MaS-LTSER facilities

The core instrumentation area of the MaS-LTSER is located in the Afromontane Research Unit's (ARU) Alpine lease area in Witsieshoek – with security provided – and a basic Alpine research base facility available for overnight stays and extended research visits. 

The lease area covers 250 ha on the summit of the Free State component of the Maloti-Drakensberg (2 900-3 300 m) and is bordered by the Royal Natal National Park (uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park), Lesotho (Mont-aux-Sources ridge), and the escarpment on the Free State side, including the spectacular Namahadi cutback. The lease area includes some of the highest points in the Free State, with the exception of Namahadi peak (which is located west of the Namahadi cutback).

The Alpine base is a rustic mountain hut (old Namahadi border post) that can accommodate 20 people, with a bathroom and small kitchenette. The availability of water will depend on the season (rainwater/snowmelt supplied). The base is not furnished, and visitors need to bring their own bedding, cooking utensils, cooking gas, warm gear, etc. The Alpine base is a 20-minute walk from the chain ladders, a 30-minute walk from the top of the Tugela Falls and the Amphitheatre summit, and is located immediately at the head of the Namahadi Pass at 3 100 m. 

Use of the Alpine base is free for Afromontane Research Unit staff and students and is available for a fee to other UFS staff and students and external users, as well as tourists. Registration of research projects in the Alpine lease area is free for ARU and UFS principal investigators but will incur an annual fee of R5 000 for external projects (to help cover costs of maintenance and security). Access is on foot from the chain ladders, on foot or on horseback via the Namahadi Pass, or by helicopter (there is a designated landing space). 

Queries for the use of the Alpine base and project registration in the Alpine lease can be submitted to the ARU Director, Prof Ralph Clark: clarkvr@ufs.ac.za

The ARU website will provide further details of the lease area and Alpine base, including rates, once officially opened. The Alpine base will also be featured on the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge's website, which will handle bookings and advise tourists on rates once it is officially available for use. 

A safety briefing for those unfamiliar with the unpredictable conditions in the high Drakensberg is highly recommended before visiting the lease area or base.


Contact us

Sithando Jwara

Administrator: Afromontane Research Unit
Private Bag X13, Phuthaditjhaba, 9866, Republic of South Africa
T: +27 58 718 5271
C: +27 73 512 7671
E: JwaraS@ufs.ac.za