Golden Gates Highlands National Park is located in the Free State province in the south eastern part of the country near the border of Lesotho and South Africa. The National Park was formed in the year 1963 with an original size of 18.5 square miles. When it amalgamated with the former Qwa Qwa National Park in 2008, its size increased to about 340 square miles.
The National Park is not commonly visited by those that love animal viewing due to the limited number of animals that are found in the Park but it is famously known for having some of the best views when it comes to landscape and the National Park was named after a farmer who saw the sun setting over the Mountains and the beauty that was formed looked like heaven.
There are several activities that will keep you entertained while you are in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park some of which include the following:
Game drives through the Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is not known for having a lot of wildlife but it focuses more on the beautiful scenery around it. This does not mean that there are no animals for you to see during your game drive and the few that you will get to see while here include:
- The black backed jackal
- Red Hartebeest
- The Mountain reedbuck
- The Black wildebeest
- The Grey rhebok
Although you can visit the Golden Gate National Park can be visited al throughout the whole year, these animals are best seen during the dry season that falls from October to May. April to May is also a good time for one to see these animals but the colder months of June to September are not favorable since the animals are rare due to the rains that are experienced during this time.
Canoeing in the Golden Gate National Park
Canoeing in the Golden Gate National Park can be carried out all throughout the year with a maximum of 4 to 20 people only. With the help of a tour guide, your canoeing experience will be organized and all you need to do is just to show up and enjoy the good views of the whole National Park as the tour guide shows you around the Park. Canoeing is normally carried out around the Gladstone Dam and it is better if you also book in advance to make planning easy.
Birds in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park
The Golden Gates Highland National Park has over 250 bird species making it a top destination for birders. The Park is surrounded by a dense vegetation specifically the montane forests and these act as breeding places for the different bird species in the Park. The Park also receives a large herd of migratory birds that fly into the Park from November to April and some of the bird species that are found in the Golden Gates Park include:
- The Black stork
- Mocking cliff chat
- Martial eagle
- Buff streaked chat which is near endemic
- The cape vulture
- Alpine swift
- Malachite sunbird
- Peregrine falcon
- Lazy Cisticola
- Greater double collared sunbird which is near endemic
- Drakensberg siskin which is near endemic
- Red winged francolin
- Common Kestrel
- Mountain Wheatear
- Wing snapping Cisticola
- Rock Pipit
- Verreaux’s eagle
- Wailing Cisticola
- Grey winged francolin.
The best time for one to visit the Golden Gate National park for birding is from November to April during the summer months when the migratory birds fly into the National Park. You can as well find some bird species between May to September but it is rare because of the extreme coldness during this period.
Abseiling in the Golden Gate National Park is carried out at the Wilgenhof Education Centre. It is a fun activity especially for tourists who love adrenaline activities and in in order for you to enjoy the abseiling, you will need to book in advance that is at least a day earlier so that it is planned out and there will be a tour guide to take you through the different rules related to Abseiling. All the equipment that is used for abseiling is provided to tourists at the Centre.
Hiking in the Golden Gate National Park
This is one of the activities that tourists can easily carry out while in the Golden Gates National Park. There are several hike routes that you can use for hiking and these take you around the National Park through the beautiful scenery.
- The Rhebok hiking trail
This is one of the hike trails that can be used to explore the Golden Gate National Park with 31 kilometers long. It is moderately difficult and it takes two days and one night before it is completed. It is a mountainous route that passes through the different streams, waterfalls and the route is filled with rocky plains. You will need good hiking boots so that you do not slip and lots of drinking water. With the help of a tour guide, you will be able to hike using the properly marked trail with a good and unforgettable scenery.
- The Mushroom rock hike route
The mushroom rock hike trail is the easiest within the National Park and it takes about 0ne hour and a half before it is completed. With 3.9 kilometers to it, it will take you around the National Park and if you are lucky, you will be able to see a few animals and birds that habitate within the National Park.
- The Holkrans hike route
- The Eco-Ravine hike
The Eco-Ravine route is a moderate hike route and it is a 2.3 kilometers route. Normally hiked upon by tourists who are fit but not too experienced to take on the difficult hikes, it will take you around the National Park and it is best done in the morning before the sun comes out.
