Cpt - Drakensberg Trip - Mahai Camp Site, Royal Natal

The whole reason for the end of year trip was to come to the Mahai camp site in Royal Natal on the slopes of the Drakensberg mountains. Lauren's folks have come here between Christmas and News Year for many years now. This would be my 3rd time. I actually met Lauren folks for the first time at Mahai and I asked Laurens dad for his blessing to marry Lauren here, so it has a special place in my heart. 

We finally got to the got to the camp site, in what can only be described as a full blown thunderstorm. The last 2 hours of the drive was in non-stop lighting and thunder.

Pretty fucking scary actually. 

We arrived just as there was a break in weather and I though we would have an hour or two to put the tent and get organise. I was wrong, very wrong. Within 30mins of us finding our 3rd choice camp site, the heavens opened. (Our actual site was taken by a Joburg family. The site they booked was taken by somebody else and so on. Anyway, we moved on but it really is disappointing to book a specific site, having been there before, only to arrive and be told to basically get fucked. Not ideal.)

Back to the rain, which started lightly but within a minute or so was pouring down. Half our stuff was out already and we had to setup in the rain. (Lauren had a melt down, I was upset and stress and tired from driving 8hrs, but we survived) Eventually it stopped and we got the rest of the tent up, but to be honest, it was a bit of a shit show. It rained all night, water was running through our awning and everything was flooded. Our tent leaked everywhere because we hadn't had a chance to water proof it properly (long story, which includes a drought in Cape Town)

If I think back now that first night, and although it was crazy, I did have a lot of fun. I dug trenches in the pouring rain like I was 8 years old again. Playing in the rain and mud made me feel like a kid again and I wouldn't change a thing. In fact I cant wait to do that again, maybe next time with my own kid. 

The first couple of days it rained on and off but it eventually cleared and we had the time of our life. The place is so relaxing and time seemed to slow down. . 

It get's very hot at Mahaai so you end up taking frequent dips in the river every hour or so in-between sitting in the shade reading. We didn't go on a hike this year, but there are many trails up in to the drakensberg and if you like hiking, this would be heaven. 

The main reason we love it here so much is that it's bird heaven and the early morning walks ticking off a few new species on the list, are some of our favourite times. You know you are a proper bird nerd when you take an hour detour just to try find a bird that you can here, but not see. That dam Klaas's Cuckoo took us all over the place and once I did find him, I couldn't get a proper photo. Super bleak, but part of the fun. 

All in all, the Mahai part of the trip was everything I hoped it would be. I have never been so relaxed by the time we left. Let me say that if you have a kids, and want to go camping to a really special place, then Mahai is your place. The rolling green lawns, the river and pools, the beautiful cascading rapids upriver and the wildlife, all surrounded by the majestic Drakensberg Mountain peaks, offer a place you will not easily forget. I wish I could say it's well run and efficint, but if you can get over that, then this place is a must for any camper. 


Visual Diary


Fact Sheet:

Kilometer Traveled (total): 561

Map: https://goo.gl/maps/GwMeyFH2mF72

Accommodation: Mahai Camp Site, Royal Natal

New birds ticked off the list: 11

  • Cape Grassbird
  • Forest Canary
  • African Wood Owl
  • Black Cuckoo
  • African Dusky Flycatcher
  • Klaas's Cuckoo
  • Pin-tailed Whydah
  • Southern Grey-headed Sparrow
  • White-browed Sparrow-Weaver
  • Western Barn Owl
  • Southern Black Flycatcher
Gareth