…as drought takes toll on Lesotho
The majestic 192metre-high ’Maletsunyane Falls in Semonkong, Africa’s tallest and one of Lesotho’s main tourist attractions, if not the prime endpoint in the country, have almost gone dry.
The smoky mist they emit as water pours down a steep slope into a gorge below, creating an ostentatious visual grandeur is gone—all thanks to the current devastating drought that is wreaking havoc across the country.
The drought, the worst in decades, is drying up most of the country’s water systems, threatening Lesotho’s equally regal flora and fauna.
The world famous ’Maletsunyane Falls have played host to multitudes of tourists who enjoy connecting with nature at its most serene and soothing moments.
But even though the current drought has diminished the splendor of ’Maletsunyane, visitors to this natural jewel must not lose hope.
Both the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) and operators of its highflying Semonkong Lodge, which operates the ’Maletsunyane Abseil, the longest commercially operated single-drop abseil in the world, are urging tourists to continue flocking to this natural wonder because it has many other attractions and activities to offer.
“There are a whole lot of other activities in Semonkong besides seeing the misty falls…… The scenery itself is beautiful. Not everybody goes to ’Maletsunyane solely for the falls,” says Molapo Matela, the senior tourism officer at the LTDC, encouraging tourists to continue visiting the area to experience its natural beauty even without the rolling water.
Jonathan Halse, the manager of Semonkong Lodge, shares that sentiment, saying tourists have been coming in good numbers despite the drought’s ravaging of the falls.
But still, there is no denying the impact of the drought on this regal destination.
Fishing is one of the main activities in the area and Mr Halse fears this could be adversely affected as the river dries up and the contamination of the fishing area worsens from littering and the washing of clothes as people scrounge for the remaining water.
Mr Halse describes the situation as quite scary and abnormal since they opened their business in 1990. He still hopes for more rain though to alleviate the area’s plight and rejuvenate the falls.
The drought is also creating a host of other problems, mainly the escalating costs of goods including fodder required to maintain donkeys and horses used for hiking.
Villagers like 72-year-old Mosala Nkhapetla, nevertheless fear the very worst.
“Since I was a little boy, who herded cattle around this area, I have never seen anything like this. The falls have always been in a fabulous state. I’m scared that we are all going to die from thirst,” he opines dejectedly.
The disappearance of the falls and their accompanying misty smoke has taken the shine off the very name of Semonkong, the place of smoke.
Arguably the most beautiful spot in all of Lesotho, the falls have always had a permanent smoke-like mist which forms as the water plummets down over a ledge of Triassic-Jurassic basalt.
’Maletsunyane Falls is recognized by the Guinness World Records as playing host to the world’s longest commercially operated single drop abseil at 204metres. Hundreds of tourists have paid regular pilgrimages to the area to undergo the ecstatic experience over the years which helps in revenue generation and job-creation.