This is regarded as the most famous hike in South Africa not just because it allows you to access the highest escarpment in one day but because the waterfall is the highest in Africa, the Tugela Falls. People of all ages can do this hike, it just depends on their level of fitness. The hike is a 12km return, and we ascend 600m in total. We have made it very “do-able” as a full day hiking experience. One you will never forget!
In fact it’s the second highest in the world, which is why many foreigners have heard of the hike. It is called the Thukela Falls; Thukela means “the startling one” because of its tendency to burst into flood suddenly with no warning! The name reflects how unpredictable the weather is generally in the area. Normally, when you hike from the bottom of the Drakensberg to the top and back it takes you three to four days. This is because there is a massive wall of rock separating the foothills from the summit. So when you do day hikes in the other parts of the berg you are basically wandering around the foothills each day and never reaching the escarpment. We, however, get you to the top and back again in one day. We cheat. We drive with a high clearance vehicle for about two hours over a rough road to 2500 meters and then we hike up to the summit and back again. By doing this extra drive we are able to condense a three-day hike into one day. The hike up is about two and a half hours. We spend an hour on the summit and then two and a half hours hiking back again. This is at a far higher altitude than foothill hikes in other parts of the Berg and the weather more extreme, therefore is one of the hikes in the Drakensberg that requires a guide. The guide shows you how to ascend using the gully. On many days there will be thick mist at the lower altitudes, but often the guide will get you to the point where you break through and end up above the cloud. Water vapour usually burns off during the day but you never know for sure. We can leave with blue skies and return in the rain or leave in a downpour and return in the hot sun. Paths are not marked, clouds are disorientating and lightening is very dangerous. We head across the summit all the way to the waterfall where we have lunch. The view is really incredible as it looks down over a sheer one kilometre cliff face. The Thukela Falls is the second highest in the world and the highest in Africa. Remember that after good rain the waterfall will swell, but generally it is very narrow. This is because it is high, not wide like Victoria Falls, which is only 100 meters, a tenth of Thukela’s height. The hike is about the view, the spectacular rock formations and the flora. It is not about the volume of water. After lunch we head across the escarpment and descend onto the contour using chain ladders. For those of you who are nervous or when the ladders are wet, we use safety ropes that are anchored to the ladders. Then it’s back to the car and back to the Lodge. We leave between eight and half past in the morning and return at around six in the evening. So it’s a full day. The price includes transport there, community levy, entrance fees, guide’s fees, lunch, roping equipment and transport home. The guides are properly certified for high-altitude hikes with level-two first aid training. They carry safety ropes and proper first aid kits against snake bites and other hazards. Because the hike is not physically difficult and because we cheat by driving some of the way, once you have a guide who can lead you through the difficult navigation and has the equipment, the average person is able to do the hike.