Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


Exploring the mountains: South Africa’s hidden gem for nature lovers

The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is the home of endless horizons, overlooking the vast beauty that is South Africa.


Settled in the heart of South Africa, where the Free State meets the soaring Drakensberg Mountains, is a haven for travellers seeking awe-inspiring sights and a deep connection to the earth, as described by tourists visiting the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

Drakensberg range

According to 65-year-old tourist James Harden, “As the morning sun paints the horizon in shades of gold, arriving at the park’s entrance, my heart’s already quickening in anticipation of the wonders that await”.

“The road winds gently upward, leading into a landscape that seems almost otherworldly. Here, the rugged Drakensberg Mountains, often shrouded in mist and mystery, unveil their majestic grandeur,” he said, painting a picture of the scenery.

“The Maluti Mountains, a part of the larger Drakensberg range, dominate the scenery. Their jagged peaks reach skyward like the serrated edge of a giant’s knife,” said Harden.

“I don’t think words can do it justice. It’s not my first time here but I don’t remember a time I’ve been here and was never lost for words.”

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Just a stone’s throw away from Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains and an almost four-hour drive from Johannesburg, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is the home of endless horizons, overlooking the vast beauty that is South Africa.

Indeed words can never do it justice even in the words of South African National Parks’ Kgalalelo Makweaba, who noted the golden aura when the sun sets in between the two mountains that resemble a giant gate.

“That’s where our name comes from,” Makweaba said.

“At certain times of the day, the mountains appear to glow with a golden hue, casting an enchanting spell upon all who behold them. Hence, the park’s name – Golden Gate – is a fitting tribute to this dazzling phenomenon,” she added.

Hiking trails

Makweaba also noted that although the park is not known for the big five, it was home to black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra, which graze in the wild, grassy pastures, while rare bearded vultures circle the skies above the lost pathways of the San hunter-gatherers who once lived in the park’s caves.

“Apart from the amazing scenery, this park offers activities including hiking trails that crisscross the park, abseiling, horse riding and rowing among others, and soon even a zip line for those who want a more adventurous feel,” she said.

“But also apart from the fun stuff we do have really amazing sites, mountains and even common animals.

“But we know for a lot of people who come here, it’s more about the connection to nature than it is just seeing animals.”

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Drakensberg Free State South Africa