Tugela Falls Hike

Join our Epic 2 day guided Tugela Falls hike

The Tugela falls hike is the perfect hike for novice hikers, families, kids and well….just about anyone who has a love for adventure and the great outdoors.

About the Tugela Falls Hike

The Tugela Falls hike is rated as one of the top day hikes in the Drakensberg. And once you have been there, you will understand why. Its is incredibly scenic!!! The reward on the escarpment of the Amphitheatre is a panoramic view of the entire Amphitheatre ( of the most impressive cliff faces on Earth), The Sentinel Peak, The Tugela Falls and a 1200m drop into Kwa Zulu Natal below.  What is so special about the waterfall. It is the second highest in the world.

The route we take on the Tugela Falls Hike?

Our route on the Tugela Falls hike is a circular one via the Gully and down the chainladders. The Gully can be a tad challenging as it involves a bit of scrambling up a few steep sections. Like anything in life, The summit has to be earned hey? But trust us. The views from the top are incredible. You will get up close and personal with the looming Sentinel Peak before we hug the many cracks, cutbacks and gully’s on our way into camp. We camp close to the Tugela Falls. The way down is via the infamous chainladders. These include 2 separate ladders bolted to the cliff face. The first one is 10m. The second one is 22m. They can be a bit daunting if you are scared of heights. But fear not!! We provide a safety rope and harnesses to help ease the mental anguish.

How long is the tour?

The tour starts at 10am on day 1 and finishes at 2pm on Day 2. we spend 2 days and 1 night camping on the mountain. On most of the hikes, we start on a Saturday morning and return down again on the Sunday. The bonus of this? NO NEED TO TAKE LEAVE!!!!

The distance covered on Tugela Falls hike?

The total distance covered on the Tugela Falls hike is 12km. So we do 6km up and 6km down. Perfect for novice hikers and even kids. I took my 10 year old up and he loved it.

Who is this hike suitable  for?

Basically anyone who has a love for hiking, adventure and the great outdoors. The hike is perfect for novice hikers, kids ( 10+), seasoned hikers and those of you looking at experiencing your first overnight hike. of course, there are other epic overnight hikes to the highest mountain in South Africa or Mnweni, but this hike rates up there.

The cost for the overnight hike?

R1,800

What the cost includes

  • Guides
  • Tents
  • Medical Kit
  • Return Transfer from Witsieshoek lodge to the start of the hike at the Sentinel Car Park. The road up requires a 4×4.
  • Breakfast and dinner on the mountain
  • Cooking and eating utensils
  • Hiking Permits

What the cost excludes

  • Transport. Hikers would need to meet us at the Witsieshoek lodge on day 1 of the Tugela fall hike at 10am. If you need transport from Johannesburg, we can make a plan for a =n additional cost.
  • Lunches.
  • Backpacks and sleeping bags. ( we have them available to hire if you need)
  • Community Levy of R40 payable at the entrance.
  • Porters. You would need to carry your own backpack that would include your sleeping bag, sleeping mat, snacks, clothing and water. We will help with the carrying of tents and food. You can hire a porter for R400 a day.

How to make a booking?

Each person in your group would have to complete the online booking form. the link is detailed booking form

When is payment due and how do I pay?

Payment to secure your booking is due by 5 days prior to your tour. Payment can be made into our bank account below. Please use you name as reference:

Bank: Discovery

Account Type: Cheque

Account name: South Africa Adventures

Account no: 10438938099

Where do you have to meet on day 1 of the hike and the time?

You will need to meet us at the parking area at the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. The meeting time is 10am. Sometimes a great idea to book in there the night before if you have the time. Saves an early drive.

