Drakensberg Mountains Adventure Tours
The Drakensberg (Afrikaans: Drakensberge, Dutch: Drakensbergen, “the Dragon Mountains”) is the highest mountain range in Southern Africa, rising to 3,482 metres (11,424 ft) in height. In Zulu, it is referred to as uKhahlamba (“barrier of spears”), and in Sesotho as Maluti (also spelled Maloti). Its geological history lends it a distinctive character amongst the mountain ranges of the world. Geologically, the range resembles the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia. The mountains are rich in plant life, including a large number of species listed in the Red Data Book of threatened plants, with 119 species listed as globally endangered” and “of the 2153 plant species in the park, a remarkable 98 are endemic or near-endemic”. The flora of the high alti-montane grasslands is mainly tussock grass, creeping plants, and small shrubs such as ericas. These include the rare Spiral Aloe (Aloe polyphylla), which as its name suggests has leaves with a spiral shape. Meanwhile the lower slopes are mainly grassland but are also home to conifers, which are rare in Africa, the species of conifer found in the Drakensberg is Podocarpus. The grassland itself is of interest as it contains a great number of endemic plants. Grasses found here include oat grass Monocymbium ceresiiforme, Diheteropogon filifolius, Sporobolus centrifugus, caterpillar grass (Harpochloa falx), Cymbopogon dieterlenii, and Eulalia villosa.
The Drakensberg area is “home to 299 recorded bird species”‘ making up “37% of all non-marine avian species in southern Africa.”
There is one bird that is endemic to the high peaks, the Mountain Pipit (Anthus hoeschi), while another six are found mainly here: Bush Blackcap (Lioptilus nigricapillus), Buff-streaked Chat (Oenanthe bifasciata), Rudd’s Lark (Heteromirafra ruddi), Drakensberg Rockjumper (Chaetops aurantius), Yellow-breasted Pipit (Anthus chloris), and Drakensberg Siskin (Serinus symonsi). The endangered Cape Vulture and Lesser Kestrel are two of the birds of prey that hunt in the mountains. Mammals include Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), Eland (Taurotragus oryx) and Mountain Reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula). Other endemic species include three frogs found in the mountain streams, Drakensberg River Frog, (Amietia dracomontana), Phofung River Frog (Amietia vertebralis) and Maluti River Frog Frog (Amietia umbraculata). Fish are found in the many rivers and streams including the Maluti Redfin (Pseudobarbus quathlambae), which was thought to be extinct but has been found in the Senqunyane River in Lesotho.
The lower slopes of the Drakensberg support much wildlife, perhaps most importantly the rare Southern White Rhinoceros (which was nurtured here when facing extinction) and the Black Wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou, which as of 2011 only thrives in protected areas and game reserves). The area is home to large herds of grazing and antelopes such as Eland (Taurotragus oryx), Reedbuck (Redunca arundinum), Mountain Reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula), Grey Rhebok (Pelea capreolus), and even some Oribi (Ourebia ourebi). Endemic species include a large number of chameleons and other reptiles. There is one endemic frog, Forest Rain Frog (Breviceps sylvestris), and four more that are found mainly in these mountains; Long-toed Tree Frog (Leptopelis xenodactylus), Plaintive Rain Frog (Breviceps maculatus), Rough Rain Frog (Breviceps verrucosus), and Poynton’s Caco (Cacosternum poyntoni).