TOURISM


Tapping the potential of the tourism industry requires the identification and development of specific and unique activities that will make Lesotho a preferred tourist destination. Other ongoing activities to stimulate the sector include infrastructure development – specifically road construction and rehabilitation projects in the mountains – and the construction of additional accommodation facilities. Training hotel or lodge operators as well as tour guides is another priority.

Tourism statistics

According to Lesotho’s Bureau of Statistics in their 2010 Yearbook, about 95 percent of all visitors enter Lesotho by road through one of the many border posts. The main border posts of Maseru Bridge, Maputsoe and Caledonspoort account for about 80 percent of all visitors. Sani Pass on the eastern escarpment attracts many holidaymakers, most of them day visitors. The overall number of visitors increased by some 53 000 in 2009.

Over 80 percent of visitors to Lesotho come on holiday or to visit friends or family. South African residents account for the bulk of visitors (85-90 percent). Around 60 percent of all visitors are male, and 45 to 50 percent of visitors stay for three days or less.

There have been a number of new entrants to the accommodation industry since 2006, most in the capital city of Maseru. Overall ‘bed-nights sold’ has increased from 226 508 in 2006 to 301 915 in 2009.


TOURISM BODIES

The Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) was created in 2002 to spearhead the development of tourism in Lesotho through unlocking the latent economic potential contained in the physical environment of mountains, rivers and waterfalls, along with the kingdom’s rich cultural heritage.

During the past few years success has been realised in the harmonising of institutional arrangements governing relationships between stakeholders. The first-ever National Tourism Conference held during 2008 allowed a wide range of stakeholders to participate in strategy-shaping, and in 2009 Lesotho won a Gold Award at the Indaba, southern Africa’s premier travel fair which attracts industry leaders from all around the world. Furthermore, to help with the sustained financing of tourism’s ongoing development, a dedicated fund has been launched with levies collected from the accommodation subsector.

Lesotho’s tourism industry has suffered in the past from not having the requisite exposure in international markets – partly because it has not made optimal use of modern technologies. For this reason, in addition to traditional marketing tools such as magazines and brochures, LTDC launched a new website in 2010. This should help to improve international visibility for the local tourism sector and promote Lesotho as the destination of choice for tourists.

According to LTDC acting chief executive officer, Nthabiseng Monoko, the primary aim was to develop a standalone world-class website to market the tourism sector in Lesotho and showcase the country’s investment opportunities. As such, the website provides comprehensive information to international tourists about the services offered by tour operators and local tourism businesses, including accommodation establishments and attractions.

The website will help the LTDC collect statistics on activities that are popular with tourists and provide data on tourists’ country of origin. The website has two micro-sites – one highlighting travel and the other investment opportunities available to foreign investors.

The Lesotho Council for Tourism (LCT), which was launched in January 2009, brings Lesotho’s different tourism subsectors under one umbrella body. The LCT is committed to the growth and expansion of the tourism industry in Lesotho, and works with government to raise the profile of the tourism private sector and to ensure the sustainability of tourism businesses. Its aim is to:

  • Increase private sector involvement in Lesotho’s economy

  • Develop skills levels and delivery capacity in the tourism private sector to create wealth and much-needed jobs

  • Assist accommodation owners, tour operators and tour guides to deliver high-quality and market-ready tourism products

  • Harness the country’s untapped tourism potential, with its unspoilt natural landscape, distinct culture and rich natural history

  • Encourage other players in local tourism, such as caterers, crafts people, event and promotions companies, musicians and entertainers, to produce and promote high-quality tourism products

    The council affords its members access to: professional and industry-relevant training; financial and other forms of support for restructuring and expansion of tourism businesses; promotional opportunities for tourism products locally and internationally; membership of international tourism bodies such as RETOSA (Regional Tourism Organisation for Southern Africa) and SATSA (Southern African Tourism Association).

    Current goals and objectives include improving the quality of service and customer care in the tourism and hospitality industry, encouraging local and international investment in the tourism industry, improving and promoting the quality and packaging of tourism attractions, and collaborating with regional and international partners to promote tourism in Lesotho. The council also encourages community-based tourism and works to improve national policies and regulations in the industry. Launching its own website, as well as featuring Lesotho’s tourism products on tourism websites at home and abroad, is another priority.

    TOURISM INFRASTRUCTURE

    An allocation of M16 million in the 2010/11 national budget went toward ongoing work on the Thaba-Bosiu Cultural Village. At the same time, the tourism sector was allocated M19 million to finance the construction of a National Museum and complete the Maloti Conservation and Development Project. The training of hotel or lodge operators and tour guides is also a concern, and the Republic of Cyprus has offered scholarships and training in all aspects of the industry. To support such investments, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture will also encourage private entrepreneurs by simplifying the process of obtaining accommodation and catering licenses.

