KZN’s Sani Pass - natural beauty has no borders
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Sani Pass - undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and picturesque 4x4 mountain passes in Africa - is a must-do on any adventurer’s bucket list.
Nestled in the Southern Drakensberg and rising to an altitude of 2874 metres, Sani Pass (which derives its name from “Rafolatsane”, the son of Paramount Chief Letsie) links KwaZulu-Natal to the Kingdom of Lesotho.
The only road which crosses the summit of the Drakensberg, the pass attracts locals and adventurous travellers from around the world looking to traverse the breathtaking natural landscape this precarious mountain has to offer.
The Sani Pass, popularly known as the “Roof of Africa”, was once used as a pack mule trade route between South Africa and Lesotho – and the odd donkey and horse can still be seen plodding up the steep pass today.
While the journey takes between three and four hours to negotiate the eight kilometres of un-tarred, rocky, gravel road, it offers a great punch with unforgettable views of the Sani Pass and the surrounding mountains.
The route can be tackled by self-drive or via a tour company available in the area. The drive begins fairly easily, but soon becomes harder as the gradient increases. Tourists are advised to have off-road driving experience before attempting to drive the route.
The best time to visit is in winter, when the heavy snowfalls that blanket the escarpment offer much playful fun as well as additional activities such as skiing and snowboarding.
Whatever time of year you visit, you are sure to love the refreshing Maluti beer and scrumptious meals on offer at the “highest pub in Africa”. The Sani Mountain Lodge offers accommodation and a good place to break the journey.
There are many good quality accommodation options near Underberg, which provides a convenient place to spend the night before tackling the pass. These include the Premier Resort Sani Pass, Penwarm Country Lodge, Mkomazana Mountain Cottages and Amazian Mountain River Lodge.
The Sani Pass is a popular mountain-biking destination that can also be accessed with off-road motorbikes and combined with motorcycle tours of the Southern Drakensberg or Lesotho.
A vast variety of floral species can be seen along the green slopes while travelling up the pass – and if you take the time to stop at the designated viewing point about halfway up, you’ll get to soak in the impressive views of the Khomazana Valley.
Visitors crossing the Lesotho border can cosy up in a private homestead, where they can taste freshly baked bread and savour traditional beer brewed by the Basotho.
The Basotho are warm and friendly, and have developed a unique culture of living in villages. Many of them must tread on foot down and back up the Sani Pass to gather the firewood needed to keep warm and prepare meals.
Discover the Southern Drakensberg in KZN by visiting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h_seX_doLs