LINEO MABEKEBEKE

Hiding away in the magnificent Maluti Mountains, is a gem that is the Semonkong Lodge, built on the banks of the Maletsunyane River.

Constructed with only local sand stones and thatch, the establishment offers just the right balance between civilisation and rustic elegance.

It also offers a perfect base to explore this area on the iconic Basotho pony, mountain bikes or dare to take on the highest commercial abseil in the world.

Just down the river from the lodge, the mighty Maletsunyane Falls is one of the highest single dropping Falls in Africa, creating a haze of smokey mist as the water plummets with savage splendour 186m down into a spectacular gorge. This is how Semonkong, The Place of Smoke, got its name.

The famous Duck and Donkey Tavern, and Restaurants provides a popular meeting place for both locals and guests and boasts affordable, delicious homemade meals and cold Maluti premium lagers.

Semonkong remains a remote frontier town isolated from the rest of Southern Africa, which has allowed the Basotho pony to thrive and stay at the centre of Basotho life. Ponies are not only used in everyday activities, such as transport of people and goods, but they also have their time in the spotlight.

The monthly (in winter) horse races are one of these times. The horse races here happen because the entire livelihood revolves around Basotho ponies and horse owners are completely passionate about the sport. Weather permitting, once a month, the local Semonkong racing committee organises horse races for a Saturday afternoon once a challenge has arisen. There are various tracks in the area and everyone gathers on the day with great excitement and jubilation.

The biggest horse races are usually held on the weekend of the King’s Birthday, July 17 and the Independence weekend October 4).

The lodge encourages guests, companies or whoever is willing to sponsor the horse races – the greater the prize money the bigger the event.

The horse races are subject to weather conditions and there is a possibility that venues may change accordingly.

Catering to all types of riders, from the experienced to the ‘I’ve never sat on a horse before’, their horses are gentle and sturdy – and will make one feel at home in the saddle in no time. Known for their endurance and used by Basotho as one of the main modes of transport in the rocky terrain, be amazed at how these reliable, good-natured animals take the foothills and rugged mountain paths in their stride with ease.

The most popular day ride winds through the local villages of Semonkong, where one will catch a glimpse of the daily lives of those living in them.

As they head towards the viewpoint of the mighty Maletsunyane Falls, they will be able to take in the beauty of the Kingdom of Lesotho and enjoy the peace and stillness of mountains that surround them.

Once at the waterfall, it is time to stretch those legs and give the horses a breather, it is also the perfect time to stop and marvel at Semonkong’s greatest natural wonder – one of the highest single dropping waterfalls in Africa, plummeting 186m into the gorge below. An unforgettable sight!

This trek can be extended to a hour-hour ride, including Mount Quang – the highest mountain in the area where people will be able to see the national flower of Lesotho, the Spiral Aloe (Aloe Polyphylla).

To all those experienced riders, they guarantee a fast gallop along this route if people are up for it!

“Semonkong Lodge believes in empowering individuals within our local communities, and we work together with the community in the hiring of horses, guides and traditional huts for overnight treks. Please note it is always compulsory to wear a riding helmet. These are provided for you at the activity hut. No open shoes are allowed. We recommend boots with a slight heel and long pants,” the lodge says on its website.