    Road construction

    Improved access to Lesotho’s tourism attractions – particularly those in the remote mountain regions – in the form of modern road networks is likely to attract more visitors as well as help communities within those areas. For this reason, roads leading to prime tourist attractions are being built or upgraded.

    Projects currently underway include the feasibility study and design of a trunk road from Thaba-Tseka to Sani Pass. Now that the Underberg (in South Africa) to Sani Pass road has been completed, the Sani Top to Mokhotlong road project, which is expected to cost M340 million, is in the spotlight. Lesotho has already received M40 million from the South African government towards the upgrading of the approximately 50-kilometre stretch of road, and will source additional funds from the World Bank and African Development Bank. It is envisaged that the design phase will take about 18 months and construction work some 36 months. In addition, the Oxbow-Mokhotlong road is being rehabilitated as well as the South 1 road from Maseru to Mafeteng, Morija to Matsieng, and back to the South 1 at Ha Moruthoane.

    Accommodation

    Lesotho offers its visitors a good choice of accommodation, ranging from sophisticated hotels with casinos to comfortable lodges, B&Bs, selfcatering chalets and backpackers’ hostels. While Maseru boasts two large international-standard hotels, there are plenty of accommodation options in the smaller towns as well as more remote locales. Tourists can also choose to experience real Basotho life through home-stays in traditional rural village.

    During 2009, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, LTDC and the Private Sector Competitiveness (PSC) project collaboratively set about developing and introducing a star-based grading system for accommodation facilities. This will help to make Lesotho’s accommodation facilities and tourism attractions more widely known to international tourists.

    Building additional accommodation and service facilities will encourage tourists who are currently day-visitors from South Africa to extend their stay in Lesotho. New accommodation facilities built in recent years include guest houses at Tšehlanyane and Liphofung, Bokong and Sehlabathebe, as well as chalets at Thaba-Bosiu Cultural Village. Examples of successful Public-Private Partnerships include the five-star Maliba Mountain Lodge and three-star Maliba River Lodge in Tšehlanyane National Park. Additionally, Basotho residing in the mountainous areas of the country are being encouraged to develop home-stay ventures, with Tsatsane in Quthing and Thamathu in Qacha’s Nek earmarked to pilot this programme.

    In what government described in early 2009 as a major development and great boost for the country’s tourism industry, global hospitality giant Sun International embarked on upgrading its premier Lesotho Sun Hotel and Casino at a cost of M140-million, partly funded by the Lesotho government. Refurbishment concentrated on the furnishings within dining areas and bedrooms, resulting in a showcase of the group’s hallmark style and comfort, while also reflecting the kingdom’s unique culture and traditions. With luxurious, spacious, en-suite guest rooms, elegant dining surrounds, ultra-modern conference venues for 320 delegates and a revamped casino featuring eight tables, 120 slot machines and a cashless gaming system, the Lesotho Sun Hotel and Casino is described as an upmarket, stylish yet simple magnet to casino lovers from all over Southern Africa and beyond.

    Fully operational as of November 2009, this transformed destination now boasts 158 airconditioned rooms – including two royal suites, four duplex and 14 luxury rooms – as well as a business lounge, a buffet restaurant, a brand new Asian fusion restaurant, two walk-up bars and a host of essential value-add facilities: LCD TV, broadband internet, digital safe and hairdryer in every room, 24/7 room service, laundry/drycleaning, car rental and spa facilities. Add to all of the above the finest cuisine and wine list on offer in the country, and a new standard in vacationing and conferencing has been set by the Lesotho Sun Hotel and Casino.

    FUTURE PROSPECTS

    Across the world, the tourism industry has been hit hard by the global slump, and its recovery, like that of the world economy, is expected to be a gradual one. After estimated growth of just 0.5 percent in 2010, the global travel and tourism economy is likely to grow by 3.2 percent in 2011, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

    Lesotho’s tourism sector is at present largely underexploited. In the WTTC’s 2010 economic report, the Lesotho travel and tourism economy is ranked a lowly 175th in absolute size and in 180th place in its relative contribution to the national economy out of a total of 181 countries worldwide. The report nevertheless acknowledges the country’s future potential by ranking it a very respectable 50th in terms of long-term (ten-year) growth. As such, real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for this sector is expected to rise from just 2.2 percent in 2010 to an average of 5.8 percent per annum over the subsequent ten years.

    The relative contribution of tourism to GDP is also expected to increase, from 2.5 percent (M381.0 million or US $49.6 million) in 2010 to 2.8 percent (M1 042.4 million or US $114.7 million) by 2020. However, since travel and tourism touches all sectors of the economy, its real impact is even greater. In addition, the contribution of the travel and tourism economy to employment is expected to rise from 2.0 percent of total employment in 2010 to 2.3 percent by 2020.

