Nature Walking Trails
The lodge is situated on 1,300ha of naturally rolling Drakensberg foothills. Nature Walks are offered which follow along marked trails (ranging between 2 – 6km) on the estate which is a working cattle farm. These can be done self-guided or the company of a guide can also be requested free of charge. Joined by the dogs, and walking alongside the game reserve, a walk out in the hills is not to be missed.
A bird list of 300 species has been recorded in the area, with Cape Vultures, Lanner Falcons, White-bellied bustards, Buff Streaked Chats & Fairy Flycatchers all residing here. In the winter months (when the aloes are flowering) many mountain-dwelling species descend to the foothills to take advantage of the warmer climes, sweet nectar & insects that adorn these spectacular plants. The Malachite sunbird is a stunning example of this. In the summer months, Northern migrants arrive to fill the air with calls & twittering that will keep any “twitcher” on his toes.. Bird books are available in guests rooms, and resident guides are available to assist on site.
Mountain bikes are freely available for the use of guests. Three Trees offers a range of different mountain biking trails on the property, either with your own bikes or use of the bikes at the lodge. In close proximity are some more technical trails in the Drakensberg , which can be done with a guide on request. The famous 130km “Berg & Bush” mountain bike trail runs through the property in November each year.
Game Walks and Rhino Tracking
Game Walks with Rhino Tracking in the neighbouring Spioenkop Game Reserve can be arranged with resident guides. These are a little more strenuous than the Nature Trails on the farm, as the route follows paths worn by the game animals. During the summer months these can be very wet and muddy (average 1,5 – 2 hours long). A suitable pair of walking shoes with ankle support is recommended. No children under 12 years allowed on foot in the reserve.
Horse Trail Riding
Guided Horse Trail Rides are arranged to suit the experience of the riders.
There are numerous opportunities for horse riding at and around Three Trees. We offer rides on the property providing wonderful views of the Spioenkop Battlefield, the Game Reserve and the Drakensberg Mountains. They provide a wonderful opportunity to experience the spectacular countryside up close whether to view the flora and fauna, to gain insights into the difficulties of fighting a war with Victorian impedimenta on this terrain, or to view seldom visited parts of the Battlefield (for example the Boer trenches on the Tabamnyama heights).
Pony rides can also be arranged for children on request.
Drakensberg Mountain Hiking
Three Trees offers great access to The uKhahlamba National Park (formerly the Royal Natal National Park), Cathedral Peak and the Champagne Valley, in the Northern Drakensberg, which are all within an hours drive of the lodge. The Drakensberg Mountains are also home to the largest collection of rock art in the world. Maps & guide books can be arranged at the lodge with picnic lunches for hikes ranging from short half hour walks to full day hikes. Guided hikes can be pre-arranged with qualified guides.
Drakensberg Canopy Tours
The Drakensberg Canopy Tour® is a fun and safe eco-adventure for the whole family and is also ideal for teambuilding. The tour typically lasts 3 hours after which you will return to the reception to enjoy a well-deserved light meal. Led by trained guides, as you glide between platforms perched in trees and on cliff faces, being inspired by the nature of the majestic Drakensberg, the ancient indigenous forest, waterfalls and the cascading stream make this an opportunity not to be missed.
Hot Air Ballooning
An early morning start (04h30) to view the world from above in silence as your balloon travels through the sky. Breath taking scenery in this part of the world make for an unforgettable experience. Prior arrangements must be made for these trips.
White Water Rafting (Nov – May only)
This is your typical one-
Highlights at this centre include SA’s fastest Cable Tour, Adventure Quad Trails, 50kms of marked mountain bike trails, and a hair raising 17 meter free fall King Swing accessed by a wooden spiral stair case that snakes 21 meters to the tree tops. No special skills or fitness are required to participate in the activities.
San Rock Art Exploration
Archaeological evidence has shown the San lived in this area from approximately 8 000 years ago. There are numerous rock art sites in the Drakensberg that have been well preserved. These sites can only be visited with a registered guide, as they ensure the preservation of this magnificent heritage.
Experience a thrilling flight that will take you around the majestic Cathedral Peak, Horns, the Bell and Three Puddings amongst others. Upon return witness the beauty of the Little Berg as you sweep through valleys doing low level flying, passing several waterfalls (during summer).
