Blyde River Canyon

Mahai is a beautiful campsite situated in the Royal Natal National Park in the Northern Drakensberg region of South Africa and is run and maintained by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Mahai is a campsite I have wanted to stay at for the longest time and last weekend I finally got the chance. I was impressed by it’s beauty and also how well maintained it is.

Mahai was my first solo camping/hiking trip. I wrote a blog about the highs and lows of that experience here. Check it out for some laughs

The campsite is set upon 3 spacious, grassy green fields and looks upon some pretty spectacular views of the rock wall that towers above. There is an abundance of hiking to do in the area including a trek to Tugela Falls, the highest waterfall in South Africa (….and maybe the world). Ampitheatre one of the most spectacular landscapes in the Drakensberg and South Africa is just around the corner.

 

Campsites In Mahai

The campsite has 88 campsites, split into either electricity powered sites or non-electricity powered sites. Mahai Campsite has an 24 hour open gate so you can enter and leave anytime you want. If you arrive late and after dark as I did (7pm on a Friday) you can set up your campsite in Mahai and pay at the reception the next morning. Reception opens at 8am and closes at 4:30pm.

Prices: Electricity Sites – R170 per night. Non-Electricity Sites – R160 per night

accurate as of April 2024.

 

Ablutions and Kitchens: I counted 4 Ablution Blocks and 2 Kitchen Cleanup Areas. The showers work fine but you only get 5 minutes of hot water before it turns cold.

Mahai Campsite

Things To Do Around Mahai

A map and booklet are available on sale at the Visitor Centre and main entry gate. Climbing is a pursuit which can be undertaken by prior arrangement with park management. Arrangements to be made in advance.

Horse riding is available from the Rugged Glen stables and bookings must be made in advance at the stables, or on telephone 036 – 438 6422 / 036 – 438 6310.

Trout fishing is available in the rivers as well as the Mahai dam near the Visitor Centre. Anglers are required to pay a daily rod fee at the Visitor Centre and may only utilize fly fishing tackle.

Guided walks are available on request, at a nominal fee. Swimming is perfectly safe in all the rivers, but is not allowed in certain areas. Details available at the reception office.

The curio shop at the Visitor Centre caters for the visitor who wishes to buy souvenirs, as well as having soft drinks, frozen trout, ice, charcoal, wood and a limited range of food stuffs and alcoholic beverages

My First Solo Camping/Hiking Trip

Popular Hikes Around Mahai

Cascades Falls is a short walk (2,4km) along a paved pathway and is a great place for a family picnic or if you are feeling brave, a swim in the icy water. 

Tiger Falls is a popular waterfall when there is water flowing through it but recently it’s dried up quite a lot. Best attempted after heavy rains to see the water flowing. 6km Total, 3 hour hike

Gudu Falls is the most popular waterfall hike as it has a great waterflow.It’s a 9km loop and 4.50 hour hike. You can either see the falls from the top in which case you will have to climb The Crack, a steep gulley hike that has chain and woodens ladders to help you get up. Or if you want to see the falls from the bottom you can find it via The Grotto, a lush forested area. 

The Gorge Hike, will take you to the base of Tugela Falls, the unofficial highest waterfall in the world. That is a 14km loop and will take around 5 and half hours

Mahai Falls is the furthest waterfall away, all the way at the end of the valley and is close by Basuto Gate, the Lesotho border. It’s 14km total, there and back and 6 hours of hiking

Want some other Suggestions of Places To Stay and Hikes To Do in The Drakensberg? I Got You!

How To Get To Mahai Campsite

From Durban –

Get on the N3 heading towards Pietermaritzburg. You gonna keep going past Pietermariztburg, past Howick, past Mooi River, Estcourt and past a little town called Frere. You are then gonna take the 194 Turnoff and Turn Left onto the R74 heading in the direction of Winterton. You gonna drive through Winterton and then Bergville and Woodford. After driving 72km of the R74 you are gonna come across the Royal Natal Signpost. Take a left and carry on driving straight until you get to the Royal Natal boomgate. Sign in and carry onwards a little ways till you see Mahai and Thendele Reception on your left. Sign in and carry on to the end of the road till you see Mahai Campsite on your right. (Between a 3 and 4 hour Drive)

From Johannessburg –

Hop on the N3 heading Durban bound and follow it for around 260km. Use the Left Lane to Take the N5 ramp heading toward Harrismith/Bethlehem. Turn right onto N5 (signs for Bethelehem). Continue Straight along the N5 for around 5km. Turn left onto R74 and drive the R74 for 8,6km, Now Turn Left to stay on the R74 for another 36km. Turn Right into Royal Natal National Park and continue straight until you reach the Royal Natal Boomgate. Sign in and carry on a little bit until reception is on your left. Sign in and continue down the road until you see Mahai on your right. (Between a 4 and 5 hour Drive)

Mahai Campsite

I loved Mahai and can’t wait to go back. Have you been and if yes what was your experience at Mahai like?

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