THE UNDERBERG IN SOUTH AFRICA
Underberg is a typical old-style South African farming town, with a mix of basic shops, pubs, dust roads and visiting farmers bustling about. Along the Himeville Road, two new malls are an indication of the town’s recent expansion.
Lying in the foothills of the mighty uKhahlamba–Drakensberg, a World Heritage Site, is a typical rural farm town where dusty roads, pristine mountain streams and enormous sandstone backdrops have sculpted the rustic haven that is Underberg.
During Easter, the Splashy Fen Music Festival attracts thousands of visitors to the southern Drakensberg for four days of music, art, crafts, food and drink.
Although relatively small, Underberg is always bustling with vehicles and locals stocking up on groceries and farm supplies. The town features a few grocery stores and general dealers, two small malls, hardware suppliers, a butchery, art and craft stores, a few restaurants, quaint pubs, clothing stores and a petrol station.
Travellers from afar use the town, founded in 1886, and its surrounds as a convenient base from which to explore the Sani Saunter. This is a tourism region demarcated by Loteni in the north and Bushman’s Nek in the south, and includes Underberg’s cosy neighbour, Himeville, 5km down the road.
Thanks to the Mzimkhulu River,the most popular attraction in this part of South Africa is fly-fishing, followed by hiking, with the Underberg–Himeville Trout Fishing Club alone enjoying rights to more than 160km of river and 60 dams.
The 35 300ha Garden Castle State Forest offers lovely scenic walks and numerous rock art sites in sandstone caves typical of the ‘Berg.
Hiking, biking and river tubing opportunities abound, with hikers presented with a mixture of slow, meandering trails and a challenging trek up Rhino Peak to enjoy magnificent views over neighbouring Lesotho.
Despite the mountainous basalt and sandstone terrain, there are 18 holes to be played at the Glengarry Golf Course, the only golf course in the area.
Nature lovers ought to visit the 104ha Himeville Nature Reserve and the Swamp Nature Reserve near Pevensey where endemic wildlife and bird species may be seen. Add to this the trout-fishing allure of the 1159ha Vergelegen Reserve for a well-rounded wildlife option.
One of the most enjoyable means of sightseeing in the Drakensberg is on horseback. Khotso Horse Trails head into the foothills at 9am daily for horseback tours.
WHO TO CONTACT
Underberg Tourism – Tel: +27 (0)86 127 6237
HOW TO GET HERE
Take the N3 from Durban to Johannesburg as far as Howick. Take the Bulwer/Underberg turn (Exit 99). Follow the R617 road. Go through Bulwer and head for Underberg.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Summer days are very hot and winter is cold with snow. Any time between these two extremes is ideal, unless you’re intent on building snowmen and sitting in front of a roaring fire.
TOURS TO DO
A drive up the Sani Pass into Lesotho is a memorable trip unless you have a problem with heights. Remember to take your passport because this entails crossing the South African border.
THINGS TO DO
WHERE TO STAY
Cottages, guesthouses and B&Bs are plentiful in Underberg and Himeville.