Steeped in adventure, ready to be explored – the Sani Pass into Lesotho

The challenging Sani Pass

Photo by Reese Braam / Unsplash

The name Sani Pass had no association with the San people

The history of Sani Pass in the Drakensberg Mountains is one that is steeped in adventure, danger, and excitement. It is a unique area of the world that has long captivated adventurers, both current and past.

According to the detailed research and writing of a life adventurer and author – Michael Clark, the origin of the name Sani Pass had no association with the San people. Rather it originated from the family of Chief Letsie, son of Moshesh. Chief Letsies son – Rafolatsani later became District Chief in the area known as Mokhotlong. Sani originated from an abbreviation of the name Rafolatsani, thus the name called Sani Pass was referred to by Basotho in the year 1900.

The journey to Sani Pass was challenging and required great skill and determination. Many travellers reported that the journey was difficult and often took days without rest. After reaching the summit of the pass, travellers would find themselves standing in awe of the magnificent views around them. The rolling hills, spectacular views of the land and distant mountains, and the sheer plunges of the valleys below were breathtaking.

From the early 1900s onwards, Sani Pass has become increasingly popular due to its scenic beauty and challenging terrain. It has been used by adventurers, wanderers, and explorers looking for a sense of adventure and a connection to the spirit of the land. Every year, people from all over the world flock to the pass to experience the wonders of its unique environment and explore its wild spaces.

A symbol of rugged bravery for the many characters involved in its long history of exploration. 

The Sani Pass climbs the face of the escarpment to an altitude of 2874m and into the “Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho”. It is the gateway to the “Roof of Africa” with breathtaking scenery that attracts visitors from all over the world.

The Sani Pass was originally developed as a bridal path in 1913. It served as an important link between the Underberg district and the remote settlement of Mokhotlong, in Eastern Lesotho. The first vehicle negotiated the pass in 1948. It is now used for the most part by 4×4 vehicles and has become the highlight of the Southern Drakensberg.

A tour will reveal the history of the pass, geology of the mountains and the flora & fauna. Lesotho will offer a unique experience with the Basotho people. Enjoy a cold beer & lunch at the highest pub in Africa before the descent back to Underberg.

Birding on the Sani Pass is excellent and must rank in the top ten birding spots in Southern Africa. It is a prime venue for high altitude alpine birding with some 160 bird species being recorded.

Flower shows are spectacular in the spring and summer growing seasons. The Sani Pass trips begin at 1550m and reaches 3240m, passing through altitude related vegetation zones. At 1800m, you enter the Drakensberg Alpine Centre of Endemism. This is home to 2400 species of plants including 400 endemic plants.

The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a World Heritage Site

The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a World Heritage Site in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, covering 242,813 ha (2,428 km2) of area. It spans parts of both South Africa, and Lesotho. The park includes Royal Natal National Park and the Drakensberg National Park. Both provincial parks fall under the umbrella of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

The history of Sani Pass and its characters is deeply ingrained in the hills and valleys of the Drakensberg. Its majestic beauty and daring spirit are sure to continue inspiring adventurers, wanderers, and explorers for generations to come. The fact remains that Sani Pass has been, and always will be, a source of great adventure and an unforgettable experience for anyone who visits.