    TOURISM RESOURCES

    The world’s highest country, Lesotho is unique in offering a true African wilderness experience in an alpine environment. Its towering mountain ranges, endless vistas and rugged, untamed landscapes are ideal for travellers in search of adventure and a destination which offers something out of the ordinary.

    Lesotho is home to many rare and endemic species, and while wildlife is not prolific, the varieties to be found are specialised to their environment. These include rhebuck, mountain reedbuck, baboons, jackals and smaller animals such as rock hyraxes, mongoose, meerkats and ice rats. Reptiles include the small yet very rare berg-adder. It is quite common to see vultures and eagles soaring on thermals, with less usual species comprising the sentinel rock-thrush, orange-breasted rock-jumper and bald ibis.

    Lesotho has well-marked seasons, with clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine for more than 300 days a year. The country’s high altitude means that it is free of both bilharzia and malaria.

    Lesotho’s flora is also uniquely adapted to the afro-alpine environment. With its paved hillside trails, indigenous flowers and lovely rock garden, Katse Botanical Gardens displays the country’s diverse mountain flora and plant heritage in a natural setting, as well as preserving rare and endangered species such as the national flower, the spiral aloe.

    Other bonus factors include the warmth and hospitality of the Basotho people, as well as their rich heritage and cultural identity. Lesotho’s political stability also ensures personal safety, freedom of travel and peace of mind for visitors. There are a variety of sites of geological, historical and archaeological importance, including rock art in the highlands and dinosaur footprints embedded in the sandstone of the lowlands.

    The country is known for its crystal clear streams, surging waterfalls and many dams and lakes. Maletsunyane Falls, one of the highest singledrop waterfalls in the Southern Hemisphere, plummets 204 metres into a spectacular gorge, creating clouds of spray which can be seen from Semonkong.

    Built as one of a series of dams in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project to export water to South Africa, the huge Katse Dam with its 185-metre high dam wall (the highest in Africa) has become one of the country’s most important tourist attractions. There is a visitors’ centre which offers guided tours. The best views are afforded from the Mafika-Lisiu Pass. Accommodation is available at a nearby guest house as well as in a lodge overlooking the dam.

    Seasonal attractions

    During spring, the hills are covered with a diverse variety of alpine flowers, while the valleys are covered in peach blossom and mimosa. Lesotho’s national flower – the spiral aloe – may be seen on the slopes of the Maloti Mountains. Summers are long and hot, while autumn days are warm and are ideal for hiking and pony-trekking. It is worth noting, however, that these high altitudes also make weather patterns unpredictable, and beautiful cloudless conditions can rapidly give way to thundershowers or snowfalls.

    Winter brings snow to the mountains, although some areas may experience snowfalls at any time of year. In the highlands, snow skiing is possible below the Mahlasela Pass, where there are three slopes and two ski lifts, as well as two skiing resorts just four hours’ drive from Johannesburg in South Africa.

    NATIONAL PARKS & RESERVES

    Lesotho’s national parks and reserves are under the jurisdiction of two different entities – Lesotho National Parks (+266 2231 1767), which manages Sehlabathebe National Park, and Lesotho Northern Parks (+266 2246 0723).

    Presently administered by Lesotho Northern Parks, Tšehlanyane National Park, Bokong Nature Reserve and the Liphofung Cave Cultural Historical Site were originally established by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) to compensate for the loss of biodiversity caused by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). The affected communities have benefited through tourism projects in these areas, and receive a 10 percent share of all park collections in the form of community development projects.

    The spectacular mountain road that crosses the Sani Pass serves as an entry point into Lesotho from South Africa’s uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. From Sani Top village, Thabana-Ntlenyana, the highest mountain in southern Africa, is a 15-kilometre hike away. Travelling on into Lesotho, the dramatic ‘Roof of Africa’ route unfolds through the 3 240-metre Kotesipola Pass, down into the valley below and the town of Mokhotlong.

    The oldest nature reserve in Lesotho, Sehlabathebe National Park covers 6 500 hectares of remote and pristine landscape with an average elevation of 2 400 metres. Accessible only to 4x4 vehicles, this rugged yet tranquil reserve with its beautiful highaltitude grasslands, alpine flora, waterfalls, lakes and unusual rock formations, is home to antelope and rare birdlife. The park is a good spot for eco-activities such as guided hiking, rock climbing and pony trekking, and there are some excellent fly-fishing sites and rock art paintings. Facilities include a newly-built Heritage Centre and accommodation in guest houses, the park’s lodge or campsites, as well as home-stay ventures in nearby Thamathu. Plans are currently afoot to have Sehlabathebe declared a World Heritage Site – a move which would raise the park’s status greatly and help to attract greater numbers of visitors to Lesotho.

    The Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Park was formed through the linking of Lesotho’s Sehlabathebe National Park with the uKhahlamba- Drakensberg Park in South Africa. The transfrontier conservation area incorporates both the Maloti and the adjacent Drakensberg range, a region characterised by unspoiled mountain scenery and a unique yet fragile ecosystem. A number of conservation and infrastructure development projects are being undertaken here. (Further information may be found in the Ecotourism section which follows.)