An amazing collection of invertebrates, arachnids, mammals & reptiles at this small reptile centre in the Drakensberg. Personalised tours with an enthusiastic, knowledgeable guide makes this a memorable experience for all ages. Opportunities to interact and touch these creatures are afforded where possible.
The Old Voortrekker Pass
A wonderful trip from the Lodge is to visit the old Voortrekker Pass, where in 1837 the Voortrekkers under Piet Retief and Gerhard Maritz crossed the Drakensberg Mountains. You can still see and read the graffiti at Kerkenberg where on Piet Retief’s 57th birthday his daughter painted his name. The old pass is still clearly visible and at the top of the pass is the statue of the ‘Barefoot Woman’. The views of the KwaZulu Natal Drakensberg are breathtaking! This is in the eastern Free State and not far from the Golden Gate National Park and the quaint town of Clarens.
Cathedral Peak’s challenging 9 hole golf course, set against the magnifiscent backdrop of the Drakensberg has been termed the “thinking golfers” course. Champagne Sports Resort Golf Course boasts 18 holes designed by Hugh Baiocchi set on perfectly manicured grounds and equally spectacular scenery. Monks Cowl Country Club course is 9 holes, with 18 tees. It is generally level and the 5th hole, which crosses the deep gorge at Hattingspruit, is accessed by a swing bridge.
Thrilling daily shows highlight the power, speed and intelligence of a varied selection of birds of prey. An insight into Falconry is included in the show and the public will learn how these birds of prey use their wings and sharp beaks and claws to their advantage.
The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir is representative of the multi-faceted cultures that make up this wonderful country. They have created a new trend in the international choral scene that transcends the conventional, A unique style of diversity – Bach, Beethoven, Freddy Mercury, African, Jazz, Folk, etc. – whatever the style, they perform it with excellence and aplomb. Concerts are generally held on Wednesday afternoons during school term, so pre-booking is essential.
Day trips from the lodge include Drakensberg Mountain Hikes, Canopy Tours & Drakensberg Boys Choir School Performances. The Falcon Ridge Birds of Prey Centre thrills visitors every morning, with a fantastic show. Dragon Rock Reptile Centre next door to the Raptor Centre will provide even more hands-on entertainment hosting animals such as scorpions, spiders, hedgehogs, alligators & snakes. All Out Adventure Activity Centre in the Northern reaches of the Drakensberg boasts quad biking, archery, zip lining & paint ball for the more adventurous.
Please note that it is recommended that you pre-book battlefield tours should you be particularly interested. We do not run every single tour type every day, so it is therefore recommended to stay a minimum 3 nights should you wish to cover some of these tours.
The American Professor Shelby Foot said, ‘You cannot hope to understand the American people without understanding the Civil War.’ It could likewise be said that you have little chance of understanding modern South Africa and South African people if have no understanding of the South African War, aka the Great Anglo-Boer War.
Three Tree Hill Lodge specializes in the history of the South African War, (2nd Anglo-Boer War 1899 – 1902) with the Battle of Spioenkop being our focal point. One cannot however hope to understand this watershed event (not just for South Africa, but also for Great Britain, being the ‘the longest, the costliest, the bloodiest and most humiliating war that Britain fought in between 1815 and 1914’) without studying what caused one of the smallest countries in the world to declare war on the world’s greatest empire of the time. Our guides, Simon Blackburn and Ron Gold, bring this dramatic period of our history to life presenting world class, holistic, evocative and insightful tours.
- Battle of Spioenkop – Three Trees Flagship Tour – half-day (4 hours) This tour tells of the bloodiest single day of the entire South African War. During January, General Sir Redvers Buller was joined by Lt General Sir Charles Warren, but their renewed attempts to breach the Boer defense line along the Tugela River were unsuccessful. Spioenkop was the highest point on the Boer defensive line and on 23 January 1900, a British attempt to capture it began. Astonishingly, Louis Botha, Winston Churchill and Mohandas Ghandi all played a role in this battle. The result of this battle confirmed that those early disasters of ‘Black Week’ were not merely beginners luck on the part of the Boers. Spioenkop, together with Majuba, are arguably the best known of all battles between the British and the Boers.
