There are a few restaurants in the nearby area which cater for dinner: The Himeville Arms is within walking distance, or if you would like something more upmarket, Moorcroft Manor is a few kilometres away on the Sani Road. In Underberg, which is 5km away, there is Mike’s Restaurant, The Grind or The Lemon Tree.
Lighter meals and teas are available at Giant’s Cup Café and Crafts (Sani Pass Road), Pucketty Farm (R617 outside Underberg), The Stonehouse Café (Himeville), and The Trendy Bean (at the Spar, Underberg).
There are a range of off-site activities available nearby, including birding, fishing, golf, horse-riding, tubing, rafting and canoeing. Also available in the surrounding area are: hiking, rock art, museums, running and mountain-biking trails, and fresh mountain air! Snow-spotting may be possible during the winter months.
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The Sani Pass, long reputed to be one of the top 10 birding destinations in Southern Africa, has almost 40 endemic species amongst the 200-odd species that inhabit South Africa's highest mountain pass. Birders can hope to spot at least 60 species during an average trip.
Take care to try and spot the following birds: Bush Blackcap, Cape Grassbird, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Rock-Thrush, Gurney's Sugarbird, Ground Woodpecker, Buff-streaked Chat, Red-winged Francolin, Barratt's Warbler, Wailing Cisticola, Drakensberg Rock-jumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Sickle-winged Chat, Large-billed Lark, Southern Bald Ibis, Mountain Pipit, African Rock Pipit, and Grey-winged Francolin. Karoo Prinia, Fairy Flycatcher, Yellow Canary and Grey Tit are regulars, while Black-headed Canary and Layard's Tit-Babbler are occasional.
If sighting birds of prey excites you, then keep your eyes peeled for the following raptors: Bearded Vulture, Cape Vulture, Black Harrier, and Jackal Buzzard. If you spot a Cape Eagle-Owl, consider yourself very blessed indeed.
Underberg has a very active Birding Club, which meets at the Himeville Arms once a month to discuss projects and sightings. Stuart McLean, the chairperson, also hosts a variety of birding tours around Underberg, and especially up the Sani Pass.
Information on the Underberg-Himeville Trout Fishing Club can be found at http://www.uhtfc.co.za/. Apart from club waters, many accommodation venues have their own privately stocked waters.
There are three golf courses to choose from in the area. The Drakensberg Gardens golf course is the only 18-hole course in the district.
Drakensberg Gardens Golf & Spa Resort: This 18-hole par 72 golf course plays 5559m (Club) and 5738m (Championship). The front 9 of the course offers 1 x par 3, 7 x par 4 and 1 x par 5 with a total distance of 2856m (Club) and 2927m (Championship). The back 9 of the course offers 3 x par 3, 3 x par 4, and 3 x par 5 with a total distance of 2703m (Club) and 2811m (Championship).
Underberg Country Club: The popular Underberg Country Club course offers club hire, carts, pull trolleys and caddies. Bar and restaurant facilities are provided to quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger after you have had a hard day on the course.
Sani Pass Hotel: The Sani Pass Hotel's golf course has very recently been overhauled, and is in excellent condition.
The mountains and nature reserves around Underberg, Himeville, and Sani Pass make for great hiking. Remember to sign the hiking register at each venue, and make a note of the Mountain Rescue Service telephone number before setting out. Book online for any Ezemvelo-KZN Wildlife facilities at bookings.kznwildlife.com; day visitor charges are in the region of R40 for adults and R20 for children.
There are five nature reserves in the area that are easily accessible:
Coleford Nature Reserve offers hiking, and bird-watching. Endangered Wattled Crane, White Winged Flufftail, Black Wildebeest, Blesbuck, Oribi and Southern Reedbuck can be spotted here. The turn-off to Coleford is just outside Underberg on the R617; 27km of gravel road lead to the reserve.