    Occupying some of Lesotho’s most dramatic landscape, the 1 970-hectare Bokong Nature Reserve lies at the head of the Mafika-Lisiu pass en route to Katse Dam. Reaching an altitude of 3 090 metres above sea level, it is the highest nature reserve in Africa that is accessible by motor vehicle. From the visitors’ centre there are breathtaking vistas across the Lepaqoa valley and an impressive waterfall is formed where the Lepaqoa River drops down a sheer cliff-face into the valley below. In winter, the waterfall becomes a spectacular ice sculpture set in a landscape dusted in snow.

    Features of interest in Bokong include an impressive variety of birdlife, and visitors may be able to catch a glimpse of the rare and endangered bearded vulture as well as a number of other bird species endemic to the afro-alpine zone. Wildlife consists of some vaal rhebok and baboons, as well as colonies of endemic ice rats. The reserve also contains excellent high-altitude wetlands.

    Hikes may be taken from Bokong across the ‘Roof of Africa’ into the Tšehlanyane National Park. While this challenging three-day trail covers a 40-kilometre route, there are also a series of less strenuous day trails and educational walks, with the use of a local guide strongly encouraged due to the unpredictable nature of the weather at these high altitudes. Other attractions include interesting rock shelters close to the visitors’ centre, restful picnic sites, a reconstructed cattle post and pony trekking opportunities. Accommodation is available in the form of campsites as well as chalets and a new lodge.

    The Tšehlanyane National Park is a protected area located deep in the front range of the Maloti Mountains at the junction of the Tšehlanyane and Holomo rivers. The park is reached by a 32-kilometre gravel access road (easily negotiable in a two-wheel drive) that leaves the main A1 route about six kilometres southwest of Botha-Bothe. The route passes through the village of Khabo’s and parallels the Hlotse River along a very picturesque valley until it reaches the park entrance. The reserve owes its origin to the access road built to the Hlotse tunnel adit for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).

    Tšehlanyane encompasses 5 333 hectares of rugged mountain terrain containing exceptional scenic, natural and wilderness features and preserving significant biodiversity. It is one of the very few indigenous woodland areas (Leucosidea forest) in Lesotho and contains a number of undergrowth plants that are unique to this habitat. The park also boasts some mountain fynbos as well as berg bamboo on the banks of the streams which provide a habitat for the endangered butterfly species Metisella Syrinx. Small game animals are to be seen and birdlife includes bearded vulture and ground woodpecker.

    Accommodation consists of a new luxury resort, riverside rondavels, comfortable guest houses and campsites. There is also a 60-bed conference centre and picnic sites with barbeque facilities. A craft shop sells refreshments and firewood, while basic foodstuffs may be purchased from the village shops in the valley. In light of the spectacular scenery, there are many opportunities for photographers. Visitors may also take a six-hour circular hiking trail, go pony trekking in the mountains or swim in the reserve’s many streams and pools.

    The smallest of the Northern Parks reserves, Liphofung Cave Cultural Historical Site is situated just off the main route from Botha- Bothe to Oxbow and Mokhotlong. The focus of the reserve is a large sheltered sandstone cave containing rich archaeological deposits and some of the country’s best examples of rock art, with a number of these paintings featuring the eland after which this reserve is named. Once a San shelter, the cave was later used by the founder of the Basotho nation, King Moshoeshoe I.

    Liphofung has been developed with the focus on cultural education and the preservation of the rock paintings as well as early Basotho history. A small visitor’s centre incorporating a display of Basotho culture and San rock art has been developed, along with ablution facilities and a craft outlet. Access is by means of a newly-constructed concrete road. Local guides are available to interpret the historical, cultural and natural significance of the site and the area as a whole. Overnight accommodation is available in comfortable stone rondavels, and there is camping in the cave itself. There are also nearby lodges and B&Bs, as well as home-stays for an authentic cultural experience.

    The Leribe area offers a variety of tourism products, from the Bokong and Tšehlanyane national parks to the magnificent Katse Dam, not to mention a variety of handicrafts.

    ECOTOURISM

    The Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area (MDTFCA) was established in 2001 and covers about 5 000 square kilometres of the mountains that straddle the north-eastern border between Lesotho and South Africa. Containing virtually unspoilt wilderness areas, this region is not only the most important water catchment area of two countries but also an area of significant global biodiversity. It consists of a number of proclaimed provincial nature reserves in South Africa and the Sehlabathebe National Park in Lesotho.

    A bilateral project between the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa, the Maloti- Drakensberg Transfrontier Programme has involved conservation agencies in both countries joining hands to protect the region’s natural and cultural heritage, with international funding and expertise. These mountains form the highest areas in the sub-region, and support unique montane and sub-alpine ecosystems, with snow-capped mountain peaks and outstanding scenic beauty. The area also contains numerous Bushman paintings and other archaeological and cultural resources.

