Troubled for many years, The Amphitheatre is probably the No. 1 hot spot for petty theft on the escarpment. The perpetrators are very aware of the habits of hikers in this area and have over many years persistently been stealing whateverthey can get their hands on: hiking boots and entire backpacks being first prize. 

A large volume of hikers visit the top of the Amphitheatre on the escarpment since Sentinel Car Park and the Chain Ladder provide easy access. The majority of over-night hikers camp near the Tugela Falls and typically there are several tents pitched in this area over weekends and holidays.

For many years the problems in this area were generally of a petty nature whereby hiking gear was stolen, typically from tents, at night. While exact statistics are not available (not all incidents are reported), it appears this occured at least once a year, possibly more. Guards once were stationed at the hut – which helped a little – but in recent years they are no longer there. Nightly visits occur as late as 03.00 and any equipment lying around outside the tents is taken as well as anything which they can grab from under the fly sheets. They loosen or lift up the fly sheets and the tent may even be slashed with a knife.

Security issues on the Amphithatre took a serious turn and came under the spotlight in April 2016 when 3 hikers were brutally attacked, assualted and robbed. The attack took place during the night while they were sleeping in the tents. Their camp was situated in the Khubedu Valley, and while not technically on the Amphitheatre or at Tugela Falls, the location is easily reached from there and would have been carried out by the same culprits.

There is a debate about the origins of the perpetrators, but many believe they are from among the Basotho herdsmen that inhabit both arms of the Kubedu River on either side of Mt Aux Sources during the warmer months for grazing of their livestock. It is possible to encounter them anywhere between Namahadi Pass and Icidi Pass, though they are more concentrated in the valleys of the Kubedu where many kraals are situated.

The following pointers will go a long in reducing the risk of problems in this area (though again they are no guarantee) and will help to make your experience more pleasurable.

* Follow the precautions already listed in General Precautions for Drakensberg Security.

* If you find theft problems to be too disturbing then we recommend that you do not camp anywhere in the Tugela valley - from the source under Mt. Aux Sources all the way to the falls. This is the area with the highest risk.

* Sleeping in Crows Nest Cave is a better alternative since it is more difficult to steal equipment there than from a tent (provided the above mentioned precautions are taken). The Basuthos are very aware of this cave and do hang around there - so it is still risky. 

* The old hut near the falls is rather grim but it does offer better protection provided you take some cord with to tie the door closed from the inside and place some rocks behind it to stop the Basuthos from coming in.

  • Do not camp in the valleys of the Khubedu, on either side of Mt Aux Sources.

  • The Bilanjil valley immediately south of the Tugela is slightly safer to camp in, though active grazing does take place in this area. The Bilanjil campsite situated at S28 45.551 E28 54.120 (WGS84) may be a good place to pitch your tent but it is not unbeknown to the Basuthos and it is still fairly risky camping there.

  • If you want to camp in these areas, rather do so in the winter months when the majority of shepherds have moved away (NOTE: there are always some around!) or post guard duty the whole night.

  • There are good alternatives for camping where there is considerably less risk (but not totally eliminated). They have good places to pitch a tent, reliable water supply and where you will rarely find other campers, giving the solitude you may want:

- Namahadi Pass (S28 45.319, E28 51.959), situated about a half hour walk north of the Chain Ladder. The ruins of the old outpost also make for an interesting visit and also a good camp spot. Of course, the locals do use the pass, but if your only other choice is Tugela Falls then choose this one.

- Elands River Falls (S28 44.908, E28 52.600) immediately north of the Chain Ladder.

- Ribbon Falls (S28 45.721, E28 55.063) 1-2 hours walk south from the Chain Ladder.

- Somewhere in the small valley near Mt. Amery (S28 45.968 E28 55.567), not much further than Ribbon Falls mentioned above.

 

Following these guidelines will bring down the crime statistics considerably in this area and make for a more pleasurable hiking experience. 

