Drakensberg (Dragon) Mountains | WWF

Into the dragon's lair

There is nothing scarier than walking straight into a dragon's mountain den. And there is nothing more challenging than hiking in southern Africa's highest mountain range.
The Drakensberg Mountains (Dragon's Mountain in Afrikaans) rise above 3000m in eastern South Africa. The Zulu call it Ukhahlamba or "the barrier of spears". The massive 200km-long range, with its awe-inspiring cliffs, lush forets and cascading waterfalls, separates KwaZulu-Natal Province from the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Rolling high-altitude grasslands, pristine steep-sided river valleys and rocky gorges contribute to the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also included in the protected area are thousands of rock paintings left behind by the San people, who lived in the Drakensberg area for more than 4,000 years.

Dragon prey

Competing with dragons for food are Drakensberg's main predators, including leopards, black-backed jackals, caracals and servals.

Troops of chacma baboons, porcupines and colonies of rock hyrax are also found throughout the mountain park, as well as over 300 bird species; 32 which are endemic to southern Africa.

Beware the Giant

Located within Drakensberg Park is the Giant's Castle Nature Reserve, which gets its name from the silhouette of the peaks and escarpment that resemble the profile of a sleeping giant.

It is also home to some giant animals like the eland, the world's largest antelope, and the bearded vulture, a huge raptor.

    © WWF / Chris Marais
South Africa's Drakensberg region includes hills with incredible sandstone formations.
© WWF / Chris Marais
    © Martin Harvey / WWF
Bearded vulture, Drakensberg Range, South Africa.
© Martin Harvey / WWF

The Natal Drakensberg Park was designated a Ramsar Site of International Importance in 1997. The high-altitude wetlands found in the park play an important role in supporting numerous endemic and endangered plant and animal species.

Drakensberg Facts & Figures

  • The Drakensberg Mountains spans 200km over 243,000ha.
  • The highest peak is Thabana Ntlenyana at 3482m.
  • The three largest rivers in KwaZulu-Natal - Tugela, Mkhomazi and Mzimkulu - originate in the Drakensberg.
  • The park has between 35,000 and 40,000 works of bushman rock art.
  • In 2000, Drakensberg was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO.
Source: Wikipedia