Sani Lodge Backpackers

GETTING HERE

Sani Lodge is located 20 km from Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg.

MAP & DIRECTIONS

Are you wondering how to get here?

CONTACT US

Call, Email or use our Contact Form

FAQs

Answers to common questions.

NEAREST AIRPORTS

International Airports:

  • O.R. Tambo International Airport – Johannesburg (± 7 hour drive)
  • King Shaka International Airport – Durban (± 3 hour drive)

Domestic Airport:

  • Pietermaritzburg Airport (± 2 hour drive)

REACHING US

SELF-DRIVING

Car Hire

If you do not have your own car but would like to enjoy a scenic road trip to reach us, there are several car hire companies you can contact. We can recommend Avis or Europcar as well-known car hire companies, but note that you will need a credit card account for most car rental companies in South Africa. Other travellers have said they have used Around About Cars without needing a credit card.

Planning your Road Trip 

See below for detailed directions based on your starting point, as well as recommendations for ‘Places of Interest’ along the way. Check out the Southern Drakensberg Tourism Guide for more information about our beautiful area.

All routes to us pass through the small town of Underberg. This is a good place to stock up on groceries, although thanks to our great on-site cafe/restaurant, this shouldn’t be necessary!

Beginning in Durban, take the N3 Motorway northwest towards Johannesburg. 80 km from Durban, the motorway passes the city of Pietermaritzburg. Continue on another 19km and then turn left off the N3 motorway at the “Howick(South)/Underberg” turn off (Exit 99). Turn left on to the R617 road. After 36 km, the road reaches the tiny village of Boston, a further 38 km reaches the town of Bulwer and another 37 km will bring you to our nearest town, Underberg.

In the middle of Underberg, turn right at the Shell Garage on the road to Himeville. 5 km will bring you to the village of Himeville, go straight through and carry on another 4km until you reach a four way junction. Turn left here onto the Sani Pass road (tarred). We are 10.5 km along the Sani Pass road on the left hand side. If you reach Sani Pass Hotel, you have missed us – we are 1 km before the hotel.

 

 

Take the N3 highway towards Durban and drive south through the Free State and into KwaZulu-Natal. 

When you reach Mooi River, you face a choice. Both options take roughly 2.5 hours to travel. The recommended route is to continue south along the N3 motorway until you reach the Howick (South) / Underberg turn off (Exit 99). You then follow the R617 route via Boston, Bulwer and Underberg to reach us (See the Durban to Sani Lodge section above).

The second option is to turn off either at the Mooi River or the Nottingham Road exits and then take the road from Nottingham Road village towards Sani Pass. This road heads west from Nottingham Road. The first 30km is a good quality tar road. Just after the turn off to the right to Kamberg, the road becomes a dirt road. This is a 60km stretch of dirt road which is very windy and up and down and cannot be driven at any speed. If the weather is clear and you are driving in daylight hours, it is a very scenic route, but it feels like it takes forever and is much harder on the driver than the tar road along the R617. Also note that there is no fuel along the road which is very remote. At the end of the 60 km stretch, you will reach a four way junction. Turn right onto the Sani Pass Road, and we are 10.5 km along this road on the left hand side. If you reach the Sani Pass Hotel, you have missed us as we are 1 km before the hotel.

There are three options which can be used when traveling to Sani Lodge from the west. The choice of route will depend on exactly where you are coming from and what your interests are.

1. The Coastal Route

This route travels via the main N2 highway from Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) via East London and Mthatha to Kokstad. The N2 is a busy road carrying lots of traffic. Watch out for animals wandering on the road as well as slow moving trucks and taxis. The road is windy and overtaking can be difficult. Getting through the towns, especially Mthatha is often slow due to traffic. Turn left off the N2 at Kokstad. Follow the road right through the town and out the other side, this road then becomes the R617 via Swartberg to Underberg. 

In the middle of Underberg, turn left at the Shell Garage on the road to Himeville. 5 km will bring you to the village of Himeville, go straight through and carry on another 4 km until you reach a four way junction. Turn left here on to the Sani Pass road. We are 10.5 km along the Sani Pass road on the left hand side. If you reach Sani Pass Hotel, you have missed us – we are 1 km before the hotel.

