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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Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #74301 01 Dec 2018 18:30
Thanks for your comments.  

With regards the rainfall, there was 67mm in October, but only 10mm measured for November.  The average for November over the last 18 years has been 94mm.  This was measured at RNP, and seems to be up to date.  It would seem though that across the berg the levels of rainfall have been low so far this summer.

Anyone with more info on this is welcome to chime in.
Herman's Avatar
Herman replied to: #74295 30 Nov 2018 12:43
Don't want to be the paranoid guy, and I could well be wrong, but to my mind most incidents occur on the popular long weekends. Maybe @Intrepid has better stats on this. But I would say that the likelihood of an incident on the Amphi is slightly higher on that long weekend than it would normally be. I would also put my money on the suspects not being local herdsmen, i.e. local Basotho activity may not be indicative of safety.
MarkT's Avatar
MarkT replied to: #74294 30 Nov 2018 11:25
Camped at Ribbon Falls a few weeks ago, saw other campers nearby and no basotho. 
Riaang's Avatar
Riaang replied to: #74284 28 Nov 2018 10:36
@Serious Tribe,

We'll be in the same area over the same dates, hope to see you there :-)
Colan's Avatar
Colan replied to: #74282 27 Nov 2018 18:00
Hi Tribe

Four of us were in the area at the end of last month. Went from Sentinel to Ifidi Cave and then back to Crow's Nest via Mt Amery, Ribbon falls and Tugela falls. The water levels in all the streams were very low, but there was some minor flow and we didn't have problems finding water. There has been quite a bit of rain since, so I'm sure there will be sufficient water.

We also saw no signs of Basotho, and while we didn't camp near the falls (we spent the night in Crow's Nest), a few others did, including one solo tent that was pretty isolated. No one reported any trouble. The general security precautions apply, of course.

Ribbon falls is a lot more isolated than Bilanjil an Tugela, so would be the safest bet if you are really worried. I wouldn't treat any of these spots as a base camp and venture out leaving your gear unattended, however (just in terms of you spending two nights in the same spot).
Serious tribe's Avatar
Serious tribe replied to: #74281 27 Nov 2018 16:48
Hi guys
I and a few friends are keen on doing a trip onto the amphitheatre dec 16 long weekend.  Has anyone hiked and camped there recently?  Any info on the security situation and river levels would be useful.  We would be camping near Ribbon/Bilanjil falls area for two nights.

The major incidents that occurred during april were near fangs, but there has been petty theft in this area in the past.  Although I have experienced none in the three or so hikes that i have done here, some recent intel would be useful.  The moon will also be at first quarter.
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?
Boerkie's Avatar
Boerkie replied to: #54587 07 Jul 2012 15:46
Ribbon falls is close and really secluded.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #54586 06 Jul 2012 07:31
Hi Aux,

nothing has changed up there, ie at any time you stand a chance of someone snooping around your tent at night, and it might even get slashed. This is an ongoing issue. Over Easter a helicopter patrol caught the guys on their way to the tents. They started throwing things at the chopper and shots were fired to scare them off.

Have a look at these threads where the issue of where to camp has been discussed:
and this article on general security in the area:
Aux's Avatar
Aux replied to: #54579 03 Jul 2012 10:59
Hi All.

I would like to have some advice about the current safety at the top of the Tugela Falls. My wife and I would like to go there someting in August as she have never hiked in that area. I have been there a few times but havent been there since 2005.

I would like to know if it is safe to use crows nest cave or will it be better to go past the falls to Mount Amery. Is there any other overnight options in the area that would be relativly safe from wondering bandits.

Thank you.
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

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.
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

renebur's Avatar
renebur replied to: #3107 09 Jun 2011 13:42
Thanks Intrepid for the advise.We will be on high alert at night.I will like to sleep one night in Sentinel Cave and the second night somewhere close to the river in the tent.Most of the time i prefer sleeping in the tent but Sentinel Cave looks really great.Thanks by the way for the gps downloads from you guys,sure we will make use of them.Sorry if my spelling is not up to scratch.Growing up in Czech Republic dosn't help much with english spelling.Thanks again and we will definitely let you know how was the trip.
intrepid's Avatar
intrepid replied to: #3106 09 Jun 2011 13:15
Great idea Digz, this should be done! I know people like domsmooth also wants to take his kids up there.

Hi renebur. Have a look through the Drakensberg Security section in the blogs. There is an article specifically for the Amphitheatre there. Personally I find caves more secure since you can store gear at the back and they'd have to step over you to get there. The shepherds do hang around Crows Nest Cave at times, but I haven't heard any reports about Sentinel Cave. My feeling is things are pretty quiet at that cave. When camping at the Falls, be sure to pack everything into the tent with you, try not to leave stuff in the vestibule. If no space then valuables and boots inside the tent at the very least and tie your packs to the tent. Keep them as far away from the sides as possible, whether inside the tent or in the vestibule. They do slash tents sometimes but mostly take loose stuff and lift up the vestibule. There is normally no further danger and they tend to run away if you wake up. Don't ignore noises outside the tent at night. Have fun in spite of all this and let us know how it goes.
renebur's Avatar
renebur replied to: #3105 09 Jun 2011 13:07
@digs..we will let you know how is it up there next week,we mite even post some pics that your kids can see what is waiting for them.We already exited can't wait to be in the berg again.It's nice to see more people out there enjoying mountain adventures with their kids.Like your idea about the parents+kids trip.:thumbsup: It will be great to put something together in near future.
Digz's Avatar
Digz replied to: #3092 09 Jun 2011 07:14
@renebur...let us know what the vibe is. I have 2 kids 10 and 12 and want to take them up there as well soon.

You can't let fear stand in the way of a first time Amphitheatre trip. Just a thought and I might start a new post for this, perhaps Intrepid can comment...why don't we (members of the forum) that have got children ages 8 to 15 (or omething like that), plan a berg trip...specifically for kids?