Heading up Sani Pass into Lesotho is kinda a South Africa tradition. It’s equal measures of adventure, history, culture, photographical opportunities – and quite honestly it’s just a really fun and great day out. But what is actually involved and what do you need to know or bring with you? Here’s our handy guide to our Sani Pass day tour from Durban.
- Where is Sani Pass?
- How long does it take to get to Sani Pass form Durban?
- Can anyone drive up Sani Pass?
- What time do we leave Durban?
- How long does it take to ride up Sani Pass?
- What should you bring along?
- Do you need a visa?
- What is at the top of Sani Pass?
- How time will we be back in Durban?
- How often does the Sani Pass tour run?
First Off, Where is Sani Pass?
Head west from Durban for about 2,5 hours and you will arrive in the small town of Underberg. Pass through the town of Underberg and through a small nearby village called Himeville and you’re getting close to the start of Sani Pass.
Next up is a left at the well marked turnoff and then 10 minutes or so later you’re at the start of Sani Pass itself. From Durban to the start of Sani Pass is around 230km one way and ignoring road works and such is about 2,5 hours drive.
How Long Does it Take to Get to Sani Pass From Durban?
Plan on a 2,5 hour drive to get there, but you should know that at the moment (August 2023) there is quite a bit of road works that could slow you down. I like to get to Himeville or Underberg a little earlier than needed – you can always get a nice English breakfast or even a cup of coffee.
Can Anyone Drive Up Sani Pass?
Nope. Well, actually, it depends. Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed to drive Sani Path. At times it may seem like the pass is really easy to negotiate, but it’s decidedly more taxing the higher you go.
I will say that the most dangerous part is the return trip; very tight switchbacks on gravel roads that are steep and pretty unforgiving. So, anyone can drive the pass (you must of course have a drivers licence) but the vehicle you use has to be a 4×4 vehicle.
What Time Do We Leave Durban?
Pick up from your accommodation in the Durban area is around 6am. The reason for the early start is that the vehicle we pick you up in is not the same vehicle as the one you ascend Sani Pass in, instead you’ll jump from our transfer vehicle into a suitable 4×4 to ascend the pass.
Typically the start of the Sani Pass section our day tour starts at 9:30am, and considering it’s a 2,5 hour drive to meet the 4×4 vehicle, that’s why it’s a 6am pickup time.
How Long Does it Take to Ride Up Sani Pass?
The drive up the pass typically takes around 3 hours; it’s a marathon, not a race!
On the way up your guide will stop here and there in order to allow you and your fellow travellers to stretch the legs and take some photo’s of the amazing landscape.
You guide will also be pointing out plants and birds and with any luck at all, you’ll even get to spot some baboon and eland. So although it’s a slow drive to the top, there’s quite a bit to chat about and to show you that will help break up the journey.
Coming back down is usually a bit faster as there are fewer stops to make, so usually everyone is back in the town of Underberg at 4pm.
What Should You Bring Along?
A sense of adventure and a desire to experience something new. And your passport. Some snacks wouldn’t be amiss either.
Layer up – leaving Durban the weather is usually quite warm, shorts and t-shirt type weather; but after you’ve ascended some 2800 meters, the temperature drops a great deal – and if the wind is blowing, it kinda cuts right through you.
Now you won’t actually be outdoors for much, probably only when taking photo’s or are enjoying a glass of wine at the pub, but still layer up.
A few snacks and some water is also a good idea – some people seem to dehydrate on the drive up; have and not need it rather than need it and not have it I always say.
A camera is also a good idea, some amazing vistas that are just begging for an photographers attention!
Do You Need a Visa?
Yes you do. On arrival at Underberg, you’ll be asked to fill in some forms to keep with you, and once you get to the South African border post, you’ll need to present them there, and again at the Lesotho post and again on the way back down.
Now some visa’s can be obtained at the border, but some not. To know whether you need a visa and when you need to apply and to get more up to date information, visit the Lesotho eVisa website.
What is at the Top of Sani Pass?
First off the amazing landscape. Honestly, no matter how many times I have been up into this part of Lesotho, I am staggered by the rugged beauty of the place, it’s quite haunting I think, and I’m deeply impressed by the people who actually live up here in this very sparse mountain top.
Speaking of the people, there is small baSotho village near the top of the pass and almost all of the tours will stop at the village where the local people will warmly welcome you into their stone houses.
Once inside you’ll be given a short talk about the people here, how they live, what their traditions are and how they came to be on this mountain top. And if you’re really lucky, there will be some pot bread baking away that you will be invited to try, it is so delicious!
Also at the top of Sani Pass is the highest pub in Africa, Sani Mountain Lodge and serves deliciousness like lamb stews, burgers and the best toastees.
What Time Will We Be Back in Durban?
Once you’ve eaten your share, enjoyed your beer or wine and taken as many photo’s as your heart desires, we’ll begin the trek back to Durban.
Typically if you start the pass just after lunch, you’ll be back in Underberg by 4pm and then it’s a 2,5 hour drive back to Durban so you should be back by 7pm.
How Often Does the Sani Pass Tour Run?
We run our Sani Pass day tour whenever we have a booking, as long as we have a minimum of two people we are ready to go. Typically we only take 8 people at a time but if your group is bigger than that then we’ll put another vehicle on the road for your group.
The 4×4 vehicles we use are either 10 seater Toyota Land Cruisers or Toyota Fortuners depending on the group sizes. All the guides are qualified and very experienced.
Ready to Book Your Seat on the Lesotho / Sani Pass Day Tour from Durban?
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