2. The Inland Route following the R56

This route is a much quieter, easier and more pleasant road to drive than the N2. It makes sense to follow this route if you are coming from the coast anywhere west of Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) along the coast, or if you are using the inland route from the Karoo areas of Graaff-Reinet, Nieu Bethesda or Craddock. It is also the quickest and easiest route from Cape Town itself. 

From Cape Town take the N1 towards Johannesburg as far as Beaufort West. Then take the R61 to Aberdeen, turn north on to the N9 through Graaff-Reinet and on to the R61 turn off, then via Craddock to Queenstown on the R61. Alternatively, from Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) take the R67 through Fort Beaufort to Queenstown.

Once you reach Queenstown, take the R410 via Lady Frere and Cala to join the R56 a few kilometers west of the town of Elliot. Note that if coming from Elliot towards Queenstown, there is no sign at the turn off of the R410 towards Cala. The turn off is the first tar road turning off to the left, about 8 km from Elliot. Continue along the R56 from Elliot via Ugie, Maclear, Mount Fletcher to Matatiele. The section between Maclear and Mount Fletcher is still shown as a dirt road on many maps, but was tarred a few years ago and is in good condition. Continue through Matatiele towards Kokstad, and about 5 km out of Matatiele, a dirt road turns off to the left to Swartberg. This is a good shortcut to avoid Kokstad, although caution is advised if you do not have 4×4, particularly if it has rained recently. After about 50 km on the dirt road, you will rejoin the R617 to Underberg in the village of Swartberg. You can always keep on the R56 to Kokstad and turn onto the R617 when you reach Kokstad.

In the middle of Underberg, turn left at the Shell Garage on the road to Himeville. 5km will bring you to the village of Himeville, go straight through and carry on another 4km until you reach a four way junction. Turn left here on to the Sani Pass Road. This is a brand new tarred road. We are 10.5 km along the Sani Pass Road on the left hand side. If you reach Sani Pass Hotel, you have missed us – we are 1 km before the hotel.

3. The Route via Southern Lesotho

The road through Lesotho is fully tarred and offers a much more adventurous way to travel to Sani Lodge. If you are traveling from the Karoo or the Free State, enter Lesotho via Sterkspruit and the Tele Bridge border crossing. 10 km of good dirt road will bring you from the border crossing to the main tar road north of Quthing (also called Moyeni). Follow the road past Quthing and on to Mt. Moorosi. This section of the road follows the spectacular valley of the Senqu River. After Mt. Moorosi, the road climbs high into the mountains before dropping down into the Senqu valley for the last section of the trip. Finally, the road climbs up to the border town of Qachas Nek. After crossing back into South Africa, a good quality dirt road takes you 34 km to the town of Matatiele. Turn left when you reach the R56, and follow the road 5 km out of Matatiele towards Kokstad where a dirt road turns off to the left to Swartberg. This is a good shortcut to avoid Kokstad, although caution is advised if you do not have 4×4, particularly if it has rained recently. After about 50 km on the dirt road, you will rejoin the R617 to Underberg in the village of Swartberg. You can always keep on the R56 to Kokstad and turn onto the R617 when you reach Kokstad.

In the middle of Underberg, turn left at the Shell Garage on the road to Himeville. 5km will bring you to the village of Himeville, go straight through and carry on another 4km until you reach a four way junction. Turn left here on to the Sani Pass Road. We are 10.5 km along the Sani Pass road on the left hand side. If you reach Sani Pass Hotel, you have missed us – we are 1 km before the hotel.

There are two possible routes depending on how far south along the coast you are.

1. From the Upper South Coast

From the area around Umkomaaas, Scottburgh and uMzinto, take the R612 via Highflats and Ixopo to join on to the R617 south of Bulwer. Turn left towards Underberg. In the middle of Underberg, turn right at the Shell Garage on the road to Himeville. 5 km will bring you to the village of Himeville, go straight through and carry on another 4 km until you reach a four way junction. Turn left here on to the Sani Pass road. We are 10.5 km along the Sani Pass road on the left hand side. If you reach Sani Pass Hotel, you have missed us – we are 1 km before the hotel.

