manage the walk without wetting your hiking boots. If you purchase the guide instructions from the camp shop read it very carefully as people often misunderstand the last section. edit
  • The Amphitheater - Visible from most of the park, but best seen on the 23-kilometre Gorge walk.
  • The Cascades - A set of waterfalls. Located a short walk (around 2.2 kilometres round trip) from the entrance to Mahai camp, most of this on a wheelchair accessible concrete pathway with only the last couple hundred meter on bush trails.

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Cost

A daily conservation fee is payable at the park entrance. R25 per adult, R15 per child and R35 per vehicle per day (Multiply by the number of days you will spend in the park) .

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Getting There and Around

From the N3, take the R616 just south of Ladysmith towards Bergville (35 km). Where the R616 meets the R74, take a right turn and follow that road for a further 29 kilometres until it joins with the R615. Take a left turn and you will reach the park within another 19 km. Roadsign are clearly displayed along the way.

For a more scenic route, take the exit the N3 at Harrismith and take the N5 towards Bethlehem for about 5 km, then turn left onto the R74 and follow this for about 38 km, then take a right into the R615. Following this route will take one past the Sterkfontein Dam.

Drive with extra care along the R615 as it passes through a number of rural villages where livestock and school children cross the road at will.

Entrance to the park is open 24 hours for residents and from 6:00am to 10:00pm (May-Sep) and 5:00am to 7:00pm (Oct-Mar) for day visitors.

The nearest petrol station is in Bergville, 48 kilometres away.

Speed limit within the park is 40km/h, but mostly one will walk rather than drive.

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Eat/Drink

There is a shop at the Information Office (first building on the left after entering the park) that sells most of the basic necessities (from washing powder and ice to boerewors and beer). The selection is not huge, but they do not try and take advantage of the fact that they are the only shop in the park; pricing is very good with no outrageous markup added (R7 for a beer for example).

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Sleep

Mahai Camp Site is in the valley below the Cascades (Follow the signs from the park entrance), ☎ +27 (0)33 438-6303 (info@kznwildlife.com), [4]. checkin: 2:00pm; checkout: 10:00am. Stands with and without electrical plug points are available, be sure to specify when booking if you need electricity. Ablution facilities are clean and well maintained. There is a laundry with coin operated washers and dryers, dish washing facilities (including boiling water on tap) as well as Telkom card and coin pay phones. The only problem with the camp is the large number of pine trees that consume huge amounts of water causing some of the stands to be devoid of grass. After the summer rains this is not as big a problem, but if you visit during the winter it is best to avoid electric stands 1 to 14 and 42 to 50; electrical stands 15 to 25 will have a lot more grass cover and less dust. If you do not require electricity, non-electrical stands 3 to 5 are probably the best in the whole camp. There are two security guards on 24 hour duty in the camp, mostly to ensure that wildlife that wander in is promptly escorted out again (Baboons seldom come near the camps as they are shot at with paintball guns to scare them away, but bushbuck often wander in). From R65 per camp site.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 14:00 on Sep 15, 17 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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