Gxalingenwa hike, South Africa

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

One of the best day hikes in South Africa.

At Sani Lodge Backpackers in the Drakensberg you get everything you need.

trail description, permit, map
trail description, permit, map

Step out the back door, you’re on your way.



After about 250m you reach the perimeter fence of the KZN protected lands. Permit to hike costs about $3.


Every step is beautiful in the Drakensberg. Wide open.


Some African dung beetles are endangered. NOT the ones in these mountains. There are plenty.


Lizards are constant companions.


You see a lot of scat, many interesting prints, yet not much wildlife. Animals here have evolved to be elusive.


I was thrilled to see my first grey rhebok.


Alpha males “cough” at you from a safe distance.

Wild flowers were still in profusion, mid-summer. We’d had a lot of rain.


I left a Summit Stone for some future hiker to discover.


Here’s Gxalingenwa cave. These two spent two nights here, sheltered from the rain.


Later I learned you are not officially allowed to camp there.

From the cave I had to either backtrack … or finish a loop down the river.


I’d been warned that the water was high. That I’d most likely need to wade the creek several times.


Boulder hopping my second crossing, I fell in. 😦

And — since the shoes were wet — I waded 3 more crossings.



Russell at Sani Backpackers wants to improve the trail staying on one side of the creek. One day.


I was glad to have done Gxalingenwa as a loop. It’s very pretty coming down.



Some hike up to these waterfalls from the roadway.

The only downside of the Gxalingenwa loop from Sani Backpackers is a road walk finish.


Happily, I was picked up. Given a lift by University researchers who happened to be staying at the Backpackers.

more photos from this day hike

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