The Tugela Falls Hike  distances and daily itinerary

The total distance covered on the hike is about 12km broken up as follows:

Day 1: 

Distance: 6 km

Duration: 3-4 hours

Altitude Gain: 500m

Camp: Tugela Falls

The Tugela Falls hiking trail  begins at the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge We meet hikers there at 10am. There is a 30 minutre drive from the lodge to the start of the hike-the Sentinel Car park. The road is frikken horrendous. But stress not. We have organised a shuttle to take us all up. Start the hike by 11:30am. A relatively easy day today. A few steep sections but nothing that will kill you. We aim to summit the amphitheatre escarpment via a Gully between the Sentinel and the Western Buttress. We should be in camp by 4pm the latest. We will then prepare hot water for tea/coffee and make dinner.

Day 2:

Distance: 6km

Duration: 2-4 hours

Altitude Drop: 600m

Wake up call is at 6am. Breakfast and hot water will be ready from 6am. We have set aside an hour to wonder along the top of the escarpment exploring the many gullies, cutbacks and cliffs. We aim to start the hike back down by 9:30am.  The first challenge will be the 2 chainladders. We will have rope and a harness for you if you feel the need to use them. The route back is relatively straightforward. We should be down by 2pm the latest. Then its the 30 minute drive back to the Witsieshoek lodge. We then have a cry and say goodbye

The Tugela Falls Hike is rated as easy!!

12km over 2 days with a backpack with an altitude gain of about 500m?  EASY PEASY!!! You do not  need to have a good level of fitness. The Amphitheatre hike is perfect for novice hikers and is accessible to most people. Of course, you can hire a porter if you are concerned about your fitness.

Do I get my own tent?

Yes you will. Social distancing protocol. Of course if you are a couple then you will get a tent that you can share. No hanky panky in the blankie.

What about lunch?

Our modus Operandi in the mountains is all about keeping the rhythm and momentum going. We take breaks every 45 minutes for about 10 minutes. That gives you time to fuel upon snacks, energy bars, nuts etc.

What do we suggest for snacks?

You are going to need snacks for basically 4 days. Now don’t go stock up on heavy, bulky stuff. We suggest a mixture of nuts, biltong, energy bars, and dried fruit. And try compartmentalizing the food into small zip lock bags for ease of use and convenience.  You may want to also consider a powdered energy drink or rehydrate solution to help with energy. Just bare in mind you are going to be burning some serious calories. And for all you protein only type, may we suggest you drop that idea for this hike. Try and get snacks that cover carbohydrates ( 60% of your RDA), Fats (20% of your RDA) and protein (30 % of your RDA).

What equipment would I need for the hike?

Ok, so you are going to spending 1 nights in the mountains. So you are going to need to have the correct equipment to survive . Sounds dramatic I know but safety first.

These are the basic things you will need, but please check out the following links for a more detailed description.

  • A 65 to 75 litre backpack ( it must be able to fit your sleeping bag, clothing, snacks, water, sleeping mat).  A 35 LITRE DAYPACK IS NOT SUFFICIENT  (unless you can fit all your stuff in it. And good luck with  that we say)
  • Sleeping bag that can handle 6 Degrees Celcius in the summer months and -3 in the winter months. ( Of course you can sleep in all your fleece jerseys if need be as well. A good sleeping bag liner also adds a few degrees to the sleeping bag rating)
  • Warm fleece and waterproof jacket. ( extra warm fleece or down jacket in the winter months) Never know when the rain comes in the Drakensberg, we always prepare for the worst. Getting wet in the Drakensberg can be potentially dangerous and lead to hypothermia.
  • 1 pair of trekking pants
  • 2 pairs of trekking shirts
  • 3 pair of hiking socks
  • gloves ( in winter)
  • Beanie ( in winter)
  • Walking Poles
  • Headlight
  • Hiking boots or trail shoes
  • Slops ( change into after the hike)
  • Medication
  • Buff/bandana
  • sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • 500g of Powdered water ( in case the rivers are dry)

What should the weight of the backpack be?

The guideline is not more than a third of your body weight. The average weight is about 12kg.

What are the hiking conditions, terrain and difficulty levels like on the hike?

