Lesotho Is More: An Insider Shares

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 27 January 2009

Lesotho is the very small ‘Kingdom in the Sky’ completely land-locked by South Africa. It’s a perfect gem of a place – especially for the independent traveller – where the exploring opportunities seem endless.

Locals on the escarpment playing musical instruments in the mist

Locals on the escarpment playing musical instruments in the mist

You Too a Basotho

To come to grips with new cultures, what could be better as first immersion than to live with the locals? The Mamohase Bed and Breakfast is a family-owned bed and breakfast that gives you a truly Basotho experience. Everything is honestly and truly traditional because it is just as the others in the village do (and have done for centuries): sleep in thatch-roofed mud huts, take morning baths with a sponge and bowl of hot water, use the nearby outhouse etc. At mealtime you are also welcome to dine on traditional meals with your hosts, who are happy to talk about their family, culture and history. During the day, you can hike in the area, hire horses from the community or arrange for village tours with dancing and singing. You’re even treated to a taste of the locally grown veggies used to prepare meals.

A local Basotho spinning mohair

Liphofung Cave

Liphofung Cave is the smallest nature reserve in Lesotho. Recently opened, it’s still fairly undiscovered, so much so that the local guides genuinely enjoy entertaining guests. One can, for example, ask them to play you local instruments, called the sekhankula and lesiba (the national instrument of the Basotho, a unique stringed wind instrument), while they show you around a little village.

Campers are specially treated to an night under the cave overhang!

Another park highlight is the longest single-drop, commercially run abseil (rappel) in the world (204m or 670ft), right into a gorge alongside the Maletsunyane Falls.

Since 2003, fewer than 900 daredevils have attempted this world-record descent, each sent home with photos and a certificate proving their audacity. Professional local guides ensure you’re fully prepared before they send you over the edge. The plunge has been described as an extreme nature walk past unique cliff-face flowers and with bearded vultures soaring nearby. You can even travel on Basotho ponies to the waterfall; they’ll await your return for an onward trek.

Roma Trading Post

The university town of Roma is home to the Roma Trading Post Guest House (TPGH). Pop in and hire a local hiking guide who can take you on an informative 20-minute walk to some nearby dinosaur footprints! TPGH can be easily reached by car or a minibus taxi can drop you off at the main road from where it’s a short walk to the guesthouse.

A Horse of Course

Lesotho is horse country; Basothos ride them as part of their daily lives. Apart from offering some of the best overnight horse trails, Lesotho also hosts horse races during its winter (May to September) on the last Saturday of every month. These races take place all over Lesotho, but the most thrilling gatherings are in the Semonkong Valley near Semonkong Lodge.

Hiking Lesotho style: on horseback

Hiking Lesotho style: on horseback

It’s a thrilling experience – best characterised as organised chaos. As independent as you may be, you’re best off with a guide (ask at the lodge) who can explain everything to you. Without him, you’ll miss out on a lot. Bring coins so you join the herd boys in casual betting for no more than 0.10 Lesotho Lisente. Bring sun block and water, although there’s usually someone selling ginger beer. Take time to enjoy. This is an event like no other in the world!

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Ethan Gelber

In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, ex-AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, family travel, keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is editorial director of the Family Travel Association, a co-founder of OutBounding, and tackles content projects for HomeExchange.com and RW Social, which produces the NY Trav Fest. Previously, Ethan was Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, for which he founded and edited The Travel Word (this now-independent blog); publications manager of the French government tourist office (Atout France) in NYC; and helped manage a Paris-based bicycle tour operator.
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adventure travel, Africa, caves, Lesotho, local knowledge, mountains, outdoors, Southern Africa, waterfalls,

3 Responses to “Lesotho Is More: An Insider Shares”

  1. Jodi says:

    I have had opportunity to spend (altogether) a couple months in Lesotho and it truly is an off-the-beaten track but oh-so-special experience. There are not too many places I have seen that haven’t been ruined in some respect by American-inspired commercialism or by trying to meet some mass-tourist set of expectations – but Lesotho isn’t either of those and you can really feel the authenticity of the people, the culture and the places. The Semonkong Falls are amazing and there are no silly warning signs or gift shops in the way to mar the view of this absolute treasure.

  2. Jauckie says:

    Lesotho is great. Wish I can visit soon. You have some awesome activities there.

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