The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park has 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 this world heritage site.
This spectacular natural site also contains many caves and rock-shelters with the largest and most concentrated group of paintings in Africa south of the Sahara, made by the San people over a period of 4,000 years. The rock paintings are outstanding in quality and diversity of subject and in their depiction of animals and human beings. They represent the spiritual life of the San people who no longer live in this region.
The San people are recognized as the indigenous inhabitants of the sub-continent. In centuries past they inhabited practically the entire sub-continent, and are regarded as “embodying the essence of southern Africa’s deep past”. Yet there is no monument to the San people – other than their own art. Within the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park there are some 600 sites, collectively representing over 35000 individual images.
Remarkably, the rock art in the park is better preserved than any other region south of the Sahara. The oldest painting on a rock shelter wall in the park is about 2400 years old, while more recent creations date back to the late nineteenth century.
Many of the sites contain scenes depicting hunting, dancing, fighting, food gathering or ritual and trance scenes of hunting or rainmaking.
The ecological integrity of the area has been preserved intact since the last San people living there and the climate, vegetation and fauna have not changed. Uniquely, it is possible to turn from rock paintings of Eland, Reebok and other animals to look over pristine valleys and to see these very species feeding, resting or moving about.
UNESCO declared the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in KwaZulu Natal a World Heritage Site in 2000. The park is 240 000 hectares large and is filled with beautiful rivers, wetlands, indigenous forests, grasslands, valleys and cliffs. Many endangered animal and plant species live there.
The park also has some of the most beautiful rock paintings in the world. There are 30 000 painted images in 520 rock shelters and many experts use the area to study the history of the people who painted the pictures. Most of the paintings were made about 4 000 years ago by the San people and show different animals, people and many other subjects. They represent the spiritual life of the San, who don’t live in the area anymore.