Protecting natural and cultural heritage
The Drakensberg is the highest region in southern Africa, with altitudes ranging from 1 300 to over 3 400m above sea level. The area contains the largest and most important high altitude protected area on the subcontinent; it is also one of the largest continuous unmodified areas of land in the region.
The site has exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks, and golden sandstone ramparts as well as visually spectacular sculptured arches, caves, cliffs, pillars and rock pools. The site’s diversity of habitats protects a high level of endemic and globally important plants.
The high-altitude streams, oxbow lakes and wetlands are tremendously important in terms of their indigenous flora and fauna and the area is an important watershed. The region has a high mean annual rainfall ranging from 800mm at lower altitudes to over 2 000mm near the escarpment. Most (80%) of the rain falls in summer, while snowfalls occur in winter. This also makes the area a most important water catchment area with two of the largest civil engineering projects in southern Africa, the Tugela-Vaal Scheme and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, carrying water for the people of Lesotho and South Africa. In addition, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is also a Ramsar site.
The mountains host the largest and most concentrated group of rock paintings in Africa south of the Sahara. There are some 600 known sites containing between 35 – 40 000 individual images, which were painted by the San people over a period of at least 4 000 years.
The area is home to bushbuck, eland, blue duiker, reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, grey rhebok, klipspringer and oribi. In addition, blesbok, red hartebeest and black wildebeest have been re-introduced to some areas. Other larger mammals include baboons, black backed jackal, aardwolf and serval.