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OOne of the best things about hiking in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg mountains is being able to plunge a hot, tired body into a clear, cold rock pool to cool off.
Although rock pools of varying shapes and sizes abound in this World Heritage Site, the Ploughman’s Kop rock pools at Gudu Falls rate among the best.
Ploughman's Kop is a mountain that runs along the left arm of the Amphitheatre, where a variety of day hikes lead you up, down and around the mountain and provide access to a number of rock pools.
For the best swimming we recommend the Gudu Falls hike and the Crack and Mudslide hike, each of which can be completed in under 3 hours, allowing sufficient time for a good wallow in the water before heading home.
The slender Gudu Falls slide down the mountainside into a refreshing pool that’s a perfect spot for picnicking and whiling away the day.
The Crack and Mudslide is a slightly longer hike, which affords those who make the effort a wonderful view of the Amphitheatre from the top of the mountain. The Ploughman's Kop rock pools are situated at the top of the Gudu Falls.
These 'jacuzzi-style' pools lie in a shallow cutaway connected by slippery ‘bum slides’.
The Royal Natal National Park encompasses the whole of the Amphitheatre and a hike to see the Ploughman’s Kop rock pools might tempt you to try a hike up the Thukela Gorge to the Thukela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world. No trip would be complete without a hike to the top of the Amphitheatre, which may be accessed by chain ladder from the head of the gorge.
Try other hiking trails by consulting a hiking guide on sale at the visitor centre at Tendele camp office and at the main entrance gate. The brochure includes a map and detailed hiking trails.
Trout fishing at Royal Natal is available in a dam in the park and in the Mahai and Thukela rivers, and picnicking and swimming in the clear mountain streams are popular pastimes.
Why wait? Grab your swimming costume and a good pair of walking shoes and indulge yourself in the wonder that is the ‘Berg.
Travel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Ezemvelo-KZN Wildlife Reservations
Tel: +27 (0) 33 845 1000
The Royal Natal National Park
Tel: +27 (0)36 438 6412
How to get here
From the north, turn off just south of Ladysmith and follow the Bergville road for 55km. The road from Bergville is clearly signposted, and the park is 46km further along the Bergville/Harrismith road.
From the south, turn off the main national road (N3) at the Winterton/Berg Resorts turn-off, and pass through Winterton and Bergville. Turn left at the Drakensberg North signboard. It is approximately 16km from there to the Royal Natal National Park entrance gate. Both these routes are tarred.
Best time to visit
Summer is best if you intend to swim. Winter days are balmy, but snowfalls are common, making this time of year more risky for hikers.
Things to do
Hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, horse riding and loads of activities in the nearby Natal Midlands.
What to pack
Walking shoes, bathing costumes, sunscreen, and above all, a good camera.
Where to stay
There are self-catering cottages in the park and B&Bs in small towns en route.
What to eat
For a day's outing pack your own food and always include plenty of fresh water.