- Brandwag Rock Hike
The Brandwag Rock Hike route is 2.4 kilometers long and is one of the most used hike routes within the Golden Gates National Park when it comes to hiking. It has an elevation of 140 meters and therefore you will good hiking boots before you set out with your tour guide on the hike.
- The Boskloof Hike
Enjoy a swim in the Golden Gate Park
There is a natural pool that is located in one of the camps within the Golden Gate where tourists can enjoy a swim after walking around the Park. The cool water in the swimming pool at the Glen Reenen rest camp will help you keep cool especially during the warmer weather.
Nature walks in the Golden Gate highlands National Park
Nature walks through the Park are one of the best ways in which one can explore the whole National Park. Mostly done in the mornings and in the evenings, the nature walks are done with the help of a tour guide and these will take you around the lush vegetation and the beautiful scenery around. Nature walks are done during the warmer months when it is not freezing and you will have the chance to see the wildlife up close during the walks.
The Basotho cultural village
The Basotho cultural village is located near a sandstone and is the best place for you to visit if you want to get to know more about the culture of the people. When you get to the village, you will see the live performances of traditional dances, an exhibition is also set up and you can get yourself some souvenirs from the shop that in the village. The Basotho village also act as accommodation for tourists.
When you get to the cultural village, you will be warmly welcomed and a video will be shown to you where you get to know the history of the place and the museum that is located in the village. Before you are allowed to enter the village, you must first ask for permission from the chief who is the head of the village and that is why you will need a tour guide with you. Once you are given permission, your tour starts at Khatloa and it will take you to the chief bone thrower of the village and these ones are believed to tell the future of someone.
Horse riding in the Golden Gate
The Golden Gate National Park has several routes that were gazetted for horse riding and this activity is best carried out during the dry season when the weather is not too cold. Horse riding is normally done by all those that have prior experience and you will not be allowed to go horse riding if you do not have a tour guide with you.
Safari cost to the Golden Gates Highland National Park
- Golden Gate Highland national Park fees
The Park entrance fees to the Golden Gates Highland National Park vary depending on who wants to gain entrance to the National Park and below is an estimation of what you are expected to pay before you are allowed to enter into the Golden Gate Park.
SADC citizens (with passports)
56R per day
112R per day
112R per day
224R per day
South African Citizens and residents that have passports
28R per day
56R per day
- Transportation to the Golden Gates highland National Park
The most commonly used transportation means when going to the National Park is by road and this is the same that is used while within the Park. At the moment there are no direct flights to the Golden Gates but you can drive from the Airport and within a few hours depending on where you are coming from, you will be at the entrance of the Park.
The transportation fees highly depend on the vehicle that you are using and the most commonly used vehicles are the four wheel drive.
- Accommodation rates within the Golden Gate Highland National Park
There are different accommodation facilities that are found within the Golden Gates and these are categorized into three that is budget friendly, mid-range and luxury accommodation facilities.
Highlands Mountain Retreat
This is located in the Eastern part of the National Park and it is a luxury and self-catering accommodation facility. A room here goes for an average fee of 103 US dollars per night for two people but note that the fee changes depending on the number of people. It is found in a secluded area with the backdrop of the Maluti Mountains with eight wooden cabins which are perfect for tourists who visit during the winter season.
The Basotho cultural village
Rooms at the Basotho Cultural village go for an average fee of 56 US dollars per night and it is can be a home to quite a large number of tourists. Pets are not allowed, you get to have the Sotho cultural experience while in the village and there are also other activities that are organized like hiking, exhibitions and bush walks.
The Kiara lodge
The Kiara lodge is located just 6 kilometers away from the National Park within the Maluti Mountains. Every room at the lodge goes for 51.25 US dollars per night, it has 13 apartments which are self-contained, it’s a self-catering accommodation facility, a spa and other facilities like swimming pool, a restaurant where you will get both local and international meals and it is also family friendly.
When to visit the Golden Gate Highland National Park
The Golden Gate Highland National is an all year round destination although the best time depends on the activities that you want to carry out while in the Park.
The worst time that you should avoid is between May and August. During these months, the weather is at freezing level and you should avoid them at all costs.
For those that do not love crowds, the best time would be from April to September and this is because of the cold weather that is experienced during this time.
The best time for visiting the National Park is during the warm months that happen from October to march.
The high season within the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is experienced between the months of October to March since this is during the school holidays.