Things To Do in Sani PassLotheni Hiking Trails
Where? Lotheni Nature Reserve, Drakensberg, KwaZulu Natal
When? Best during daylight hours.
How? Call +27 (0)33 845-1000
How much? Price on request
Start: Lotheni camp
Finish: Lotheni camp
Fitness: moderate to difficult
Our tip: pick up a brochure of the trails from reception.
Regarded as one of the more remote and scenic camps of the uKhahlamba-Drakensburg Park, Lotheni Nature Reserve lies in the southern parts of the 'berg, renowned for its hiking and named after the Lotheni River that rises on the escarpment.
Prominent mountains include the Tent, Hawk and Redi peaks, but the stars of the show are the many waterfalls that include Jacobs Ladder - called such for several tiers that tumult over the mountain slopes.
Bhodla River Canyon – 12.6 km
This there-and-back trail initially follows the same path as the Gelib Tree Trail. Its major focus is the incredible canyon hewn by the Bhodla River.
Eagle Trail – 12 km, roughly 6 hours
You need the brochure for this hike, as it encompasses '12 points of interest'. The circular hike travels from the hutted camp into the reserve and then back to Simes cottage. The start is fairly steep but the incredible scenery of the high 'berg is available throughout. The trail is not so much difficult, as long, although there are a couple of steep inclines.
Emadundwini Trail – 11.5 km
This longer circular trail will take you about 6 hours to complete. It heads immediately uphill from the reception gate, crossing the Lotheni River with the Tebetebe suspension bridge, after which it takes you up to just below Sheba's Breasts. Joining the contour path to Giant's Hut continue north-west to meet Taylor's Path junction. The hike promises the cool of a forest roughly half way that is good for bird watching, and there is little chance of getting lost as the path is clearly marked.
Gelib Tree Trail – 5.5 km
This self-guided walk is circular and takes roughly 3 hours. It starts at Settler's Museum and takes one up to the Gelib Tree, a historic tree planted by Captain Charles Eustace that serves as a memorial to soldiers killed in the Abyssinian campaign of World War II. It also forms part of a MTB route, so you may come across the occasional cyclist.
This is one of Lothini's major hikes up the escarpment along the Hlathimbe Pass. It is steep, long and covers some 35 km over two days, out-and-return. The initial climb is 9 km, gaining almost 900 metres in altitude before you reach the contour path that links the K-Masihlenga and Hlathimbe passes. The hike follows the contour path for roughly 3.5 km and then over the Hlathimbe Pass. The hike is for experienced hikers.
This is one of the easiest trails in the reserve – only 2 km - and perfect for families as there are few ascents and the bonus of a swimming hole. It starts at the reception office, heads over the Lotheni river on the Tebetebe suspension bridge, and then follows alongside the river. Find Jacobs Ladder falls further upstream, at the base of which is a pool perfect for swimming. Because Lotheni is infrequently visited, you will probably have the place to yourself, bar the odd fisherman.
Yellowwood Cave trail
Leaves Lotheni Camp and head to Yellowwood cave, a 6.5 km route that will take roughly 4 hours to complete that follows the Lotheni river path past the eMpophomeni Falls. At the junction keep left and keep on the main path. It skirts the edge of a forest alongside the Ka-Mashihlenga tributary before reaching the cave on the right bank of the stream. The cave can serve as an overnight venue for about 8 people. You can also climb the Ka-Mashihienga pass from here.