Sani Pass – The ultimate 4×4 off-road driving adventure
Lesotho really is Southern Africa’s hidden gem. A landlocked country completely surrounded by South Africa with only one road in and out, the Sani Pass.
One of Africa’s most legendary roads, the Sani Pass features treacherous switchbacks that twist and snake through the rocky cliffs of the Drakensburg Mountains that straddle the border between Lesotho and South Africa. For 4×4 vehicles and motorcyclists, the route over the Drakensburg escarpment into the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is regarded as the ultimate in extreme off–roading.
Pre 1950’s, the Sani Pass was a trail for pack animals to haul goods from South Africa to the isolated town of Mokhotlong in Eastern Lesotho. Though donkeys and horses can still be seen plodding up the steep route, it is mainly trucks and 4x4s that brave the journey.
When you cross the border at the top of the pass, you not only enter another country, but another world which is said to be reminiscent of the mountain culture in Tibet. The Basotho live in traditional rondavel huts, herd sheep and goats and uses oxen and hoes to plough their fields, a unique culture that has not been spoilt.
The border crossing operates from 6am to 6pm and passports are required. As well driving in your own or rented 4×4 or your motorbike, you can book day tours in 4×4 Landrovers.
Impassable in winter, the rest of the year the Sani Pass can be extremely challenging, so a tour with an experienced driver could be a good option. This would give the added bonus of their local knowledge of the area, the history of the pass and the natural history of the Drakensberg Mountains as well as the wildlife and the unique birds that inhabit the mountain slopes.
A trip into Lesotho is an incredibly rewarding experience that is both exhilarating and packed with culture.