The Drakensberg escarpment starts in the south of the Eastern Cape Province and stratches to Tzaneen in Limpopo Province, where it includes the Wolkberg Mountains and Iron Crown Mountain. It veers west again and at Mokopane it is known as the Strydpoort Mountains.
The 300-kilometre section of mountain range bordering KwaZulu-Natal and the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho was named ‘uKhahlamba, meaning “Barrier of Spears” by the Zulu people. The Voortrekkers called them the Drakensberge or ‘Dragon Mountains’.
The Berg is divided into Bergville and the Northern Drakensberg, Winterton and the Central Drakensberg and Underberg and the Southern Drakensberg and then East Griqualand and uMzimkhulu.
Not only does this World Heritage Site protect a stunning natural mountain wilderness area, it also protects an amazing cultural legacy of ancient rock art in Africa painted by Southern Africa’s earliest inhabitants, the San or Bushmen.
Caves are frequent in the more easily eroded sandstone, and many have rock paintings by the Bushmen. The Drakensberg contains thousands of works of Bushman art and is the largest collection of such work in the world.
The high treeless peaks of the Drakensberg (from 2,500 upwards) have been described by the World Wildlife Fund as the Drakensberg alti-montane grasslands and woodlands ecoregion. These steep slopes are the most southerly high mountains in Africa, and being further from the equator provide cooler habitats at lower elevations than most mountain ranges on the continent.
The high rainfall generates many mountain streams and rivers, including the sources of the Orange River, southern Africa’s longest, and the Tugela River. These mountains also have the world’s second-highest waterfall, the Tugela Falls, which has a total drop of 947 m.
Meanwhile, the grassy lower slopes (from 1,800 to 2,500 m) of the Drakensberg in Swaziland, South Africa and Lesotho constitute the Drakensberg Montane Grassland, Woodland, and Forest.