Bergville, Drakensberg

About Up the Tugela River (gorge) to the Tunnel

Start: Mahai camp site
Finish: Mahai camp site
Duration: 23 km, there-and-back hike, roughly 7 hours
Fitness: moderate, most people can hike this
Our tip: the only difficulty is the hike's length, otherwise it is not strenuous

The two major attractions of the Royal Natal National Park are the Policeman's Helmet (an excellent there-and-back day hike), and the incredible tunnel fashioned by the Tugela River.

From the campsite head up the slopes above the Tugela River. Not only is this hike up the Tugela Gorge one of the most scenic hikes in the park, but the path is obvious and the gradient not difficult.

After roughly 6 kilometres of easy walking along and above the Tugela River the Policeman's Helmet appears up to your right, and a river junction where a stream from Devil's Hoek intersects the river.

From here there is not much left of the gorge, but you will criss cross the river roughly three times. Don't be tempted to turn back now, unless the river is severely in flood, as some of the most incredible scenery lies toward the end of the gorge.

When you reach the mouth of the tunnel here is a chain ladder to the right to help you over. However, if you are brave enough, and the level of the river allows, scramble through to reach the Amphitheatre. The tunnel is roughly 60 metres long, and you are likely to get sodden (a change of clothes is advisable). You do this at your own risk.

Boulder hop up the Tugela from here, stopping every now and again to take in the views, for this is why you have walked up the gorge.

You do need to keep an eye out for building thunderstorms that can bring a deluge of water down the river and delay your return trip.

Need to Know

WhereStart at Mahai Camp Site in the Royal Natal National Park, Drakensberg

WhenDaylight hours.

How muchPrices on request.

OvernightThe closest town is Bergville, in KwaZulu Natal

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