So, mountains are not always easy. There are going to be some challenging sections that are going to need you to dig deep mentally as well as physically. The paths are mostly single track and sometimes hug the edge of the mountain. And yes….there is going to be a few of ‘uphills’.  But stress not. It’s not the mountain you conquer but yourself. We will mentally guide you through the tough sections to help you get to the top. But for the most part, the hike is pretty easy and a moderate level of fitness will see you survive with maybe a few sore leg muscles as a reminder of the awesome Amphitheatre hiking trail you just completed. To give you an idea of the pace, we average between   1.5 km/h and 2km/h This is due to various factors like the gradient, terrain, weather conditions, fatigue, altitude and hiding from the coronavirus.

What if it rains?

So what if it rains you ask? Well then we dish out a big dollop of sympathy and carry on with the hike. Obviously you are going to have to ensure you have all of your bags and yourself waterproofed.

Rainy Seasons are from October to March. The chances of rain and thunderstorms is high. But again…we are dealing with mountains and they have their own set of agendas and love working with Murphy and his band of merry law makers. We will check the weather a few days prior to the trip to see if their is a chance of rain. But if Murphy decides to send a cold front, then we need to be prepared.

How do I go about waterproofing my gear?

Okay so the first thing you will need is a  rain jacket to keep yourself dry.

What we suggest for your gear on the Amphitheatre hike is pretty simple. You will need 3 waterproof bags. (Either thick plastic bags or the more expensive waterproof bags that can seal-you can get both from a reputable hiking or outdoor retail shop). The first bag you use for your clothing. It must be large enough to fit all your clothing. The second bag is for your sleeping bag. You do not want to get this wet!!!!. The third bag is for your sleeping mat.

And over all of this you will need a backpack rain cover for extra protection. And also a few zip lock bags to keep your cell phone and toilet paper dry.

Do I need Gaitors?

If you are asking ‘what are those?’ then probably not. In fact I have never worn them and I have been up there like 250 times. Gaitors are used to keep snow out of your boots. And rain. But I find my hiking pants cover the boots so they keep the rain out. And the possibility of snow is minimal.

Do I need hiking boots or are trail shoes sufficient?

Yeah you can get away with trail shoes. Just bear in mind that if it rains you are going to get wet feet. If you cool with that and promise not to bleat in our poor guides ear about wet feet..then we cool with it.

Water bottles vs bladders

If you are looking for approval on a bladder then you’ve come to the wrong place. I have spent way too much time in the mountains to see the disadvantages of a bladder. They are squishy. They are difficult to pack in your backpack. They leak. The mouth pieces break. And they are not easy to fill with water which is sometimes a freezing trickle from a rock. And you never know how much you have drunk. I prefer 2x 1 litre Nalgene water bottles with a wide mouth- Easy to fill up-Easy to drink from- Versatile.   Easy to clean.

Where do we get water from?

You will need to carry 35 litres of water in your backpack. No? Okay then join us in drinking the pure Drakensberg water. There are streams along the way to hydrate and fill up from. We will advise you on where they are so you never run out.

Do we need water purification tablets?

No. The water in the Drakensberg is pure. No human settlement and no animals to pollute the water. Sometimes you get a few floating things like grass and the likes but nothing that will kill you. And water purification drops are not going to dissolve the grass particles either. We have never had an upset stomach from the water.

What about wees and poohs?

Okay so there are a few rules and procedures when it comes to this wonderful human experience in the mountains. First of all let us star of by telling you that there are no toilets in the mountains. Eish. So you are going to have to find a suitable spot for your business. The modus operandi? Dig a whole and a) burn the toilet paper or b) keep it in a ziplock bag and carry the paper out with you.  We leave the mountain as we found it!!!! No trace that we were ever there. And of course you are going to have to bear with us in terms of where you can go. The mountain is pretty limited in terms of space due to the terrain. And privacy is also a big concern. So we will work out a plan on the mountain in terms of how where and how. All part of the experience right?

How do I wash or keep myself clean?

