Spectacular sightseeing, flower watching and birding in the closest and most accessible place to see a variety of restricted Drakensberg endemic bird species.
- Trip Outline
- Trip Includes
- Trip Excludes
2 to 5 March 2023
The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is landlocked within South Africa; rugged and grand. It is high lying Big Sky country with clear air and lots of silent space. Picturesque tranquil villages lie in the cultivated valleys, rude shepherd`s huts cling to the lofty mountain slopes. All of Lesotho lies above 1000 metres. In the entire world, it is the country with the highest lowest point.
Approximately 340 bird species are believed to have been recorded in Lesotho and it supports 13 globally threatened and near-threatened species. The period between October and February is considered to offer the best birding in the area and the weather is usually good.
The area we visit is by far the closest and most accessible place to see a variety of restricted Drakensberg endemic bird species.
Our trip is focussed on the area between the RSA border at Caledonspoort and the Afri Ski Resort, near Mahlasela.
The area covers a variety of open habitats, including high altitude scree slopes, basalt outcrops, scrub filled gullies, grassy plains with karroid scrub and sub-alpine heath.
We enter Lesotho via Caledonspoort border post near Fouriesburg and travel to the junction at Butha Buthe.
Our trip follows two main routes:
Route 1– From Butha-Buthe to Katse Dam, via Mafika-Lisiu Pass
The tarred Mafika-Lisiu Pass is on the main northern access route from the western lowlands of Lesotho to the Katse Dam, deep in the highlands of the Malototi Mountains. It is characterised by its steep climbs and descents and hairpin bends. Habitats near the summit include Afro-alpine grasslands, rocky cliffs and scree slopes, as well as the spongy wetland catchments of the Bokong and Lepoqua rivers. Ascending the Pass, the road winds in and out of spectacular valleys with fynbos/macchia -type vegetation. From the summit of this spectacular Pass, the road traverses the 1970 ha Bokong Nature Reserve, before dropping steeply to the east to the village of Ha Lejone. At an altitude of more than 3 000 metres, the Reserve is one of the highest in Africa. An impressive visitor centre perches on the edge of the Lepoqua valley and offers spectacular views of the nearby Lepoqua Falls and the valley below. Continuing from the visitor centre the road soon drops steeply down to the village of Ha Lejone , all the way down to the Malibamatso River valley and the upper reaches of the Katse Dam in the distance.
One of the highlights of a visit to Lesotho, the Katse Dam is an engineering spectacle. It is the highest dam in Africa and its unusual shape, twisting like a serpent along the Maloti valleys, means there is a lot of it to explore. The dam is the transfer reservoir for the entire Lesotho Highlands Project. The Katse Botanical Garden is a centre for Alpine flora in Katse village. The gardens were created as a result of plant rescue missions to mitigate the impact of the Katse Dam, particularly spiral aloes. The collection has a focus on traditional Sotho medicinal plants and has a large seed bank. The first night of our trip is spent in cottages owned by Katse Lodge, perfectly positioned atop a ridge, and offering panoramic views of the Katse Dam.
Route 2-From Butha-Buthe to the Afri Ski Resort, near Mahlasela
The road from here into the highlands is one of the most dramatic roads in Lesotho, passing through some particularly striking sandstone cliffs before twisting torturously up a chain of heart-stopping hairpins into the basalt. Some 20km beyond Liphofung, past Motheng Pass (2820m) and a number of stunning ravines, one comes to a string of alpine-style buildings in a narrow valley, New Oxbow Lodge, our home for two nights. The name comes from the shape of a mountain nearby that resembles the bow of an ox, and also the river nearby that flows in an oxbow. Accommodation is in comfortable en suite rooms.
The road to Mokhotlong is often called “the Roof of Africa Route”, crossing a succession of ever-higher passes, peaking at Tlaeeng Pass (3270m), and passing through bleak, sparsely populated but entrancing mountain countryside. The road is tarred all the way to Mokhotlong.
The final night of our trip is spent at Katse Lodge, perfectly positioned atop a ridge offering panoramic views of the well-known Katse Dam.
Bearded Vulture, Cape Vulture, Black Harrier, Southern Bald Ibis, Black Stork, Grey-winged Francolin, Horus Swift, Ground Woodpecker, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Drakensberg Rock-jumper, Mountain Pipit, African Rock Pipit, Grey Tit, Barratt’s Warbler, Layard’s Tit-Babbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Drakensberg Siskin.
This 4-day tour departs from Johannesburg. We travel in an air-conditioned VW Caravelle, 4- wheel drive Microbus.
Date : March 2, 2023
Depart from Johannesburg bright and early.
Travel via Suikerbosrand and the Harrismith roadside routes to Lesotho, arriving at around lunchtime.
Visit Bokong Nature Reserve en route to Katse Dam.
Overnight at Katse Lodge.
Date : March 3, 2023
Katse Dam-New Oxbow Lodge
Early morning birding in vicinity of Katse Dam.
Depart after breakfast for New Oxbow Lodge, via Motheng Pass.
Bird en route and arrive at destination mid-afternoon.
Late afternoon birding and overnight at New Oxbow Lodge.
Date : March 4, 2023
New Oxbow Lodge
Day spent birding, sightseeing and flower watching.
Overnight at New Oxbow Lodge.
Date : March 5, 2023
New Oxbow Lodge-Johannesburg
Early morning birding on Moteng Pass.
Depart after breakfast and head for Golden Gate Highlands National Park, via Harrismith.
Bird in Park until early afternoon, before heading for home.
Transport, all meals and accommodation, guiding and entrance fees.
Alcoholic beverages, gratuities, and items of a personal nature.