Mweni Valley, Drakensberg

Beyond the Amphitheatre, lying between Cathedral Peak and the Royal Natal National Park, is a rugged mountainous area not part of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage Site. It belongs instead to the Amangwane people.

It is a wilderness chartered by few; a mountainous expanse with the type of raw beauty evoked only in photographs and graphic accounts of hikes in the hinterland. Hikers, climbers and photographers consider it the wildest part of the country's biggest mountains.

The scenery is unbeatable. Its passes are seldom explored: the Ifidi Pass, Buttress and Abbey, Peak and Pinnacles, Icidi Buttress and Pass, Mbundini Pass, Buttress and Abbey, the Fangs, Rwanqua Mnweni, the Rockeries and Ntonjelana River and Pass are names recounted only by the experienced few.

Mountain passes in the Mnweni valley test the resolve of hikers, not so much in terms of difficulty so much as endurance, as it takes longer to reach them.

The advantages of hiking in the area are many: there are excellent sightings of birds of prey like the Cape vulture, bearded vulture and jackal buzzard; sunrises are sublime; the night skies are epic; and the opportunity to camp wherever you choose, because there are no formal camp sites beyond the option of the odd cave, is novel.

But the area is not only for hikers. Rivers offer swimming, horse riding can be arranged, there are mountain bike trails, homestead visits to the local Amangwane people includes traditional meals and dancing, and a local Amafa rock art custodian can guide those interested in rock art sites in the area.

Visit the Mnweni Tourism Centre for an interpretive display and access to guides familiar with the area. If you are going to walk in the area then hiring a guide is highly recommended – paths are not always clear and a number of tricky passes require navigation.

In the vicinity

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Things to do in the area

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