Getaway 4X4 Guide to Lesotho Katse Dam Loop

Winona Griggs

Explore the Katse Dam Loop in Lesotho with Getaway 4X4

Welcome to Lesotho, where the impressive Katse Dam awaits. This engineering marvel is a must-see attraction, boasting the title of Africa’s highest dam. With its unique serpentine shape gracefully meandering through the picturesque Maloti valleys, there is so much to discover here.

If you’re coming from South Africa, the easiest and most convenient route is from Fouriesburg to Ha Lejone. This route is fully paved and offers a smooth journey, taking approximately two and a half hours (depending on the traffic at the Caledonspoort border post).

For thrill-seekers and adventure enthusiasts, the truly exciting way to reach Katse Dam is by embarking on a thrilling seven-hour journey. This route combines tar, gravel, and challenging 4X4 terrain, starting from Lesotho’s A1 in the north.

When I took on these snowy paths, I relied on the reliable Toyota Fortuner as my trusted companion.

Embark on the Katse Dam Loop

Welcome to the incredible journey from New Oxbow Lodge to Sani Mountain Lodge!
Difficulty: Moderate. You will need a 4X4 vehicle and some experience driving off-road.
Duration: 2 days.

Getaway 4X4 Guide to Lesotho Katse Dam Loop

Hey there! So, I’m going to tell you all about this awesome road trip adventure you can take from New Oxbow Lodge. The first part of the journey is on a really good tar road that leads you through the incredible Tlaeng Pass. Just a little tip: in winter, it can get super icy, so be careful! You can find some helpful driving tips on the next page. As you make your way towards the Letseng Diamond Mine, there’s a gravel turn-off that goes west to a place called Kao Mine. It’s about 32 kilometers away.

Now, I gotta be honest with you, after the mine, the road gets a bit trickier. There are some stony descents in certain spots and you might come across some slippery surfaces. But don’t worry! The road rewards you with absolutely breathtaking mountain views, exciting switchbacks, and stretches of smooth gravel that you can really speed along on.

Once you’ve had your fill of adventure on the road, it’s a good idea to make a stop at Motebong village. It’s located in Ha Lejone and it’s a great place to take a break, stretch your legs, grab a bite to eat, and maybe refuel if you need to. Just keep in mind that fuel here is only available in 20-liter containers at the roadside. Once you’re ready to keep going, hop back on the twisty A8 tar road until you reach the Malibamatso bridge. Right before the bridge, you’ll spot a gravel road that goes west. That’s the one you want to take!

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We’ll start on the western side of the dam and follow a gravel road that leads to Makhangoa Community Camp. This last part of the journey may take less than three hours and might include brief stops for livestock along the way. Once we arrive, you’ll be greeted by the beautiful Bokong River, where you can enjoy some trout fishing (don’t forget to bring your own rod!) or observe the diverse birdlife through your binoculars.

The following day, we’ll continue our adventure by taking the gravel road to Katse Village. On our way, we’ll make a stop at Orion Katse Lodge, which is a great place to grab a delicious meal. It’s worth noting that from March 2018 onwards, the lodge will be exclusively used by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project for the next phase of their work. They have some big plans in store, such as building another dam where the Senqu River meets the Khubelu River to the east. This exciting project is expected to continue until 2019, so you’ll witness a part of history in the making!

Hey there! If you’re looking for a breathtaking drive near Katse, I’ve got just the route for you. Let’s start by taking the tar road over the stunning Katse Dam wall and then hop onto the A8 up to Ha Makopela. From there, we’ll venture onto a dirt road that heads northeast out of town, following the Matsoku River. This track will lead us to a crossing point over the Matsoku River itself, before snaking its way through the mountainsides.

Now, here’s where the real adventure begins! At a certain intersection, make sure to take a left turn towards Mokhotlong. Trust me, out of all the drives you can experience around Katse, this one takes the crown for sheer beauty. And the best part? It’s often quiet and peaceful, without too many people around to spoil the view.

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When the terrain becomes flatter, you’ll merge onto the smooth A1 road. This road will lead you to Mokhotlong, and from there, you’ll continue along the A14 road, passing through the scenic Kotisepholo Pass. Keep an eye out on your left for Thabana Ntlenyane, the tallest peak in Southern Africa. Make sure to make a stop at Sani Mountain Lodge, which will take approximately seven hours from Makhangoa, including a visit to the dam wall.

The condition of the road

In Lesotho, there are a few roads you should be aware of. The tar road A1 is in good condition, but watch out for ice on Tlaeng Pass. The gravel road to Kao Mine is also in decent shape, but in some places, you’ll need to engage four-wheel drive. The dirt road from Makhangoa to Katse is relatively easy to drive, but be prepared for steep sections and some eroded areas. The tar road from Katse to Ha Makopela is mostly good, but be cautious of potholes. The track from Ha Makopela past Palama is beautiful, but it can be challenging with sections that are stony, rutted, or relatively smooth.

Safety advice for driving

Lesotho’s roads often have black ice, especially on high mountain passes like Tlaeng and Kotisepholo. If you’re traveling during peak winter, consider using snow chains. When driving, use 4L (four-wheel drive low range) and engage DAC (downhill assist control) to avoid braking, which could cause you to lose control.

Map of the Katse Dam Loop

Recommended accommodations

Getaway 4X4 Guide to Lesotho Katse Dam Loop

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Lesotho, I’ve got some recommendations for you. Let’s start with New Oxbow Lodge. Located at S28° 46.264’, E28° 38.401’, it may not offer fancy rooms, but they are comfortable enough for a good night’s rest. You’ll also find a nice bar and restaurant. It’s a great deal at only R440 per person sharing for bed and breakfast. Give them a call at 0519332247.

Next up is Makhangoa Community Camp. This one is situated at S29° 16.909’, E28° 23.035’. The camp consists of four bungalows that overlook a beautiful oxbow on the Bokong River. If you’re into fishing, don’t forget to bring your own rod. The area is teeming with trout and yellowfish. The best part? The price won’t break the bank. For a group of eight people, it’s only R500 per person. You can reach them at 0333422793.

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Finally, I recommend Sani Mountain Lodge, which you’ll find at S29° 39.742’, E29° 27.374’. If you’re on a budget, this is the perfect place for you. They offer self-catering accommodation and even have a campsite available. But if you don’t feel like cooking, you can still enjoy a delicious meal at their cozy restaurant. Imagine unwinding after a long day of driving with a tasty meal. The self-catering rooms start at R230 per person sharing, and if you prefer camping, it’s only R90 per person. For more details, call 0337020330.

Ready for Some Fun?

If you’re looking for an adventure in Lesotho, I recommend checking out these amazing activities. Here are some suggestions for you:

1. Take a thrilling boat trip on the Katse Dam

Get up close to the massive dam wall and enjoy a unique perspective on this community-run boat trip. It’s an incredible experience that lasts 45 minutes and costs R660 for a total of 28 people. To book your trip, contact Orion Katse Lodge at +266 22 910202.

2. Explore the Katse Dam wall

Before you begin your tour, attend a short presentation that will give you insight into the enormous scale of this project. You’ll be amazed by the mind-blowing facts you’ll learn! The cost for this experience is only R30 per person. To find out more, call +266 22 910202.

3. Visit the stunning Katse Alpine Botanical Garden

Make your way to Katse Village and explore the incredible collection of succulents at the Katse Alpine Botanical Garden. Don’t miss the spiral aloe, which is Lesotho’s national plant! The entry fee is R30 per person. For more information, contact the garden at +266 22 910315.

Note: This Lesotho 4×4 route was researched and traveled by the Toyota team.

Don’t forget to grab your free 4×4 Guide to Lesotho, in partnership with Toyota, with the December 2017 issue of Getaway magazine.

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