We recently became aware that a certain tour company is advertising four by four trips to Mont Aux Sources, Tugela Falls, Sentinel and Amphitheatre. We would like to bring it to your attention that all these areas fall within the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site (UDP WHS) and that any unauthorised vehicular access is in contravention of the law.

Anyone visiting the above-mentioned areas does so by traversing the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area. In 2001 a Bilateral Agreement was signed between South Africa and Lesotho to establish a framework for the conservation of biological diversity and sustainable development in that area.  The Maloti-Drakensberg is internationally recognized as a Centre of Endemism and exceptional biodiversity.  The alpine soils that are located in that area are extremely sensitive to the impact of grazing animals, foot and especially vehicle traffic.  Alpine soils in the Transfrontier Area are shallow and subject to frost-lift, which makes their erosion extremely easy.  The establishment of any vehicle trails, either formal or informal, will have devastating results on the ecology and conservation of that area.  

The area described above also encompasses semi primitive Wilderness area, by definition excluding vehicle use.  The visual and auditory impacts of vehicles in the Wilderness are against the very essence of Wilderness ethics. In a South African 4X4 Forum email posting, about a trip held on the 3-5th April 2009 (see below), the damage caused to the grasslands are clearly visible.  It is noted that the author parked +- 500 metres from Mont Aux Sources near the Chain ladders.  The damage that is caused from such activities in such sensitive areas is significant and in all likelihood irreparable.   

In addition to this, any person wishing to access the Amphitheatre, Tugela Falls and the Sentinel through whichever means, is required to do so via an authorized and legal entry point into Royal Natal National Park.  Unauthorised entry into Royal Natal National Park is illegal and raises a number of grave concerns:

1.    According to the Section 46 (1) of the National Environmental Protected Areas Act 75 of 2003, and despite any other legislation, no person may without the written permission of the management authority (ie: entry permit or express permission) of a national park, nature reserve or world heritage site, enter or reside in the park, reserve or site.  Doing so constitutes a criminal offence.

2.    Royal Natal National Park is part of a Proclaimed World Heritage Site, promulgated through the World Heritage Convention Act, 1999 (Act No. 49 of 1999). The National Environmental Protected Areas Act 75 of 2003  (Section 50) embodies legislation related to commercial activities with in a World heritage Site, and requires that such activity may not negatively affect the survival of any species in or significantly disrupt the integrity of the ecological systems of the national park, nature reserve or world heritage site.  Any vehicle access would undeniably affect the biota of the High Drakensberg, as can be seen below.

3.    The KZN Nature Conservation Ordinance 15 of 1974 Section 7 (1)(a) states that no person may enter a park without permission. Section 15(1) Regulation 4 also prohibits driving off road in a park.  To do so constitutes an offence.

4.    Section 20 of the Listing Notice No R 386 as contemplated in the EIA Regulations enacted by the National Environmental Management Act of 1998 states that transformation of an area zoned for conservation use constitutes a Listed Activity and is therefore requires environmental authorization.  Authorization will not be granted for such an activity.  The rarity and sensitivity of the flora and fauna encountered in the High Drakensberg cannot be understated.  

5.    Visitors to the Amphitheatre from the recognized entry point are requested to sign the Mountain Rescue Register for their own safety.  Should an accident occur eg: being caught in a snowstorm without supplies, a record of visitors to the area is essential.   Those entering through unrecognized points do not fall within this safety net.

We therefore prohibit:

*    further vehicular trips into the UDP WHS i.e. Royal Natal National Park (Mont Aux Sources, Thukela Falls, Sentinel and Amphitheater as advertised) other than paid entry through legal entry points,

*    further advertising that bears reference to accessing the Amphitheatre, Tugela Falls or the Sentinel through any means other than through legal and approved access routes by the appropriate approved access method.

It cannot be stressed enough how damaging off road routes are in the Drakensberg, especially in the High ‘Berg.  

Yours sincerely

Stephen Richert
Conservation Manager
Royal Natal National Park


DATE :  1 June  2009

(The original letter with KZN Wildlife letterhead can be downloaded at this location.)
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