The sinewy mountains around Liphofung rise in hues of ochre and snow-white during the winter.They conceal the fascinating historic sites of the Moteng Valley, which have yielded evidence of human habitation in these parts of Lesotho since at least the Stone Age.
Today, visitors can come and explore the unique history of the Liphofung Caves, where a well-rounded visitor’s center now offers an insight into the old Basotho kings and the ins and outs of traditional Basotho craft culture.
There are also oodles of walking routes in the area, and some good campsites to boot.
Lesotho’s smallest nature reserve protects a dramatic and atmospheric rock overhang known for its historical association with the 19th-century King Moshoeshoe I and for housing a collection of rock paintings attributed to the San (Bushmen) hunter-gatherers who inhabited the region in prehistoric times.
Liphofung (literally Place of the Eland) is named for the paintings of Africa’s largest antelope left behind on its walls by the San hunter-gatherers who dwelt and performed shamanic rituals in the deep overhang for a period of around 5,000. Other rock art at the site includes depictions of people hunting, stick-fighting, and participating in a rainmaking ceremony. Though the paintings are more faded than at other sites in Lesotho such as Ha Baroana and Tsatsane, they are accompanied by excellent explanatory panels that show what they would have looked like in their prime and also place then in a cultural context.
Liphofung’s other main claim to fame is that the future King Moshoeshoe I, founder of the Sotho Kingdom, sheltered in the overhang when he traveled to the area as a young man, and then used it as a natural sanatorium for injured soldiers during a battle undertaken in 1840.
A small Visitors’ Centre incorporating displays about traditional Basotho culture, King Moshoeshoe, and San rock art has been developed at the site. From here, it is just a five-minute walk to the overhang along a steep but well-maintained footpath.
How to get to Liphofung nature reserve Lesotho
Liphofung Nature Reserve lies on the north side of the A1 about 155km (three hours) northeast of Maseru and 60km (one hour) past Leribe. It is a popular stop for those driving between Maseru or Clarens (South Africa) and Oxbow/Afriski or Sani Top, which respectively lie another 30km, 45km, and 180km along with the A1.
Where to stay in Liphofung nature reserve
Simple budget-friendly self-catering accommodation is available at the visitors center.