Guided butterfly, botanical & birdwatching holidays
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Dates & Prices


Dates: 14 – 28 January 2019

Price: £3,795

Single Room Supplement: £350

Deposit: £400 per person

Price Includes: All meals, accommodation with private facilities, ground transport, services of the guides, holiday report & a donation to a wildlife charity

Not Included: Flights, travel insurance, drinks and any other personal items

Conservation Donation: 10% of profits donated to charity

Leader: Seth Musker (+ second guide for larger groups)

Group Size: Minimum of 5 and a maximum of 15 guests plus 2 leaders.

Grade: Gentle pace. Ideally suited to photography

Holiday Highlights

  • Enjoy a truly relaxed wildlife holiday with minimal travelling and maximum time in the field
  • One of the largest alpine zones in South Africa & we’ll visit to take advantage of peak summer flowering
  • A veritable treasure trove of flowers with over 2000 species and several hundred endemics!
  • Plenty of other wonderful wildlife such as the Drakensberg Rockjumper, Bush Beauty butterfly, White Rhino, Malachite and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds plus lots more!
  • Explore world famous landscapes and locations such as the Sani Pass, Gian’ts Castle and the Golden Gate National Park
  • Relaxed pace suitable for photography & full enjoyment of the area for its scenery and wildlife

Enter the spectacular Drakensberg “Mountains of Dragons” for a treasure trove of alpine flora featuring over 2200 species & many endemics!


New for 2019! Enter the spectacular Drakensberg “Mountains of Dragons” for a treasure trove of alpine flora featuring over 2200 species & many endemics!   

The Drakensberg Mountains feature the largest areas of alpine zone in Africa, with world-famous scenery such as the Sani Pass and Golden Gate National Park. It is a sublime mix of rugged peaks, scarps, pinnacles, forest, waterfalls and rivers. Because of its range of plant life and the richest collection of San rock paintings in Africa, it has been declared a World Heritage Site. And it isn’t just great for flowers, there is plenty of other wildlife interest, including Bearded Vultures,  Drakensberg Rock-jumpers and the stunning Bush Beauty butterfly!

The spectacular and ancient uKhahlamba-Drakensberg mountain range is Southern Africa’s highest range, peaking at 3,475 metres and stretching for more than 1,000km from northeast to southwest across the landscape.

In Zulu the range is known as uKhahlamba, meaning ‘barrier of spears’, which does justice to its dramatic basalt buttresses. Early settlers called it the Drakensberge, because they believed it resembled a dragon’s back.

Geologically the mountain comprises a sandstone layer covered by a 1,400-metre-thick basalt layer. This make-up has created hundreds of caves and overhangs where the ancient San people, who roamed freely in the region some 4, 000 years ago, have left their mark in the form of more than 30,000 paintings in an estimated 600 caves.

Accommodation: The standard of accommodation in this area has increased dramatically over the last few years. Witiseshoek Mountain Lodge has been completely rebuilt at a very high standard, and Sani Pass has an upgraded Sani Mountain Lodge. The Golden Gate Hotel is also excellent. At the bottom of Sani Pass our accommodation in Underberg is in very comfortably country bed & breakfast. Giants Castle has excellent and comfortable “rondawel” accommodation set on a ridge above a river.

Weather: It is mid-summer in the Drakensberg and a wide range of temperatures can be expected. It can be hot at lower altitudes (up to 30C), but most of our time will be at medium to high altitudes where it will be milder and often cold in the evenings. At higher altitudes, it is often warm in the direct sun but otherwise cool if there is a breeze. We can expect some rain, most of which falls in very dramatic late afternoon and night thunderstorms.

Passport requirements: Please ensure you have at least 2 – 3 blank pages in your passport as you will be denied entry to South Africa unless you have 1 blank page, and you need space for the visit to Lesotho.

UK passport holders do not need a visa to enter South Africa or Lesotho but if you are traveling on the passport of another country then please check the requirements

Health and fitness: The highest altitude we will reach on this tour is 3250m above seal level. You will need to be reasonably fit to derive maximum enjoyment from this tour. However, much of the flora can be found close to the roadsides and if you are comfortable to sometimes remain at the vehicles or lodgings while we do some of the longer walks then that should be possible.

This promises to be a fantastic and very popular tour – we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment!


Day 1: Leave London

Day 2: Early morning arrival at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, followed by a one-hour flight to Durban on the east coast. Drive to Underberg at the base of the Drakensberg mountains. Night in a guest house in Underberg for one night.