The Garden Castle Reserve is at the end of the Drakensberg Gardens road. Garden Castle Nature Reserve is located at the southern edge of the uKahlamba-Drakensberg National Park and includes the beautiful Bushman's Nek valley and a number of sandstone structures and caves filled with San rock art. There are trails of varying levels of difficulty. If you would like to spend the night out hiking, overnight hiking permits are available (adult R60) and bookings can be made for one of the trailside mountain huts (R100/person). It is also possible to cross from here into Lesotho by horse or on foot.
Cobham State Forest is located about 13km from Himeville on the D7 road. The park includes the Mzimkulu Wilderness Area and Mzimkulwana Nature Reserve and has a number of good day and overnight hikes and rock art sites. Overnight hiking permits can be purchased at the camp, and there are 20 grassy campsites beside the river near the main office (adult R75).
Sani Pass is part of the uKahlamba-Drakensberg National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you can climb the 8kms of no-mans-land between the South African and Lesotho border posts. This is not for the beginner hiker as ascending almost 800m over just 8kms is no easy task.
Vergelegen Nature Reserve is the most remote destination in the region. Take the dirt road leading to Lotheni from Himeville for 10kms; the Vergelegen turnoff is well sign-posted. A further 20kms into the mountains, the road ends at the Vergelegen office. If you crave mountainous solitude, then Vergelegen is for you.
What could be more memorable than going on an outride into the Drakensberg on horseback? Perhaps riding into Lesotho for an epic adventure… The area has a few facilities that provide outrides. In addition, Underberg/Himeville is also famous for its polo and three-day-eventing.
Here in the southern Drakensberg we have some spectacular mountain biking trails. Sani Spoors has created and maintains five legend trails that any MTB enthusiast will love.
Underberg is also the starting point of the Sani2C which is held in May over several days, and which ends at Scottburgh on the coast.
Himeville Fort and Museum: This museum in Arbuckle Street has been a treasure to the local residents of Underberg and Himeville for a very long time. Artefacts dating back to the establishment of Himeville have been amassed and displayed here.
Reichenau Mission: It is well worth a visit to this old mission and water-turbine-driven mill near Himeville. Founded by Abbot Franz Pfanner in 1887, the mill formed part of the Roman Catholic Trappist missionary station. The mill is contained in a magnificent three storey sandstone building and is fully functional.
Steps to restore this mission are underway.
Underberg hosts The Sani Stagger in the last quarter of the year – a great chance to get in some practice for the Comrades Marathon. This run takes you either up and/or down the Sani Pass depending on the distance you choose.
Trail runners are welcome to make use of the Sani Spoors trails at The Olde Duck on the Drakensberg Gardens road.
The Sani Pass was originally developed in 1913 and climbs the face of the Drakensberg escarpment to an altitude of 2874m. Once, this pass was no more than a footpath used by Bushmen, but later the Sani Pass became the main trade route for early traders, missionaries, adventurers, and travellers from Natal. Today the Sani pass climbs 900m over 8kms, and is the only access point between the Mokhotlong district in Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal. It thus constitutes a major economic life-line for the Basotho people. Unfortunately, to get to the “Sky Kingdom” you need to have a 4x4 for the last 8kms of the journey. It is a harsh narrow track that meanders upwards next to the Mkomazana River to the “Barriers of Spears” at 2874m.
There is an array of fauna and flora to see along the trip; wild flowers are at their best between March and November, and you may see eland, mountain reedbuck, Vall rhebuck and duiker along the way. If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of the shy bushbuck, or once at the summit you may even see the Sloggett’s ice rat (Otomys sloggetti, a hamster-like rodent). In winter you will be mesmerised by a world of frozen streams, amazing ice fall displays, and blanketed horsemen.
In the rainy summer months the Umzimkulu river transforms into the perfect river for canoeing; the Drak Challenge canoe marathon takes place on this river.
Alternatively, tubing is a more leisurely activity which allows you to see the sights along the river. There are a few operators that rent out tubes and pick you up after you have gone downstream.