- Battle of Colenso & Churchill’s Capture – half day (4 hours) The Boers, in response to the anticipated arrival of thousands of British troops in Durban, took up defensive positions along the Thukela River near Colenso. In mid December a British force of over 15,000 men, under Sir Redvers Buller, suffered a humiliating defeat in attempting to break through to Ladysmith. In this battle 7 Victoria Crosses were won, contributing to two of only three father & son VC’s ever to be awarded. Young Winston Churchill was contracted by the Morning Post to cover the wars in South Africa, however, his capture at Chievely and subsequent remarkable escape, thrust him into the political and public limelight, and arguably launched his political career. Less than a year later, aged 25, he became a MP for Oldham.
The following tours must be arranged prior to arrival.
- Ladysmith Seige, Battles of Talana & Elandslaagte – full day (8 hours) The siege of Ladysmith lasted 118 days from 02 November 1899 until 27 February 1900. The town was the Northern post of the British garrison in Natal, chosen for its strategic position on the Klip River and the junction of the railway lines from Durban to both the Free State and Johannesburg, providing communications between the harbor and the interior. Talana was the Boers opening gambit in Natal, and although hailed as a British win, it was a pyrrhic victory with the Boers withdrawing, leaving major casualties on the British side including their general. Elandslaagde fought the next day, was, after a bloody struggle, a decisive British victory. It may be considered to be the last of the set piece battles of the war.
- Anglo-Zulu War Tours: Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift – full day (10 hours) The British army under Lord Chelmsford had moved from the Eastern Cape border to the Zululand border during 1878.When the British ultimatum to the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, expired in January 1879. The British invaded Zululand in three separate columns. The Battle of Isandlwana took place when the central British column came into contact with the Zulus and suffered a humiliating and bloody defeat at the hands of a spirited Zulu army.
- Battle of Blood River 1838 – full day (10 hours) In 1838, the mighty Zulu army was defeated for the first time by the Voortrekker Commando under their leader, Andries Pretorius. This tour can be included with the Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift tours.
- Options to do Tugela Heights, Vaalkrans or any Voortrekker sites can also be arranged on request.
Spioenkop or Spion Kop? The name Spion Kop (Spy [Lookout] Hill) was given to this impressive hill by the Voortrekkers who arrived in 1837. This was the original Dutch spelling and is still the English version. Spioenkop is the modern Afrikaans spelling. So, as you wish.
‘The Kop’ at Anfield The Lancashire Brigade comprised the majority of the force on Spioenkop, hence the ‘Kop End’ at the home of Liverpool Football Club, Anfield. Indeed had you visited any football ground between Leeds and Liverpool 100 years ago the home supporters’ end would have been a mound of earth and rubble from which the locals watched their team. It reminded them of the stories of ‘Spion Kop’ in the Boer War and over the years ‘Spion Kop’ became ‘The Kop’. As these mounds became grand stands some of them kept their names, the most famous being Anfield.
What to expect:
Half day tours depart either after breakfast (07h45) at 08h30 & return around 12h30 for lunch or depart after lunch at 14h00 & return at sunset around 18h00. Times will be determined by guest numbers on the tours.
Full day tours will depart after an early breakfast (07h00) at 07h30 & return around sunset.
Picnic lunches & refreshments are included on the tours, however it is possible to dine at eateries on the battlefields route at your own cost.
A small amount of walking on fairly uneven terrain is required, so comfortable walking shoes is a must.
Sunscreen, sunhat & sunglasses are always required winter or summer.
Light fleece or jacket to be taken all seasons. Light rain or wind proof jacket also recommended.
Binoculars are recommended if you have an interest in nature, as you never know what might be encountered whilst on tour.
Please note that it is recommended that you pre-book battlefield tours should you be particularly interested. Please allow yourself enough time to enjoy the lodge surroundings and facilities when making your reservation. Recommended minimum stay is 3 nights.
Half Day Tours 1 or 2 – advisable to pre-book
R595 per person (minimum 2)
Full Day Tours 3, 4, 5 – only by prior arrangement
R2500 per person (minimum 2)