Days 3-4: We’ll spend the next 2 days fully exploring the Sani Pass area, both higher and lower areas. On the first day, we’ll slowly ascend the pass by four-wheel-drive, stopping along the way at specific spots walk along the roadside to look for the special flora, and we’ll have a picnic lunch along the pass. Sani Pass is world famous for its flora and the ascent gives us a chance to appreciate how the species change with altitude. The list of special plants we might see today is very long, and some example should include Sandersonia aurantica along streams at the bottom of the pass, Dierama dracomontana on grassy hillslopes, Protea dracomontana and the dramatic Gladiolus flanaganii growing out of sheer basalt cliffs near the top of the pass.  Drakensberg Rock-jumpers and Drakensberg Siskins are bird specials of the upper reaches.

We’ll then spend a night in Lesotho at the newly upgraded Sani Mountain Lodge, perched on the lip of the escarpments with sweeping views across the Drakensberg and Rhodohypoxis baurii on the rock sheets in front of the rooms. Here we should also see Sloggett’s Ice Rat, and Malachite Sunbird. We’ll also explore the harsh alpine plateau inland into Lesotho, searching for alpine Helichrysum species and more along the road to Black Mountain. Finally, we’ll head slowly down the pass, spending more time searching for species that we might have missed on the way up. Night back in Underberg.

Day 5: We’ll spend the whole day exploring from our base in Underberg. The idea on this day is to target medium-altitude species, and we’ll hope to access a marshy area where the pink orchid Satyrium hallacki grows in profusion and we should also see the large Disa cooperi. Grey-crowned Crane is a special bird of the area. Large stands of Crocosmia paniculata are found along the roadsides. Night in Underberg again.

Day 6: Today we’ll head north along the scenic drive to Giant’s Castle in the central Drakensberg. We’ll make a number of stops along the way, such as to admire Hesperantha coccinea flowering along the many small streams, and the giant candelabra flower Brunsvigia undulata. Settle into Giant’s Castle for two nights.

Day 7: The main focus of the morning will be the walk to the famous Bushman paintings cave, birding and botanising along the way. The walk is reasonably easy but there are some rocky bits as you approach the cave so a walking stick is recommended if you sometimes need one. The open grasslands can be full of flowers, including Moraea brevistyla. The forest near the mouth of the cave has Crocosmia aurea along the edges and Streptocarpus gardenii on the giant moss-covered boulders. Silver Protea roupelliae line the paths in places, often with Gurney’s Sugarbirds and Malachite Sunbirds. It’s also a good place to see Eland, the largest antelope in the world. The spectacular butterfly, Bush Beauty, should be flying here.

Day 8: Today we’ll walk the riverside trail, looking for specials such as Gomphostigma virgatum “River Stars”, before heading north on the long journey to Golden Gate National Park in the far northern Drakensberg. Night at Golden Gate Hotel.

Day 9: We’ll explore the Golden Gate National Park, famous for its scenic sandstone buttresses and herds of plains game such as Black Wildebeest, as well as it mid-altitude flora that includes Agapanthus campanulatus. If we’re lucky, we might find the Golden Gate Widow (butterfly), endemic to a few hilltops in the area. It is also a good place to see Bearded Vulture and Black-backed Jackal.

Day 10 – 12: After a final morning at Golden Gate, we’ll head up towards the Sentinel and settle in to the upgraded Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge with sweeping views over the Amphitheatre of the Drakensberg, and begin our exploration of the area. We will have three more days to explore the famous Sentinel / Witsieshoek area, which spans the upper reaches of Royal Natal Park, and can be as spectacular as Sani Pass. The area around the lodge itself can be excellent, with an abundance of Moraea and Eucomis. We’ll adapt our plans depending on the weather and hiking abilities. We’ll explore the lower reaches of the Sentinel where Eucomis bicolor, Kniphofia thodei and Dianthus basuticus put on a great display, amongst a huge diversity of alpines. We can also expect about 15 species of orchids. The flora is very rich here! On another day, we’ll explore the trails to lower altitudes in the upper reaches of Royal Natal. Mountain Beauty butterflies are common here.

Day 13: Today we may do an optional difficult hike towards the Chain Ladders, hoping to see some of the high altitude specials such as Nerine bowdeni which will just have started to flower.

Day 14: On our final day, after some last botanising, we’ll do the half-day drive northwards across the grassy highveld plateau to eventually reach Johannesburg International airport, with lunch en route.

Day 15: Arrive back in London

New holiday – testimonials will appear next year

New holiday – report will follow later

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Telephone from inside UK: 01473 254658 (Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm)

Telephone from outside UK: 0044 1473 254658 (Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm)