The beautiful Drakensberg Mountain range is home to a vast number of different accommodation options, all offering a variety of activities, with horseback riding being one of the firm favourites. However not all horsey operations are created equal as we recently discovered on a trip to the region. Deep in the heart of the Southern Drakensberg lies Dragon’s Landing and the passionate Sonja Swanepoel who delivers a horseback adventure like no other.
Sonja’s story setting up Dragon’s Landing
After searching high and low, Sonja found the perfect piece of land just outside of Underberg two years ago. It was here where she would set to work crafting her dreams into reality. Today Sonja has rambled together a not-so-ragtag herd of 10 horses, three rumbustious Rottweilers and an off the grid homestead that delivers an equestrian experience like no other. If you’re looking for an hour outride or trot in the mountains, horseriding outfitters in the Berg are a time a dozen. However what we discovered on our ride with Sonja is that she offers a personal experience you simply won’t get elsewhere.
Tacking up our pretty ponies, she explained how she nurtures all ages for rides of various levels. From an hour walk through the farms with little ones to multi-day crossings into Lesotho for the more experienced, she caters o everyone personally. And her pure love for animals is infectious. She painstakingly handpicked each of her horses. It was a process that took her the better part of those two years. It is clear from the way she talks, that each one of her beautiful breeds are like babies to her.
Our horse ride in the Drakensberg
Setting off through the pine fields that surround her property, a vista of the Drakensberg played out before us. Then there, in a freshly-burned field, stood a wattled crane. The excitement was palpable. Sonja was at a loss for words as the rare creature turned to take us in. It stood just metres in front of us, completely unfazed. Discovering the natural world Sonja gets to call home was a joy on the ride. We saw reedbuck, yellow-billed ducks and wandering cows. We even got to hear the tale of the one day she spotted a leopard! Awash with information about the area, the species that call it home and the surrounding farms, our ride into the Underberg was more like a horse safari than a simple plod with ponies.
Returning to the homestead it was like we were part of the family. We were welcomed into the lounge for a cup of coffee and to drink in more of Drakensberg views. In keeping with her homey style, Sonja has recently transformed her little piece of heaven into a unique farm stay. She offers just two cozy bedrooms, a rustic atmosphere, all accompanied by good food, great wine and Sonja’s personal touch. There are, of course, amazing mountain bike and hiking trails in the area for partners or friends who prefer not to ride.