2. From the Lower South Coast

From the area around Umzumbe, Umtentweni, Port Shepstone, Port Edward and Oribi Gorge, take the N2 via Harding to Kokstad. Once you reach Kokstad, turn right, follow the road right through the town and out the other side, this road then becomes the R617 via Swartberg to Underberg. From Underberg, turn left in the middle of town at the Shell Garage toward Himeville and follow the same directions as above.

There are two options to travel between the areas of Amphitheatre, Cathedral Peak and Champagne Castle and Sani Lodge. 

The quickest and easiest route is to travel back to the N3 highway north of Estcourt, then travel south along the N3 to the Howick (South)/Underberg turn off (Exit 99). You then follow the R617 route via Boston, Bulwer and Underberg to reach us (See the Durban to Sani Lodge section)This route will take roughly 3.5 hours to drive.

The second option is to follow the roads further west and closer to the mountains. Much of the route is on dirt, though there are certain sections which are tar and the route takes one past White Mountain, the turn offs to the KZN Wildlife camps at Giants Castle, Highmoor and Kamberg before joining the Nottingham Road/Sani Pass Road as described in the previous section. The whole route is windy and up and down and cannot be driven at any speed. If the weather is clear and you are driving in daylight hours, it is a very scenic route, but it feels like it takes forever and is much harder on the driver than the tar road along the R617. Also note that there is no fuel along the road which is very remote. This route will take roughly 4.5 hours to drive.

 

SHUTTLES

ONE-WAY BUSES

A number of companies operate regular services between South Africa’s major cities and busbud.com is a convenient website to book tickets. Pietermaritzburg and Kokstad are the nearest cities to us that are serviced by these buses. From there, you can take a shuttle directly to us – see the details below.

SHUTTLE SERVICE DIRECTLY TO SANI LODGE

Easy Move Junior Cabs

This dedicated service will run for you at any time of any day. They service Durban, Durban Airport, Pietermaritzburg Bus Stop, Pietermaritzburg Airport, Howick and Kokstad, and can arrange to pick you up from your accommodation (correspond directly for details). They also do Giant’s Cup Trail pick-up/drop-off to help you get to/from the start/finish. 

Prices:

  • Contact directly for up-to-date prices.

Contact Details:

  • Phone: +27 79 317 2616 (Mondli) or +27 64 961 2600
    • NB: If Mondli does not answer his phone right away, send him a WhatsApp on the first number listed above. He sometimes guides for our tour company in Lesotho which is why he may be unable to answer a call, but he will respond to your messages ASAP. 
  • Email: [email protected]

GET IN TOUCH

Whichever method you choose, we will respond to you as quickly and informatively as possible.

Give Us a Call

Call our reception on +27 83 987 3071. Someone will be available between 7am and 7pm everyday. South African time is GMT+2

Send Us an Email

Send us an email or complete the contact form. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

Drop By and Talk

We'd love to share our detailed knowledge of the local area with you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get from King Shaka International Airport to the Lodge?
The easiest options are to hire a car or book a shuttle with Easy Move Junior Cabs (see the Shuttle section above).
How far is the Lodge from the nearest town?
We are 15 km from Himeville and 20 km from Underberg.
Do we need a car to get around?
While having your own car would certainly make life more convenient, it is possible to get around with shuttles or metre taxis. Moreover, our on-site tour company, Drakensberg Adventures, makes it easy to explore Lesotho in our vintage Land Rovers.
Do we need a 4x4 vehicle to reach Sani Lodge?
All major routes to us are tarred so 4×4 is not necessary. NB: Although Google maps often recommends the route from Nottingham Road via Loteni, we advise against sedan cars driving this in the wet season or at night. To drive up the Sani Pass, you will need a 4×4 car, but if you do not have one don’t worry as our on-site tour company, Drakensberg Adventures, has you covered.
Can I start the Giant's Cup Trail from the Lodge and can you fetch me from the finish?
You can hike directly from the Lodge and meet the Trail, or you can arrange with Easy Move Junior Cabs (see details above) to drop you off at the official start – 7 km up the road. They can also arrange to bring you back to the Lodge from the finish. For more information on the options to start the trail or the route, contact us directly.