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The Karkloof certainly has much to offer visitors, and a visit to the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands would not be complete without spending some time exploring it.

The Name

The name “Karkloof” is said to derive from an accident which occurred in 1845. A Dutch farmer was travelling along the valley road in a heavily laden Cape Cart when his horses suddenly took fright and stampeded. The wagon overturned, luckily no one was hurt, but according to T.V. Bulpin the wreck remained for years as a landmark, giving its name to the district “The Valley of the Cart”.

The Range

The Karkloof range of hills is one of the most scenic and spectacular areas of KwaZulu-Natal, with a steep flat-topped spur of the Drakensberg stretching for some 77 kilometres towards Greytown. It is capped by two or three conspicuous peaks with the most outstanding being Mount Gilboa (1989 metres). It forms an effective barrier to rain-bearing winds blowing up from the coast – its brow often being shrouded in mist in summer or snow-clad in winter. There are numerous streams and waterfalls along its length and is famed for its extensive mistbelt forests and mistbelt grasslands. The Karkloof range is the divide between the basins of the Umgeni River on the South and the Mooi-Tugela on the North.

The History

The original white settlers found this beautiful area virtually empty… abandoned first by the Bushmen hunter-gatherers in response to encroaching black tribes, then by these same black tribes as King Shaka carved out and expanded his Zulu Empire. During the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, a church built 16 years earlier served as a fort and remains surrounded by settler graves.


Ezemvelo has identified the Karkloof area as being of significant value in terms of conservation and has earmarked it as a “biodiversity hotspot”. Numerous endemic and near-endemic species of fauna and flora thrive in this unique environment. These include a sub-species of crested guinea fowl and the Karkloof Blue butterfly. Marshall and African Crowned eagles nest and breed among the majestic Black Stinkwood and Yellowwood trees, while small game including Bushbuck, Oribi, Blue Duiker and monkeys roam freely.

The Karkloof has an active Conservancy which is made up of local farmers, foresters and landowners interested in the protection of biodiversity in the Karkloof. The Karkloof Conservancy have been actively involved in a number of conservation and community projects in the area for the past 18 years.

Bird watching in the Karkloof can be a very rewarding activity, which may result in spotting some of the more elusive species such as the endemic crested guinea fowl, the critically endangered Cape Parrots, Narina Trogon, African Crowned Eagles, critically endangered Wattled Cranes, Grey Crowned Cranes and Blue Cranes. Bird-watchers have reported over 350 species of birds in the area.

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