After 2 weeks in South Africa I made it to the Mozambique cruise, of which I did not have to plan much except for two nights in Durban. One thing I really wanted to do was to visit the Drakensberg mountains of Lesotho over the legendary Sani Pass.
With a maximum height of 2876 m, the Sani Pass was until recently South Africa’s highest road pass and held the record for the highest pass in South Africa until 2016, when the Ben MacDhui Pass (3001 m) was opened to the public.
The road was built in the 1950s and is still a challenge for off-road vehicles due to the expected pass height and altitude of the terrain. The Sanis Pass should not be tried and should only be used on a route that can be extremely difficult to cross.
Given the possible extremities you will encounter, you should fully equip yourself for these opportunities and drive a vehicle that can cross the Sani Pass. To be clear, when you arrive in South Africa and head for the Sanis Pass, you start your journey with a trip from Lesotho to the South African side. This route is much easier to drive and cross than the one from Johannesburg to Cape Town and then to Durban.
The road of the Sani pass leads you to the foot of the pass and you can continue until you reach the top where you see a waymark on the mountain. The hike from Sanis Pass to the Mountain Lodge takes an estimated 8 hours and from there you drive a few hours to reach a mountain hut where a sign is posted for the mountains.
The Sani Pass is also the third steepest pass in the world, winding through some of the most spectacular landscapes in Africa. Bird watching on the Sani Pass is excellent and must be considered one of the best bird watching sites in South Africa, if not Africa. You can also visit protected nature areas such as KwaZulu Natal National Park and Nairobi National Forest.
The pass starts when you reach the Sani Pass Hotel, which is located at the foot of the pass, and begins its ascent along the steep wall. The pass is connected by a rough, unpaved road that climbs to an altitude of about 2865 meters. It begins with a path that leads to the top of a steep, rocky hill at 1500 metres above sea level and climbs to a peak of 3,000 metres, the highest point in South Africa.
Note also: South African border control will refuse entry if you drive a vehicle deemed unsuitable for the condition of your journey. Sources: 4
If you don’t have your own off-road vehicle, you can take part in a popular day trip that gives you an all-round taste of Lesotho. If you want to add a challenging hike, see the Hodgsons Peaks Tour for more information. Ultimately, progress will come with you, but if you don’t have your own four-wheel drive or even a four-wheel drive vehicle, can you join us on a day trip to the mountains?
The Sani Pass is honestly one of the most beautiful passes in Lesotho, and we have ridden some of them. The scene at the top of this pass is a perfect backdrop to cross and a great backdrop for a day trip to the mountains.
If you decide to go down, there are several other ways to go up the Sani Pass. Hitchhiking to the Sani Pass is absolutely possible and it should not be too difficult to find a ride at the weekend. There is a chance that staying in one of the hotels near the pass, such as the hotel on the top of the Tshwane, is a great place to recharge for a trip to the mountains.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to cycle to the Sani Pass when coming from Mokothlong in Lesotho. I will describe the roads along the way, but the first one is a dismayed dirt road, while Google Maps shows the pass as smooth, which means you have to turn at the HAIR PIN. The descent to the Sani Pass is by turning left at the “Sani Mountain Lodge,” which is located directly at the Lesothso border post. At the border to Lesotha the right road to the Sano Pass begins and ends, in perspective.
The Sani Pass was originally opened in 1913 as a bridal route and served primarily as a trade route between South Africa and Mokhotlong. A man named Godfrey Edmond Kokstad drove it as it was originally developed, but for adventurers who did not want to drive it, the company “Mokotlong Mountain Transport” (“Sani”) was founded to reach it by road, not on horseback or even on foot, as in the case of the Sano Pass.