    The United Nations Global Environment Facility, a funding project administered by the World Bank, has donated a considerable amount to the range management division in Maseru and KZN Wildlife to manage the long-term collaborative programme. The combination of improved range management, establishing community conservation areas, facilitating sustainable natural resources and managing nature-based tourism should greatly benefit the mountain region’s economy.

    Development activities in the area have included the construction of lodges, chalets and environmental education centres. The development and subsequent management of accommodation facilities has the potential enrich the surrounding communities through the establishment of joint ventures as well as job creation.

    A current project to upgrade the 47.4-kilometre Sani Top to Mokhotlong road will make the Maloti-Drakensberg area more accessible to tourists, as well as reducing travelling costs for locals, thus developing ecotourism and improving the socioeconomic life of nearby communities. The upgrading of the road linking Underberg in South Africa to Sani Pass has already been completed.

    Another transfrontier conservation area currently under development is that between Lesotho’s Letšengla- Letsie wetland region and the Malekgalonyane Nature Reserve near Matatiele in South Africa. This should boost the tourism triangle that includes Qacha’s
    Nek, Quthing and Matatiele.

    A Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiative to position transfrontier conservation areas as premier tourist destinations in southern Africa led to the launch of the Boundless Southern Africa brand during 2009.

    CULTURAL HERITAGE

    With growing interest worldwide in cultural tourism, this subsector has the potential to play a central role in economic development. Lesotho boasts a number of must-see cultural attractions, including rock art sites, cultural villages and national monuments.

    Some 42 kilometres south of Maseru, the Morija Museum and Archives is Lesotho’s most prestigious museum. Established in 1956, this custodian of Lesotho’s past is home to an impressive array of items of cultural, artistic, historical and archaeological interest, including archives from the early mission, scientific artefacts, displays of dinosaur bones and San paintings. The museum also publishes a range of books based on Lesotho’s history and culture, including ‘A Guide to Morija’, which details historical events as well as describing walking trails. Tours of Morija are also organised. (Contact Morija Museum and Archives, PO Box 308, Morija 190, Lesotho, tel +266 2236 0308)

    Situated in the Phuthiatsana River Valley about 25 kilometres east of Maseru, Thaba-Bosiu (Mountain at Night) is a national monument and Lesotho’s most famous historical site. This steep, flat-topped mountain towers over the surrounding valley and its summit is encircled by a belt of perpendicular cliffs. It is from this mountain fortress – widely referred to as the nation’s birthplace – that King Moshoeshoe successfully defended the Basotho people against their attackers. There is a visitors’ information centre at the base of the mountain, and guided tours are available to the summit, where Moshoeshoe’s grave and parts of his original settlement can be seen. The summit also affords commanding views of the countryside, including Qiloane pinnacle which inspired the top-knot on the Basotho hat.

    Located below the visitors’ information centre, the impressive Thaba-Bosiu Cultural Village is an authentic replica which has been built using the materials and methods of antiquity. It features 40 huts, a site museum and interpretative centre, magnificent live-performance amphitheatre, ceremonial spaces, botanical gardens and handicraft outlets. Constituent tribes of the early Basotho are represented, along with Stone Age cave-dwellers and the arrival of Colonial forces. In addition, a 200-seat conference centre and 41 self-catering chalets place it at the forefront of venues for hosting local, regional and even international think-tanks.

    At Pulane, some 25 kilometres east of Teyateyaneng, lies the mysterious Kome Cave Village, which is hidden underneath an overhang in the pink and orange sandstone cliffs. These sheltered dwelllings were built in the early decades of the 19th century by Chief Teleka of the Basia as a refuge from the marauding cannibals who inhabited the area. The village is near Ha ‘Matjotjo, where the notorious cannibals’ hideout of Malimong and Bokhopa Mountain is to be found.

    Kome Visitors’ Centre recently came under private management in a 20-year agreement which will see the promotion of village-based accommodation, the building of accommodation facilities for tourists, and the development of water sports and pony trekking.

    One of Lesotho’s most important rock art sites, Ha Baroana is reached via the road to Nazareth village, from where there is a gravel track to Ha Khotso village and on to the paintings, which are located on a hillside underneath a rock shelter.

    Preserving Africa’s heritage

    The Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture, Ms Lebohang Nts’inyi, and the United States Ambassador to Lesotho, Mr Robert Nolan, signed a finance grant worth M470 000 during 2010 for the rehabilitation of the Thaba-Bosiu national monument, once the stronghold of the founder of the Basotho nation. Activities to be undertaken include community sensitisation, and historical and archaeological surveys and documentation.