There are obviously no showers in the mountains. And we can’t fit any in our backpacks . So you are going to have to live with the fact that you are going 3 days without a shower. And there is no bathing in the rivers allowed either!!! Unless you are brave enough to jump in without soap.  We respect our rivers and would like to keep them as pristine as possible. Having said that, there are no rivers really on the hike big enough to swim in. So…..its wetwipes and hand sanitizer to keep you all fresh and lovely smelling I’m afraid. And bear in mind you are going to be sharing a tent with a possible stranger so keep those smelly feet under control.

What are we going to be eating on the hike?

So we are going to be bringing our very own mountain chefess Emma, who has worked out the art of creating tasty and nutritious food in the mountains.

Breakfast: oats with peanut butter, honey and cinnamon.

Dinners: Depending on her mood, Emma will conjure up a really cool meal. We keep things pretty healthy. So no 2 minute noodles. She will create stews with quinoa, couscous, potatoes, onions, vegetables and a secret sauce with either smoked chicken or tuna. Obviously if you are vegetarian there will be a vegetarian version. We have your booking forms with your requirements so stress not. And please be kind to Emma. Cooking in the mountains is not easy. And we don’t want you to get the ‘special’ order

What happens at meal times?

You will be assigned a plate, spoon and cup at the beginning of the hike. It is yours for the duration of the hike. At meal times you present yourself in an orderly fashion please ( no biting, scratching or pushing allowed) and help yourself to Emmas delicious food. Buffet…. but mountain style!!!  After you have finished eating, there will be a bowl of hot water for you to clean your bowl, spoon and cup with. Then of course……put them away safely for the next meal. You don’t want to be eating with your hands from a rock if you misplace them. At the end of the hike we will collect the mountain cutlery from you again.

It’s my first overnight hike ever and I pretty freaked out!!!

That’s super cool. In fact 80% of the people joining the group are also on their first overnight hike. So there will be a lot of people walking the same path as you.  So take it easy and enjoy the experience. Of course there is going to be pre-climb anxiety. That is super normal. We have been taking people up mountains all over the world and it is normal. Let’s face it…you are on an adventure. It’s not meant to be predictable. Adventure is all about stepping out of your comfort zone into a world of uncertainty. And that is what mountains are all about- Uncertainty. We deal with whatever comes our way. Bad weather, cold, smelly socks etc etc.

Please be kind and understanding to our guides.

Sometimes things cannot go according to plan in the mountains. Sometimes there are things that are beyond our control. Sometimes decisions are made or change of hiking plans. We are in the mountains. Please be patient and understanding with our guides. I promise you they will be trying their best (sometimes under some hectic conditions) to make you experience the best ever.

Can I bring alcohol on the hike?

Okay so a debatable topic. We are inclined to say yes but in limited quantities. Not some messed-up skunk, class A, can’t-think-let-a-lone-move stuff. And no glass bottles please. . Decanter the wine or whisky into a plastic bottle- It’s lighter to carry and you can just squish the bottle when empty.

How many people on the hike?

Between 5 and 12 Final numbers not confirmed as yet

Is there cell phone reception:

Yes. On 60% of the hike. It’s not the best signal but you should be able to make a call or wottsup. But please be considerate to fellow hikers. No late night heavy breathing calls to your loved ones.

Music on the mountains?

Absolutely not!! We are here to experience the peace and quiet that the mountains so feely give. And of course there is the courtesy factor as well. The chances of everyone liking your music are pretty low. So we rather go with the ‘no music policy’ to keep the peace.

Considerations

The mountain can be very volatile and unpredictable at times. Strong wind or thunderstorms can virtually come out of nowhere. Please be prepared for uncertainty.

 

About Author

client-photo-1
Darren
Adventure enthusiast, Safari expert & overall a happy guy. I love Trekking and Hiking , especially summiting Kilimanjaro. I have a passion for people, animals and the beauty of nature

Comments

Leave a Reply