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Images of Southern Africa - Sani Pass

Sani Pass

The Sani Pass began life as a mule trail linking Basutoland and KwaZulu-Natal. Today it forms the only road over the Drakensberg Mountains linking KwaZulu-Natal with the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. The road remains unmetalled and is sometimes blocked by snow in winter. The Pass begins at 1540m above sea level and follows the deeply incised Mkhomazana River valley to the summit at 2873m. For the last 8km the road climbs almost 1000m.

The Pass forms a part of the 242,000 hectare Royal Natal National Park, established in 1916 and one of South Africa’s oldest national parks.

The spectacular scenery, flora and fauna earned the area World Heritage Site status in 2000, making it one of only five such sites in South Africa and of 750 world wide. This gives the area special protected status.

The photograph shows the view looking down the Sani Pass with the fine-grained sandstones of late Jurassic age having been eroded by the Mkhomazana River. Rapid down cutting has led to the formation of excellent examples of river terraces.

Further details on the Park can be found on UNEP and Drakensberg Tourism.


Ideas for further exploration:

  • The Royal Natal National Park is one of five South African World Heritage sites. What are the other four?
  • In the centre of the image is an area of relatively flat land, running alongside the Mkhomazana River. Can you suggest one way in which this land may have been formed?
  • How old geologically are the Jurassic rocks that form the Drakensberg Mountains?
  • The Drakensberg Mountains are renowned for thousands of rock paintings. Can you find out the latest estimates of the age of these paintings?

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