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GerritHuman's Avatar
GerritHuman replied to: #67677 06 Apr 2016 10:39
Thanks Hobbitt.
We will be strating at Sentinel Car Park (past Witsieshoek). I just want to make sure everybody in the group has enough cash.
Hobbitt's Avatar
Hobbitt replied to: #67664 06 Apr 2016 08:59
The hut is still standing and security shouldn't be an issue, just try not to make a lot of noise and keep use of lights to a minimum....
Are you hiking from witsieshoek or royal natal? (This will affect the cost)
You might be able to book it via telephone in advance or at royal natal,but im not aware of any booking system or whether you even can book....
GerritHuman's Avatar
GerritHuman replied to: #67582 01 Apr 2016 08:06
Hi All

We are going to the Amphi over the weekend. We are 6 people (4 beginners) and we will sleep Saturday night in the hut. I don't think security will be an issue in there?

Is the hut still standing (I know there is no door or windows but if the roof is still there its okay)?
Where is the best place to book the hut?
What are the costs to enter the park?
andrew r's Avatar
andrew r replied to: #67574 31 Mar 2016 18:22
Just linking this thread to Minibo's report-back on their 3-day Hike from Sentinel CP over the Easter weekend 2016
andrew r's Avatar
andrew r replied to: #67101 21 Feb 2016 19:06
Hi HikerParsons

The Amphitheatre area remains a hot-spot for theft but it has not escalated in the last few years. The recommendations by intrepid are still appropriate.

I have camped once at Tugela Falls (April) without incident, we arrived late (at dusk) and left long before sunup. Also camped twice at the top of Namahadi Pass without incident (Sept & Oct).
HikerParsons's Avatar
HikerParsons replied to: #67099 21 Feb 2016 09:17
Thank you for the good advice. I see that this blog was published in 2007. Has the security situation changed at all?
G-MAN's Avatar
G-MAN replied to: #4930 21 Nov 2011 11:29
Thanks for all the useful responses. Really appreciate it. Seems like Ribbon falls is a good spot. We will keep a low "camping profile" and a lights out after dark policy.

Re security on the Tugela, a few years ago (I think in 2007 or 2006) a friend and I camped over there for a night(about 300m upsteam from the falls). A number of other people were camping around the falls too. About 5 tents were cut open and rug sacks, sleeping bags, hiking boots etc was taken during the night. To add to it there were a number of attempts on different tents all through the night (specifically targeting tents with women and children) so the thieves were not put off or afraid of a confrontation. The conditions that night played nicely into the thieves hands as a very strong berg wind was blowing making it impossible to hear anything. Luckily for us we were aware of the potential danger so we pitched our tent after dark, and maintained a stict lights out policy only to learn about the problems that morning. Since then I have avoided the area and limited my hikes to the Monks Cowl and Catherdral areas.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #4926 21 Nov 2011 08:51
Welcome here G-man!

Confirm about Ribbon Falls, that would be my choice. An the way there you will pass the Bilanjil campsite and you may be tempted to use because its a good spot for a tent. However in reality the shepherds hang around there too, and the livestock are frequently a little further upstream from there, so its only a little better than the area around the Falls. You could also find a quiet spot near the Elands River Falls.

Compare notes with this article on security the Amphitheatre.

Please tell us more about what security issues you had up there previously. These incidents happen very frequently yet we have extremely little written about them.
Boerkie's Avatar
Boerkie replied to: #4923 21 Nov 2011 07:47
Welcome G-man

:laugh: I was just about to post the same link but Tony jumped me on that one. Ribbon falls is a great spot in terms of security, views, distance and water, go 4 it! The only problem might be the footprint of a 3 man tent if you intent going with one but I'm sure you'll squeeze in at some place.

Enjoy the trip and please report back afterwards.
tonymarshall's Avatar
tonymarshall replied to: #4922 21 Nov 2011 07:39
Hi G MAN,

You can also check the topic Sentinel Car Park - Chain Ladders - Ifidi Cave, which has a great write up by Boerkie on his chain ladders to Mt. Amery trip.

www.vertical-endeavour.com/forum/8-drakensberg-hiking/4251-sentinel-car-park-chain-ladders-ifidi-cave.html
Smurfatefrog's Avatar
Smurfatefrog replied to: #4919 20 Nov 2011 19:46
G-MAN's Avatar
G-MAN replied to: #4917 20 Nov 2011 19:15
Hi All

Im taking two guys up the chain ladder onto the Amphitheatre for an over night hike next week. Any suggestions on good camping spots with water in the area. I have camped on the tugela before near the mountain hut and had security issues there so Im thinking Ribbon Falls this time? Any suggestions

Cheers