ILTER: 1st Open Science Meeting Skukuza 2016
Drakensberg Mountains Pre-Conference Field Trip
6th-9th October 2016 
SAEON Cathedral Peak Long Term Research Site 

Field trip theme: “Long term monitoring and rangeland management in South Africa’s primary water catchment area”

On this trip we will take you to some of the longest running streamflow and weather monitoring catchments in the world It is situate in the stunning Cathedral Peak area of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, World Heritage Site, managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. This SAEON research site is designed to enable integrated research on earth system processes; streamflow, climate and weather; soils processes; carbon cycling and biodiversity dynamics. 

After spending a day in pristine fire climax grasslands, you will visit an active grassland rehabilitation program in a local community rangeland. Here the community participates in both the restoration and monitoring of rehabilitation of the system, aimed at recapturing vital ecosystem services lost through prior inappropriate management. 

There is an opportunity to explore the rich heritage of the area, visiting the Rock Art museum which details the history of the San people who lived in the area For the energetic there several short walks around that camp. A walk to rainbow gorge, leads you through the grasslands into forest Yellowwood forest in the gorge. The streams are chilly, but a refreshing dip in the shallow waters is tradition. 

You will have the opportunity to interact with university students and scientists using the platform, as well as our SAEON technical team and specialist scientists. We will also be joined by local conservation experts from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the local authority responsible for conservation in the KwaZuluNatal province. 


6th October 2016

-   Option 1 Pietermaritzburg arrival

                                                               i.      13h15 We pick up from Pietermaritzburg Airport. We will collect you and take you to the field site. This is an approximate 2.5 hour drive through the KwaZulu Natal midlands area, exposing you to various landuses, grassland, savanna and forest biome types as we travel towards the mountains.

                                                             ii.      16h00 Arrive at camp and settle in.

-   Option 2 Durban arrival

                                                               i.      12:15 We pick up from Durban airport to pick up passengers flying in on the 11:05 arrival flight from Cape Town and the 12:10 arrival flight from Johannesburg.  The drive to site will be approximately 3.5 hours through the KwaZulu Natal midlands area, exposing you to various landuses, grassland, savanna and forest biome types as we travel towards the mountains.

                                                             ii.      16h00 Arrive at camp and settle in.


7th  October 2016

-   08h00 Depart from camp up the mountain to research sites.  Using our SAEON 4x4 vehicles, we will take you on a tour of the research catchments, explaining the long-term monitoring programs and instrument arrays.

-   12:30 Lunch in the mountains

-   16h00 return to camp

8th October 2016

-   08h00 departure for Community area rehabilitation project

-   13h00 Lunch at Sterkfontein dam

-   14:30 arrival back at camp and freshen up

-   15:00 Option 1 Walk up rainbow gorge

-   15:00 Option 2 Visit to Rock Art Center


9th October 2016

-   07h20 check out

-   07h30 departure from camp

-    08:50:-9:40 Midlands meander local fare shopping stop at “Piggly Wiggly country village”

-   9:50 Nelson Mandela Capture Site

-   10:40 Departure for King Shaka Durban Airport

-   12:20 Arrival at King Shaka Durban Airport

-   12:45 Check in for flight to Nelspruit

-   13:45 Flight to Nelspruit (SA8505). Kruger International Airport (MQP)

-   14:45 Arrival at Nelspruit Airport

-   15.15 Departure for Skukuza Camp by minivan

-   17.00 Approximate arrival at Skukuza Camp 



-   Water bottle

-   Sunscreen

-   Hat

-   Walking shoes

-   Raincoat

-   sunglasses

-   Warm gear

-   Cool shirt

-   Long pants (for walking- you can use shorts if you prefer but there are a few snakes about).

-   Bug spray for misquotes in the evenings if you want piece. There is no malaria in this area but they buzz around.

-   Swimming costume

-   Binoculars

-   Camera

-   Your own personal field trip essentials



  • On the field trip up to the research sites, you will be required to fill in an indemnity form.  The trip requires we make use of a very bumpy 4x4 jeep track up a mountain pass. It is not open to the public. It is only used for research and management purposes. If you suffer from any back or neck injuries or issues with internal conditions that would be aggravated by an extended bumpy ride,  this is not for you.
  • Weather may influence what we can do and where we can get to. Some rainfall can be expected. Significant downpours may necessitate that we adjust plans accordingly.



  • Three nights accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis in single chalet at DIDIMA, Cathederal Peak.
  • Packed lunches on 7 & 8 October during field Trips
  • Transportation in 4x4 (or similar vehicles) from either King Shaka International Airport or Pietermaritzburg Domestic Airport on the 6th of October until King Shaka International Airport on the 9th of October 2016.
  • Domestic flight* from King Shaka Airport to Nelspruit (MQP) Airport on 09 October 2016
  • Road Transportation from Nelspruit Airport to Skukuza Camp on 09 October 2016

* Please note domestic airfare subject to fare changes until such a time the booking is paid for by participants – please allow for fluctuation in tour cost until the fare is paid.




Please remember that your domestic flight to either King Shaka International Airport (Durban) or Pietermaritzburg Domestic Airport (PMZ) is for your own account and you need to book that yourself.  Please take note of the pick-up times provided at the airport for either options.  You can contact the conference organizer at to assist you with these bookings.


The following domestic airlines operate to Pietermaritzburg Airport:

SA Airlink :


The following domestic airlines operate to King Shaka International Airport (Durban)

South African Airways:

Mango Airlines:


British Airways:


If you are planning to do this trip with us, we can also advise that the following international airlines now operate directly into King Shaka International Airport (DUR) and you would therefore not have to fly into either Johannesburg (JNB) airport or Cape Town Airport (CPT) first if you so wish.


Turkish Airlines:


Qatar Airways:



R7827.00 per person single

Please contact: for bookings and further information


Please note that you will be able to add this field trip to your conference invoice when registering under
OPTIONS  -  FIELD TRIPS – Drakensberg Mountains