Amphitheatre (Drakensberg)

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The Amphitheatre with the Tugela River

The Amphitheatre is one of the geographical features of the Northern Drakensberg, South Africa, and is widely regarded as one of the most impressive cliff faces on earth. The cliff face of the Amphitheatre is roughly three times the size of the total combined area of all the cliff faces in Yosemite's famous El Capitan, and more than 10 times the size of El Capitan's most famous (South Western) face. It is part of the Royal Natal National Park.

The Amphitheatre is over 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) in length and has precipitous cliffs rising approximately 1,220 metres (4,000 ft) along its entire length.[1] The bottom of the valley floor, from where many photographs of the mountain structure are taken, is over 1,830 metres (6,000 ft) below the highest point of the amphitheatre (the summit being over 3,050 metres (10,000 ft) above sea level—with Mont-Aux-Sources just over 3,254 metres (11,000 ft) above sea level). The Tugela Falls, the world's second tallest falls, plunge over 948 metres (3,100 ft)[1] from the Amphitheatre's cliff tops.

The Amphitheatre ridge looking southeast

The spectacularly beautiful mountain hiking trail to the top of Mount-Aux-Sources starts at the Sentinel car park above the Witsieshoek Resort, over 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) above sea level, (Witsieshoek in turn can only be reached via Phuthaditjhaba) from where it is a relatively short climb to the top of the Amphitheatre. Via two chain ladders one can gain easy access to the summit. The trip takes only 5 hours return, not including time taken on top of the mountain. This is the only day hiking trail which will take one to the top of the Drakensberg escarpment, and the view from the top is reputed to be amongst the most beautiful in the world.

Another trail to the foot of the Tugela Falls starts at Royal Natal National Park. The easy seven kilometre gradient up the Tugela gorge winds though indigenous forests. The last part of the hike to the Tugela Falls is a boulder hop. A little chain ladder takes one over the final stretch from where there is a stunning view of the falls rushing down the Amphitheatre in a series of five spectacular cascades.

The Tugela Falls, which is situated at the top of the Amphitheatre is said to be the highlight of Drakensberg. [2]

In 1964, film director Cy Endfield shot the exterior locations in the mountainous Drakensberg National Park for the epic war film Zulu starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker. The set for the British field hospital and supply depot at Rorke's Drift was created by the Tugela River with the Amphitheatre in the background. The real location of the battle was 100 kilometres (60 mi) to the north west near the isolated hill at Isandlwana.

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Coordinates: 28°46′S 28°54′E / 28.767°S 28.900°E / -28.767; 28.900