The highest mountain range in Southern Africa, the “Dragon Mountains” or the “Barrier of Spears,” attracts holiday-makers from around the world. The range reaches their highest peaks along the border with Lesotho. The spectacular natural landscape also has many rock shelters, containing the largest and most strong group of San/Bushmen paintings (more than 6000 sites and featuring 22 000 paintings) in Africa, south of the Sahara. These were created by the San people over a period of at least 4000 yrs.
The first inhabitants were the Bushmen or San people. They were nomadic and migrated between the high Berg in summer and the lower valleys in winter, following the natural migration of the game which they hunted. Many African splinter groups lived in this Southern Drakensberg district from the middle of the 1800’s onwards. Today they all consider themselves as Zulus. It is possible to get a taste of Zulu culture with right here in the Southern Drakensberg. White settlers arrived in the district in the 1880’s.
The mountains are rich in plant life, including a large number of species listed in the Red Data Book of threatened plants, with 119 species listed as globally endangered. The Drakensberg area is home to 299 recorded bird species. There is one bird that is endemic to the high peaks, the mountain pipit while another six are found mainly here: Bush Blackcap, Buff-streaked chat, Rudd’s Lark, Drakensberg Rockjumper, yellow-breasted pipit and Drakensberg Siskin. The endangered Cape vulture and lesser kestrel are two of the birds of prey that hunt in the mountains. Mammals include klipspringer, eland and mountain reedbuck. Other endemic species include three frogs found in the mountain streams, Drakensberg river frog, Phofung river frog and Maluti river frog. Fish found in the many rivers and streams including the Maluti redfin ), which was thought to be extinct has been discovered in the Senqunyane River in Lesotho.
The mountain range is an escarpment separating a high interior plateau from the coastal lowlands of Natal Escarpment reaches its greatest elevation in this region – 2,000 to 3,000 meters (6,600 to 9,800 feet) and is the source of many streams, rivers, and waterfalls which ultimately flow out into the sea.
The Drakensberg escarpment stretches for over 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from the Eastern Cape Province in the South, then successively forms, in order from south to north, the border between Lesotho and the Eastern Cape and the border between Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal Province. After that, it constitutes the border between KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State, and next as the border between KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga Province. It winds north, through Mpumalanga, where it includes features such as the Blyde River Canyon, Three Rondavels, and God’s Window. It moves north again above Tzaneen in Limpopo Province, where it includes the Wolkberg Mountains and Iron Crown Mountain, at 2,200 m (7,200 ft) above sea level, the Wolkberg being the highest mountain range in Limpopo. It veers west again and at Mokopane it is known as the Strydpoort Mountains.