Golden Gate & The Sani PassAfrica
The Drakensberg Mountains are one of the largest areas of alpine zone in Africa and the South African summer is the perfect time to catch the peak flowering. Over 2200 plant species have been documented here, with a staggering 400 endemics. The sweeping scenery is world-famous, and the birder will find much of interest too: Bearded Vultures soar past at eye level, while Drakensberg Rockjumpers and Ground Woodpeckers hop among the boulders.
In Lesotho the Drakensberg are known as the Malotis, and the vast trans-frontier uKhahlamba-Drakensberg park spans the border with South Africa. The ruggedness of the peaks is attested to in the Zulu and Afrikaans names, which refer to a “barrier of spears” and “dragon’s mountains” respectively, but thankfully there are now good, mostly tarred, roads that allow us to enjoy the alpine flora with only short strolls from the vehicle. This tour explores the flora and natural history of the Drakensberg’s Centres of Endemism, both in South Africa and Lesotho, and covers a range of altitudes, heading up to over 3000m on two days. We end the tour on the coast where we explore the often overlooked Pondoland sandstones with their suite of endemics.
We’ll drive up to lofty heights where South Africa and Lesotho meet below Sentinel Peak. Sweeping panoramic views provide a backdrop to floral wonders such as Crocosmia pearsii, Eucomis bicolor, Dianthus basuticus as well as various Agapanthus, half a dozen Moraea species, three species of Brunsvigia, and no less than seven Kniphofias species. Golden Gate is the best place to see endemic Black Wildebeest and Blesbok. Riley’s Copper and Mountain Pride fly above extensive boggy meadows host at Oxbow in Lesotho where specialities like Disa fragrans and sumptuous clumps of Xerophyta viscosaare found at the base of cliffs. The spectacular Sani Pass is the gem of the southern Drakensberg. Basalt cliffs support tufts of brilliant red Gladiolus flanaganni (and we have found some that you can get very close to), whilst bogs on the plateau have a carpet of pink Rhodohypoxis baurii. Sloggett’s Ice Rats scuttle into cover at any sign of Verreaux’s Eagle. Gurney’s Sugarbird visits the Kniphofias here. A host of endemic Helichrysums, Jamesbrittenia lesutica and spectacular orange-red Gladiolus saundersii adorn the Black Mountains. Three endemic species of “old man” Huttonaea orchids hang from damp rockfaces in mistbelt forests, indeed we’ll see a range of orchids; Corycium, Habenaria, six Satyrium species, Schizochilus zeyheri, Pterygodium magnum, Brachycorythis ovata,four Disperis species, Brownleea, and both Green Devil Orchid and Death Orchid. There are many Disa species, among them robust orange Disa chrysostachya and Disa scullyiwith large pink flowers.
Southern Bald Ibis potter about high veldt where we’ll see the gorgeous Painted Reed Frog. Malachite and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds provide splashes of colour, and White Rhinos a frisson of excitement as we explore Giant’s Castle where grasslands host a suite of orchids and irids, including Gladiolus crassifolius and the Berg Lilies Galtonia candicans and Galtonia regalis. The elegant hanging orange lanterns of Sandersonia aurantiaca or Christmas Bells are a highlight here. Amongst twenty one often bizarre looking members of the Milkweed family are Miraglossum verticillare, Pachycarpus grandifloras, Periglossum angustifolium, and gorgeous Brachystelma australe with is spidery maroon and white blooms. The ancient sandstone gorges of Pondoland along the south coast have magnificent pink spires of Watsonia umtamvunae and here we will find the gorgeous Narina Trogon in orchid-rich forests.
Dates and Prices
9th January - 22nd January 2024 (14 days)
* doesn't apply if you're willing to share and a room-mate can be arranged
Flowers. Also Birds, Mammals, Butterflies, Dragonflies, and Landscapes.
Minimum is 5 and the maximum is 9.
All flights. All accommodation, transport and meals in Southern Africa. Services of your leaders. Please note: items of a personal nature including insurance, visas, and tips, are not included.
Flower and bird checklists are available.
We will stay at a varied mix of charming small hotels. All rooms have private facilities.
Three or four miles a day, usually much less, and always at a relaxed pace, ideally suited to photographers. The terrain is mostly flat, as the best flowers occur in the valleys between the peaks, but we will also explore some mountain paths. The altitude ranges from sea-level to 3250m, although we will mostly be below 2500m.
UK direct outbound flights are from London Heathrow to Johannesburg return from Durban via Johannesburg. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* may be available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Mild, with temperatures ranging from a cool 10°C early in the mornings to highs later in the day of 25-30°C. We can expect occasional rain in the form of thunderstorms, but it should be largely dry and sunny.
Contact us to check if there is availability for the number of places you require. Click on the ‘Book this Tour’ button on this page to be taken to the online booking form or contact us and we will send one to you which you can complete and send back to us. You will receive confirmation of your place, and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information.