    The Masitise (Ellenberger) Cave House Museum in the vicinity of Quthing is part of an old mission house that was built into a San rock shelter by Reverend David-Frederic Ellenberger in 1866. Today it functions as a small museum with some good displays on local history and culture. Accommodation is available in rondavels or the caretaker’s cottage, and home-stays in nearby Tsatsane.

    Cultural events

    The annual Morija Arts and Cultural Festival is a contemporary display of the richness, diversity and vibrancy of Basotho culture and Lesotho’s heritage over the past two centuries. The event was first held in 1999 in an effort to promote peace, unity and confidence among the Basotho. Today it is Lesotho’s premier cultural event, and has grown immensely in terms of activities, participants and visitors.

    The festival continues to bring together people of different views and backgrounds, providing a showcase for Lesotho’s diverse cultural heritage, reviving certain aspects of Sesotho culture which are waning, boosting tourism and promoting craftspeople and small-scale manufacturers. It is an opportunity for Basotho of all ages and backgrounds to demonstrate their culture and, at the same time, experience the culture of neighbours and other residents of Lesotho.

    Morija Museum has from the outset played a key role in coordinating the festival. Cultural events run throughout the year and culminate in the main festival, which is held annually in September or October over a period of four days. Attractions include arts and crafts as well as cultural groups and performers – both traditional and modern – of music, dance, comedy and poetry from across Lesotho and neighbouring countries. There are also tours, youth activities, horse shows and mountain biking events. The festival is currently mainly sponsored by Econet Telecom Lesotho as Brand Name sponsor, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, Engen Petroleum Lesotho, and other Lesotho based companies.

    For further information, consult the website www.morijafest.co.ls or contact Morija Museum on +266 2236 0308 or info@morijafest.co.ls

    Held annually in March, Moshoeshoe Day is a national holiday commemorating the death of the country’s great leader, King Moshoeshoe I, who was a staunch defender of the language, art and culture of Lesotho. The main celebrations take place in Maseru, where visitors can witness the richness of local traditions.

    OUTDOOR ACTIVITES

    Lesotho’s temperate climate and beautiful scenery make it an ideal base for outdoor enthusiasts and an excellent location for activities ranging from mountain climbing, bird watching and trout fishing to quad biking, abseiling (with the precipitous 204-metre high abseil at Maletsunyane Falls a Guinness World Record), hot air ballooning and hang-gliding. During summer, boating, river rafting, canoeing and fishing hold appeal, while winter snows herald the opening of the skiing season, with Afri-Ski and New Oxbow Lodge both popular skiing destinations.

    Lesotho is also well-known for its pony trekking, with sure-footed Basotho ponies taking tourists to scenic areas that are inaccessible by other forms of transport. Treks last anything from one hour to four days, following routes into the Maloti Mountains and visiting remote and friendly villages where visitors may overnight in a traditional hut made of mud and thatch.

    A number of sports events are held every year in Lesotho, including:

  • The gruelling Roof of Africa Rally is an off-road race that has participants combating the extreme terrain and weather of the Maloti Mountains. The Lesotho Off-Road Association (LORA) has just launched a revised version of the event, which sees the traditional off-road spectacle divided into five editions. These comprise the Quad Roof of Africa in February, the Junior Roof of Africa (motorcycles and quads) to be held in April, the Enduro 5 Roof of Africa (motorcycles) which is scheduled for July, the Roof of Africa Cars, taking place in August, and the Roof of Africa Motorcycles in November.

  • The Sani Stagger marathon and half marathon take place every November. The main marathon starts at the Sani Pass Hotel, across the border in KwaZulu-Natal.

  • Held during December, the Lesotho High Altitude Summer Marathon follows a challenging route 3 000 metres above sea level over asphalt and gravel roads through the pristine Maloti Mountains.

    ROUTES & TOURS

    Highlands Ski Route - The breathtaking Highlands route traverses the wild and untamed mountain areas of Northern Lesotho via the A1 and A31 between Caledonspoort and Sani Top, and features world class skiing and snowboarding, 4x4 routes and snowy vistas as far as the eye can see, and the famed Letšeng Diamond Mine.

    Historic – Menkhoaneng (King Moshoeshoe I’s birthplace), Botha-Bothe plateau (first Settlement of King Moshoeshoe I)

    Cultural – Liphofung Heritage Site, cultural performances, home-stays (Mamohase B&B)

    Sightseeing – Mountain passes (Moteng pass, Tlaeeng pass – highest in Lesotho), waterfalls (Tugela Tšehlanyane), Tšehlanyane National Park (eland, mountain buck, Chacma baboons), rock art, Thabana- Ntlenyana (highest point in southern Africa, source of Orange/Senqu River)

    Adventure – Pony trekking (Mamohase B&B), fly fishing, 4x4, quad drives, seasonal skiing (May-August)

    Sport in focus

    In the 2010/11 budget, the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation set aside around M177 million for sports development. Following the completion of the upgraded Setsoto Stadium in Maseru, the ministry is building a High Altitude Sports Centre at Mohale, and working on designs for Leribe and Mokhotlong sports grounds.

