Lesotho’s first national park proclaimed in 1970, is remote, rugged and beautiful, and getting there is always a worthwhile adventure, especially if you’re into wilderness, seclusion and fishing. Sehlabathebe means the “Shield of the Plateau”, mirroring the rolling grasslands, wildflowers and silence provide a sense of complete isolation.
Situated in the south-east corner of Lesotho, At an average elevation of some 2,400 metres, the main attraction of the spectacular Sehlabethebe National Park is its exceptional peace and solitude. It is wonderfully peaceful, and yet exciting, many small lakes, huge rock overhangs and striking sandstone formations, especially the many “Arches” which characterise this park.
The Prime Minister of Lesotho at the time, Leabua Jonathan, loved trout fishing and, since the dams and rivers are a fisherman’s paradise, this may explain the park’s existence.
Half the fun of Sehlabathebe National Park is getting there. The park conserves an area of high mountain plateau bordering on South Africa. It is almost inaccessible since it is rather remote, but incredibly beautiful, with some shy antelope and rare birds.
This is a summer rainfall area and thick mist is common. Winters are clear but cold at night, and there is sometimes light snowfall.
Of particular interest is a small minnow-like fish (Multi Redfin/Minnow) (Pseudobarbus quathlambae) that was thought to be extinct, which can be found in the upper reaches of the Tsoelike River. And the rare Sehlabathebe Lily, which calls this park home.
The Parks Lodge is called Jonathan’s Lodge (sleeps 10) and the Prime Minister often used to stay there, at which time all other guests had to leave. Jonathan’s successors haven’t been fishing enthusiasts, and you are unlikely to be disturbed! In addition to the Lodge, there is the Ranger Station and good camping facilities available.
The contact number is: +266 223 26075
Once inside Sehlabathebe you’ll have the opportunity to do some lovely hikes and pony treks. It’s pretty easy to get lost if a thick mist descends, as often happens suddenly and unpredictably. It is always a good idea to take a guide with you on your excursions, and there is always someone willing to take you for a minimal fee.
- Horse riding treks can be undertaken from Sani Top or Bushmansnek in the Drakensberg.
- Trout fishing remains popular and is a must do when visiting the park
How to get there:
GPS Co-Ordinates: S29°52’12.05″, E29°4’3.18″
The easiest route into SNP is via the Qacha’s Nek border post (north of Matatiele, Eastern Cape), which is approximately a 4-hour drive. The Ramatseliso’s Gate border post is closer but is strictly a 4×4 only route from South Africa. For the more adventurous there is the scenic 8-hour drive from the famous Sani Pass, but a GPS is highly recommended to navigate through all the villages.
You’ll definitely need a 4×4 vehicle for Sehlabethebe, and even then you might get stuck going in or out and have to wait for a river to recede after heavy rains.