GPS co-ordinates: 29° 31′ 30.32”E 29° 26′ 59.55” S
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has a number of smaller resorts in some extremely beautiful corners of the province. These are the hidden gems of our accommodation system, for although they are not so-called “mainstream resorts” these smaller resorts each have their own unique charm and attractions. Places such as Lotheni, Kamberg and Injisuthi are all very reasonably priced and are every bit as comfortable and scenic as their larger cousins. We will be profiling one of these lesser known gems each month, and are starting off with Lotheni in the southern section of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site, and which takes its name from the Lotheni River, which runs through it.
There are two ways to reach Lotheni – one is from the north via the Nottingham Road – Himeville route over the rather notorious Lotheni Ridge. About 62 km from Nottingham Road, turn right at the Lotheni Sotore. The Lotheni entrance gate is a further 10km from this store. This a very scenic, gravelled road that runs past the entrance to the Mkhomazi section of the Park and although is perfectly passable by most two-wheel drive vehicles, can become tricky in bad weather. We recommend high clearance vehicles, however, as some sections of the road are rough. Certainly this route is to be avoided if there is snow falling in the area during winter as the ridge is often quickly snowed up. The other route is via Himeville – from the southern end of the Himeville – Nottingham Road route, and which runs past the entrance to the Vergelegen section of the Park. About 45 km from Himeville turn left at Lotheni Store. By the way, Mkhomazi and Vergelegen can be used as access points by hikers going up into the mountains. There are no camping facilities at either place.
Lotheni has 12 self-contained chalets, two six-bed cottages and Simes Cottage, an old farm-house that can accommodate 10 people in four bedrooms. The chalets and cottages are fully equipped with gas stove, fridge, crockery and cutlery, bedding etc. Visitors do their own cooking. Simes Cottage, on the other hand, is more rustic, and visitors need bring their own towels, sheets and pillow cases. The Cottage is supplied with gas for the water-heater and for cooking. Its big plus is that it is situated beside a trout dam that is reserved exclusively for the use of visitors staying at Simes Cottage.
Lotheni also has fine campground situated about two kilometres further into the Park from the Resort. It is comprised of 14 campsites served by an ablution block providing hot and cold water.
What to do: At Lotheni, like so many Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife protected areas and resorts, one is stuck for choice on what to do!
History: First on the list is a visit to the Settler’s Museum that houses a collection of old implements and utensils in the old Root family homestead. An interesting point is that two generations of Roots, descendants of the original settlers, lived and worked in Lotheni in the days of the old Natal Parks Board. Enquire at Reception about opening times.
The Gelib Tree Trail is unique in that it provides an interesting insight into events in north Africa during the Second World War, and that involved South African troops. The Gelib Tree itself was grown from the seeds of a tree found at the site of the Gelib incident by a South African soldier.
Trout fishing: Lotheni is also a trout fisherman’s destination. Visitors can hire basic fly-fishing equipment from Reception. As already mentioned , visitors staying at the rustic Simes Cottage have the exclusive use of quite a large dam kept stocked with trout.
Hiking: There are several lovely, scenic hikes to choose from. Enquire at reception about the Emadundwini Trail, as well as the Eagle Falls, Canyon and Jacob’s Ladder Trails. Bird watching and game spotting go hand in hand with a hike anywhere in Lotheni, so take along your binoculars and birding/mammal field guide books! We find that being able to identify what bird, or buck or other small mammal you are looking at makes the experience that much more vivid and rewarding. It’s a bit like scuba diving on a tropical reef – one sees a vast array of beautifully coloured fish and masses of other creatures, but have no idea what they are! Please be very careful when crossing the many streams you will encounter. You will find that using an alpenstok, or hiking stick, is of great help, especially when negotiating a rocky stream bed. As with all hiking in the Darkensberg, it is essential that you fill in the hiking register before you go out on a hike, and sign in on your return. This simple procedure could save a life.