Ukhahlamba

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Maloti Drakensberg Park

Year inscribed: extension 2013
Location: KwaZulu-Natal, 29º 23' S 29º 32' 26" E
Type: Mixed cultural and natural heritage

The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park has outstanding natural beauty, Africa's highest mountain range south of Kilimanjaro, and the largest and most concentrated series of rock art paintings in Africa - making it a World Heritage site of both natural and cultural significance.

The park lies in the west of KwaZulu-Natal on the Lesotho border. It is 243 000 hectares in size, stretching 150 kilometres from Royal Natal National Park in the north to Cobham Forest Station in the south.

Both the Zulu name uKhahlamba (barrier of spears) and the Afrikaans name Drakensberg (dragon mountains) fit the formidable horizon created by the range.

A massive basaltic cap set on a broad base of sedimentary rocks belonging to the Stormberg series of 150 million years ago, the mountains are South Africa's main watershed.

For more than 4 000 years they were home to the indigenous San people, who created a vast body of rock art - the largest collection in Africa.

Living in the sandstone caves and rock shelters of the Drakensberg's valleys, the San made paintings described by the World Heritage Committee as "world famous and widely considered one of the supreme achievements of humankind … outstanding in quality and diversity of subject and in their depiction of animals and human beings … which throws much light on their way of life and their beliefs".

In describing the park's natural heritage, the committee notes its "exceptional natural beauty in its soaring basaltic buttresses, incisive dramatic cutbacks and golden sandstone ramparts. Rolling high altitude grasslands, the pristine steep-sided river valleys and rocky gorges also contribute to the beauty of the site.

"The site's diversity of habitats protects a high level of endemic and globally threatened species, especially birds and plants."

Photo: Courtesy of SA Tourism

For more information: UNESCO