Royal Natal National Park
HistoryThe park was established in 1916, but only received its current name in 1947 after the British Royal Family visited there in May that year. Despite its name, it is not a South African National Park and is administered as a provincial park by KwaZulu-Natal Parks rather than SANParks.
Flora and faunaBushbuck and baboons are common. Other animal that may be encountered are Rock Dassies, Otters, Mountain Reedbuck, Duiker and Black-backed Jackal. The only animal that poses any real danger to humans are the baboons and contact with them should be avoided while hiking.
ClimateRainy season is between October and March, mostly as short lived afternoon thundershowers. There is a possibility of snow between April and September. Winters (April to September) is dry and wind is common in late winter.
For a more scenic route, take the exit the N3 at Harrismith and take the N5 towards Bethlehem for about 5 km, then turn left onto the R74 and follow this for about 38 km, then take a right into the R615. Following this route will take one past the Sterkfontein Dam.
Drive with extra care along the R615 as it passes through a number of rural villages where livestock and school children cross the road at will.
Entrance to the park is open 24 hours for residents and from 6AM to 10PM (May-Sep) and 5AM to 7PM (Oct-Mar) for day visitors.
The nearest petrol station and tyre repair shop is in Bergville, 48 km away.
Tugela FallsThe second highest waterfall in the world, with a total drop of 947 m in 5 leaps. The highest single drop is 411 m. Accessible via the Gorge walk.
The AmphitheaterVisible from most of the park, but best seen on the 23-km Gorge walk.
The CascadesA set of waterfalls. Located a short walk (around 2.2 km round trip) from the entrance to Mahai camp, most of this on a wheelchair-accessible concrete pathway with only the last couple of hundred meters on bush trails.
There are a number of walking and hiking trails in the park. A booklet on all the walks is available at the Information Center for R50.
CascadesAbout 2.2 km round trip, mostly on wheelchair-accessible concrete pathway.
Devil's Hoek ValleyStarts next to the Tugela river at the car park near Thendele, 6 km, 2 hours, easy walk. Some Bushman rock art along the way.
Fairy GlenAn easy walk of about 45 minutes to cover the 4-km trail.
Tugela Gorge WalkThe trail starts next to the Tugela river at the car park near Thendele, 23 km return trip, 5 to 6 hours. A relatively easy walk except for the last 2 km that required 3 river easy crossings and some boulder hopping. At the far point of the walk you will see spectacular view of the Amphitheatre, Sentinel and Tugela Falls.
MudslideClosed due to a large rockfall. 11 km, just under 5 hours.
Policeman's Helmet14 km in about 4 hours. Lots of cycads along the way and excellent views of the Amphitheatre
Fly fishingThere are two dams located behind the day visitors picnic area. As per South African law, a fishing license is required to fish anywhere in the country. This can be obtained from the Information Center.
Horse ridingHorse back excursions are available from Rugged Glen camp.
The shop also stocks the usual curio, branded clothing, travel books and maps.
A mini-ATM is located behind the Information counter. One can perform a normal withdraw, but the mini-ATM will provide you with a slip rather than cash. Exchange this slip for cash at the information counter.
phone: +27 33 8451000Situated within the Royal Natal National Park in the Maloti Drakensburg Park. Self catering chalets high in the mountains.There is a 24-hour gate. Pets are not permitted in the reserve. The 6-bed lodge and 6-bed cottages offer the services of a cook. All units are self catering and equipped with crockery, cutlery, linen and towels. There is only Vodacom and Cell C cellular reception. Horse Riding is offered at Rugged Glen. For your own safety, hikers must complete the mountain rescue register before and after their hike. Basic food supplies are available in the curio shop. The nearest towns are Bergville and Harrismith. Bergville is 45 km from the resort. Tel : +27 36 4386411
- Lower Camp: There are 8 2-bed chalets with one bedroom, a lounge incoporated in the bedroom,a bathroom and a kitchen and 5 4-bed chalets with two bedrooms, a separate lounge, a bathroom and a kitchen.
- Upper Camp: There are 6 2-bed chalets with one bedroom, a separate lounge, a bathroom and kitchen and 7 4-bed chalets with two bedrooms, a separate lounge, a bathroom and kitchen.
- Cottage: Two 6-bed cottages accommodate 6 people each in 3 bedrooms, lounge/dining area, a bathroom and fully equipped kitchen.
- Thendele Lodge: Accommodates six people in three en-suite bedrooms, a bathroom, a lounge and dining room and a fully equipped kitchen.
phone: +27 33 8451000address: In the valley below the CascadesStands with and without electrical plug points are available, be sure to specify when booking if you need electricity. Ablution facilities are clean and well maintained. There is a laundry with coin operated washers and dryers, dish washing facilities (including boiling water on tap) as well as Telkom card and coin pay phones. The only problem with the camp is the large number of pine trees that consume huge amounts of water causing some of the stands to be devoid of grass. After the summer rains this is not as big a problem, but if you visit during the winter it is best to avoid electric stands 1 to 14 and 42 to 50; electrical stands 15 to 25 will have a lot more grass cover and less dust. If you do not require electricity, non-electrical stands 3 to 5 are probably the best in the whole camp. There are two security guards on 24 hour duty in the camp, mostly to ensure that wildlife that wander in is promptly escorted out again (Baboons seldom come near the camps as they are shot at with paintball guns to scare them away, but bushbuck often wander in).
Rugged Glenphone: +27 33 8451000Situated in the Maloti Drakensburg Park, However Rugged Glen is siutated just outside the Royal natal National Park. Pets are not permitted in the reserve. Camping is only allowed in the official campsite grounds. Basic food and drinks are available at the Visitors Centre. Portable generators are not permitted. Visitors are urged not to feed the animals. Site allocations will be done on a first come, first served basis, on arrival at the resort. Tel: +27 36 4386303
Weather can change fast in the mountains and mist can often cause visibility to drop to near zero, especially higher up the mountain. Should you be caught in thick mist, stay where you are and wait for it to lift; eventually it will and you can continue your hike safely.
Spioenkop dam, nature reserve and the Second Boer War memorials on the Spioenkop Battlefield is located less than 80km away towards Ladysmith. To reach the battlefield, follow the R74 to Bergville and the R616 from there toward Ladysmith. About 25 km from Bergville, a gravel road will lead off to the right towards Spioenkop. It is well sign-posted and the gravel road is in good condition. Entrance is R20 per person. Keep the entrance ticket as it also covers access to the nature reserve.
The central Drakensberg is about 90-minute drive away and an easy daytrip.