     

    Lowlands Self Drive Route

    Starting at Caledonspoort and ending at Tele Bridge, the Lowlands route follows the A1 and A2 from western Lesotho to the south, passing through six of the country’s main towns and taking in all the historical and cultural sites of the lowlands area. These include the burial place of King Moshoeshoe I and the Thaba-Bosiu ruins, as well as war relics and dinosaur remains.

    Historic – Thaba-Bosiu Fortress, Major Bell’s Tower, Qalabane-Mafeteng (Gun War site), Morija Museum, Maeder House (Morija), Mafeteng old mill, Ellenberger cave house

    Cultural – Ha Kome cave dwellings, Thaba- Bosiu Cultural Village, mohair crafts, cultural performances

    Sightseeing – Mountain passes (Gate of Paradise)

    Adventure – Pony trekking (Malealea, Morija), fly fishing, fossil hunting, 4x4, quad drives

    Highlands Circular Route

    This route starts and ends in Maseru and follows the A1, B25, B31 and A3, offering a little bit of everything from Qiloane Falls and Katse Dam to the Ha Baroana rock paintings and Bokong Nature Reserve, in addition to close encounters with Basotho culture in the many rural villages.

    Historic – Thaba-Bosiu Fortress, Major Bell’s Tower

    Cultural – Ha Kome cave dwellings, Thaba-Bosiu Cultural Village, mohair crafts

    Sightseeing – Mountain lakes (Katse, Mohale), Qiloane waterfall Mountain passes – Thaba Putsoa (Blue Mountain), Khalo la Baroa (Bushman’s), Molimo Nthuse (God Help Me), Mafika Lisiu (2950m)

    Adventure – Pony trekking (Katse, Molimo Nthuse), fly fishing, boating

    Quthing Valley 4x4 Route

    Start at Mount Moorosi or Mphake and end the journey at Ongeluksnek, visiting local communities, the Malekgonyane Nature Reserve and Letšeng-la-Letsio lake en-route. This rustic trail is for hardy 4WD vehicles only.

    Historic – Mt Moorosi Fortress, Fort Hartley, Ellenberger’s cave house

    Cultural –Cultural performances, Mt Moorosi chalets, Tsatsane home-stays

    Sightseeing – Mountain passes (Manyemotsa, Ongeluksnek), Seforong Gorge rock formations, mountain lakes (Lake Letsie)

    Adventure – Pony trekking (Mt Moorosi), 4x4, quad drives, Bearded/Cape vulture breeding sites

    Mountain Biking & 4x4 Route

    Ride or drive this route from Sehlabathebe to Sani Pass, following the A4, A3 and A31 and linking with the Highland Ski Route through the dramatic landscapes and natural splendour of Lesotho’s mountains. Fuel and supplies are available in Thaba-Tseka and Mokhotlong. Suitable for extreme 4WD vehicles only.

    Cultural – Village-based home-stays, cultural performances

    Sightseeing – Mountain passes (Sani, Matabeng), Waterfalls (Tsoelikane), Sehlabathebe National Park (mountain buck, baboons, unique rock formations), rock art, mountain lakes (Katse), Thabana-Ntlenyana (highest point in southern Africa)

    Adventure – Pony trekking (Thamathu, Sehlabathebe), fly fishing, hiking, 4x4, quad drives

    Central Pony Trek & Hiking Route

    Starting and ending in Maseru, this route follows the A5, B40 and A2, with pony trekking and hiking over the mountains. Attractions include Maletsunyane Falls (the highest in southern Africa at 192m) as well as adventure and ecotourism opportunities such as horse riding, 4x4 trails and biking combined with cultural encounters and breathtaking mountain vistas.

    Historic – Thaba-Bosiu Fortress, Morija Museum

    Cultural – Ha Kome cave dwellings, Thaba- Bosiu Cultural Village, mohair crafts, cultural performances

    Sightseeing – Mountain passes (Gate of Paradise, Baboon’s pass), Waterfalls (Maletsunyane, Botsoela, Ketane, Ribaneng)

    Adventure – Pony trekking (Malealea, Semonkong), fly fishing, abseiling, 4x4, quad drives

    Southern Rustic Route

    From Tele Bridge, take the A4 and traverse the meandering route through the Senqu River Valley to the end point at Sehlabathebe. This route is dominated by the Senqu (Orange) River and drier, more rugged highland terrain associated with Southern Lesotho.

