Underberg is a logical starting point for exploring the southern Drakensberg. It’s just 30km away from the mountains. Set on the banks of the Umzimkhulu River, the town was established just before the beginning of the 20th century after pioneering settlers established farms in 1886.
These days it serves the same purpose: supporting the district’s farmers. Tourists visit the area for the fishing, hiking and exquisite scenery, especially when snow has fallen in winter.
Underberg is nestled snugly into the base of the Hlokoma mountain (‘the place of echoes’). This position explains the little town’s name – it is literally ‘under the mountain’. There are definitely far more mountains than just this one, however. An undulating drive around Underberg takes one though grasslands and fertile agricultural land speckled with cattle.
The chief attractions of the area are the various peaks and reserves of the Drakensberg mountains, which are visible from the town.
Coleford Nature Reserve is a 1 272ha reserve surrounding the town of the same name. It’s a short drive south of Underberg. This reserve is ideal for walkers and picnickers, while fishing for rainbow trout is also popular and rewarding. Eland, blesbok, wildebeest and red hartebeest all graze in the grasslands.
To the west of Underberg, in the heart of the Drakensberg, is the Garden Castle Nature Reserve. This includes some of the wilder and less developed parks of the ‘Berg.
Rhino Peak reaches up to 3 056m, and is a challenging but beautiful hike for the fitter hiker. There are a few less extreme walks too.
Look out for
The Bell’s Ultimate Fly-Fishing Challenge is an annual fly-fishing event that gives a limited number of anglers the opportunity to fish the very best of the area’s trout waters.
Bushman’s Nek is the southern point of the KwaZulu-Natal section of the Drakensberg. Other than being the start or finish point of the Giant’s Cup Hiking Trail, this area holds some excellent examples of Bushman rock art. Guides are available to take visitors to these sites.
Sehlaba-Thebe National Park is a 6 500ha conservation area just inside the Lesotho border. The adventurous can hike to the park via the Bushman’s Nek Pass, or organise a pony to do the walking for them.
Splashy Fen is one of the country’s best-known music festivals, held on a farm just outside Underberg each year. Started in 1990, it is reputed to be the oldest festival of its kind in the country. Top musical acts perform to a crowd that includes families and party animals, and everyone enjoys themselves. It is usually held over the Easter weekend.
Horse trails run from Underberg into the surrounding mountains. These are tailor-made for tourists. They can include mountain swims, a picnic lunch and river crossings.