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AMPHITHEATRE SLACKPACKING TRAIL

3 Day/ 3 Night Slackpacking Hike - Northern Drakensberg

Northern Drakensberg's Amphitheatre is famed for its awe-inspiring views and is certainly one of the most dramatically imposing features of the Ukhahlamba World Heritage Site. A mighty wall of basalt which rises over 1000 metres from the Tugela Valley to the Lesotho plateau nearly 3000 metres above sea level, the Amphitheatre gains much of its aesthetic appeal from its near perfect symmetry - extending as a sheer wall of rock some 5 kilometres in length from the Eastern Buttress to the Sentinel Peak in the west - altogether an area of majestic and incomparable beauty.

The Tugela Falls, the world's second tallest falls (and the highest in Africa), plunges 850m over the basalt face of the Amphitheatre, down to Royal Natal National Park below. The highest point on the escarpment is the Mont-Aux-Sources at 3283m.

This Amphitheatre Slackpacking Trail has been designed to enable walkers of average fitness to reach the summit and be rewarded by these never-to-be-forgotten views: a feat normally only undertaken by very fit and experienced hikers who would camp overnight in either tents or caves.

HIKE - AT A GLANCE


Trip Duration Standard Package: 3 Days/ 3 Nights 
* Extra days & customised trails offered on request
Daily Distances Day 1:15km/ 5.5-6.5hr (726m Elevation Gain)
Day 2:16km  / 6-7hr (572m Elevation Gain)
Day 3:11km  / 4-5hrs (-813m Elevation Descent)  
Trail Grading  
Physical Fitness Grade 3.5 – Steep ascent on Day’s 1 & 2 but not with a heavy backpack
Technicality Grade 3 – head for heights on Day 2 recommended (chain-ladder section & being at the top of the escarpment) ** Day 2 is an optional day & there is a gully alternative to the chain-ladders.
Trail Terrain Trail starts at an altitude of 1500m going up through grasslands & protea stands to an altitude of 2286m (Witsieshoek) and 3150m on the top of Beacon Buttress, escarpment - watershed of the Orange & Tugela Rivers.
Accommodation 1 Night at Cavern Berg Hotel - Northern Drakensberg Valley
2 Nights at Witsies Mountain Lodge
Logistic Support This is a fully-catered trail, sleeping in comfortable lodges with bedding provided – you need only bring your clothes.
* Guide for first 2 days, self-guided on 3rd day (easy descent), but guide can also be arranged for 3rd day.
* Optional: Porter-supported option
Tour Highlights Protea banks & sandstone caves, panoramic views from Broome Hill & Basotho Gate, vulture restaurant at Witsieshoek, the enormity of the Sentinel massif, zig-zag path past the Witches, climbing the chain-ladders, being atop the World’s  2nd highest waterfall... and unsurpassed views from the ‘Roof of Africa’. 
Other Activities Birding, Flyfishing, Pony-trekking
Fauna & Flora Drakensberg Montane Grassland, Yellowood forests and Protea stands. Baboons, Eland, Mountain Reedbuck, Grey Rhebok & endemic birds such as the Drakensberg Rockjumper & Siskin.
Climate Summer (Nov -May) is wet and warm, with most rain during Oct -Mar. Daily temps can climb to 25 - 30 deg C & rain falls mainly as afternoon thunderstorms. Winter (June to Oct) consists of mainly dry, sunny, clear, crisp days with daytime temps avg 15-20 deg C & night-time temps dropping below zero. Snow and ice is more common, but only remains for any length of time on the highest ground.
Seasonality & Best Time Year

All year round. In Summer it is wise to make the most of the mornings, and presume afternoons will be wet. Whilst days are shorter in winter because the weather is more stable, the whole day can usually be used for hiking. Spring & summer are the best months for wild flowers.

Availability: Preferred to be outside of peak holiday & long weekends
Group Size Minimum of 2 persons - no maximum (will appoint more guides on larger groups. Maximum - 12 pax per guide) 
Price / PP Price dependent on group size, but based on a group of 6 persons: From R3,300 or R4,600/pp dependent on accom & catering options selected.
Price Includes - OPT A Fully Catered
  • 3 Nights Accommodation (1 Night Cavern Berg Hotel, 2 nights Witsies Lodge)
  • All meals - 3 dinners, 3 packed lunches, 3 breakfasts
  • Local Hiking Guide for 2 days
  • Hiking Permit for Sentinel Day
  • Transfer to Sentinel Car Park & return
  • Pick-up from Royal Natal - transfer back to Vehicles
Optional: Porters available at R275-R340/porter/day - for Day 1 & 3.


Trail Description
By spending 3 days and 3 nights on the route, staying at conveniently located hotels/lodges along the way and accompanied by an experienced trail guide, it is possible for anyone who is reasonably fit and unafraid of heights, to stand on "top of the world" and experience the same sense of accomplishment as the hardened hiker. The hike has been planned so that you can walk at a comfortable pace, not encumbered by a heavy pack. At the end of the day you will have the chance to relax at your lodgings where a soak in the tub, delicious food and a comfy bed will certainly beat tinned bully beef and a thermorest!

On this trail, you'll do 43 kilometres over 3 days of hiking with an altitude gain of 1300m, so it is not's a hike for the faint-hearted. However, if you pace yourself with plenty of re-fuel stops enroute, the views along the way will be worth every drop of sweat!
Amphitheatre Range from Sentinel to Eastern Buttress - Northern Drakensberg - viewed from the Tugela River
The amphitheatre with devils tooth in the background