    Cultural – Home-stays (Tsatsane, Mt Moorosi), cultural performances

    Sightseeing – Gorges (Seforong, Christ King), Bearded/Cape vulture breeding sites (Mphake), Mountain lakes (Lake Letsie)

    Adventure – Pony trekking (Mt Moorosi), 4x4, quad drives

    King Moshoeshoe Historical Route

    Beginning at Menkhoaneng (Ha Khabo) and finishing at Thaba-Bosiu, this three-day trail follows the migratory route taken by the founder of the Basotho nation, King Moshoeshoe I, as he sought a safer home for his fledgling nation.

    Historic – Botha-Bothe plateau (King’s early life), Menkhoaneng (place of birth), Pitseng cave (stopover), Lipetu (grave of the King’s grandfather), Thaba-Bosiu Fortress

    Cultural – Cultural performances and home-stays (Ha Kome), Kome cave dwellings, Thaba-Bosiu Cultural Village

    Sightseeing – Mountain passes (Manyemotsa, Ongeluksnek), Seforong Gorge rock formations

    Adventure – Pony trekking (Ha Kome), 4x4, quad drives

    Extreme 4x4 Route

    The epitome of a 4x4 adventure, this extreme route begins at Tlaeeng Pass, the highest road pass (3275m) in southern Africa, and ends at Ha Lejone. Supplies are available at Ha Lejone.

    Sightseeing – Mountain passes (Tlaeeng), mountain lakes (Katse)

    Adventure – Pony trekking, fly fishing, abseiling, 4x4, quad drives

    See www.visitlesotho.co.za for a detailed and interactive route map.

    INVESTMENT PROSPECTS

    There are opportunities for the development of accommodation establishments and resort facilities at key tourism destination in the country. Katse, Mohali and other locations forming part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project are among Lesotho’s most visited attractions, and thus ideal for the building of hotels, lodges and resorts. Lejone Camp and Mohale Village, which were used as accommodation during the construction phase of the project, are ready to be handed over to the private sector, while upmarket lodges and resorts could be built at Tšehlanyane and Bokong nature reserves.

    The tour operating and tour guiding subsector is an emerging yet fast-growing segment of Lesotho’s tourism industry. Presently, the country depends heavily on South African-based tour operators to manage and coordinate tourism packages and to bring tourists into Lesotho. There exists an opportunity to develop a credible tour operation business in collaboration with local operators.

    Lesotho has an abundance of water, making boating excursions on dams, canoeing and other water-related activities and important area for investment. In addition to Lesotho’s many beautiful rivers, the dams and tourism infrastructure associated with the Lesotho Highlands Water Project present opportunities for water activities.

    With more snow during winter than anywhere else in southern Africa, Lesotho’s ski resorts, equipment and related services present an opportunity for investment. With the success of Mahlasela Ski, Koti-sephola in the Mokhotlong district and Letšeng-la-Letsie have also been identified as areas for the development of skiing resorts.

    Lesotho is the only country in the world whose lowest altitude territory lies 1 388 metres above sea level. This presents an opportunity for the development of high altitude sports training facilities, with an area at Mohale having been identified for the development of these facilities.

    Other opportunities include development of heliports for panoramic views of the majestic Maloti Mountain range; parachuting and hot air ballooning facilities and services; shooting locations for adventure films; development of traditional arts, crafts, pottery and wool/mohair products; business and information call centres; conferencing getaway venues and the establishment of golf estates.

    Specific development areas include:

  • Sehlabathebe National Park – There are opportunities for ecotourism activities within and around the park, including the development of adventure and adrenalin activities such as hiking, swimming, rock climbing and pony trekking, and building infrastructure for accommodation (15 upmarket suites for 60 visitors).

  • Koti-Sephola Ski – Development of a ski and holiday resort over 953 acres in the Eastern Highlands of Lesotho. Includes ski and sporting facilities, accommodation (three or four-star hotel), and eco-tourism activities.

  • Lejone Camp – Fully serviced with running water, a sewage system and tarred access road, Lejone may be promoted as a world-class training and health establishment with potential for conferencing facilities that can be linked with major conference centres in South Africa.

  • Mohale Camp & Thaba-Chitja – Restaurants and bars are part of the recreational facilities that could promote tourism in the Mohale area. Other possibilities include training and health, accommodation and conferencing facilities on the island, which can be reached by boat or helicopter.

  • Mountain Kingdom Resort – An accommodation and conference facility that will offer scenic views of the Maloti Mountains and a diversity of adventure, adrenalin and cultural activities, as well as high-altitude training.

  • Motebong Village – Proposed holiday resort with the potential for conferencing, highaltitude training and adventure sports to be situated at the gateway to the Lesotho Highlands: Bushman’s Pass (2 263 metres above sea level).

Contact the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation: PO Box 1378, Maseru; tel +266 2231 2238; fax +266 2231 0189; e-mail: ltdc@ltdc.org.ls; website: www.ltdc.org.ls

Scheduled to open in 2013, the Metolong Dam could unlock vast opportunities for the private sector to set up new business ventures in the environs. Plans have been made for a lodge and a shopping centre.