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Into the heart of Zululand
One of the great pleasures of my recent trip to South Africa was spending three nights in the wonderful Fugitives Drift Lodge overlooking the Buffalo River. The lodge sits in the centre of the historic battlefields of the Anglo-Zulu war of the late 19th Century.
Since I was young the classic 60s film, Zulu, created an impression and I had long wanted to see where the two most iconic battles of the war, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, took place. Located many miles off the main roads down a dirt track 70 miles from Ladysmith, Fugitive Drift Lodge is a private reserve in the lush hills of what was the Natal Colony. The main lodge is a self-contained collection of luxury cabins outside of which Giraffe, Zebra and Blesbok run free.
There are several less expensive accommodation options within the park about 10 mins walk away from the main camp.
My cabin room boasted a wonderful four poster bed with British Empire memorabilia and a sketch of General Kitchener. It offered an ample seating area and a large bathroom with freestanding bath as well as an indoor and outdoor shower and a veranda to watch the sun set. From my veranda on my left I could see the tip of the hillside where the famous against-the-odds battle of Rorke’s Drift took place, while to the far right lay the iconic shape of the mountain of Isandlwana where a large part of the British force had been wiped out earlier that day.
View of the battlefield of Isandlwana
All meals were provided for and were excellent. Breakfast and lunch are taken on the outside decking in the centre of the camp while dinner at night is held in the main dining room, decorated with maps and memorabilia from the 19th century. It is tremendously atmospheric. Dinner began with drinks around the camp fire from a well-stocked bar before the guests gathered around the main table for a three-course meal. As there is little to do at night most people head to bed by 10pm and rise around dawn for a tour to one of the local battlefields or to explore the reserve.
Within the grounds there are several hikes, including a 45-minute round trip to the site of the graves of Coghill and Melvill, two British offices who died trying to save the regimental colours in the aftermath of the battle of Isandlwana. It is also possible to venture down to the Buffalo River to the spot where they crossed, pursued by Zulus, nearly 140 years ago. The river was much calmer for my visit. If I come again I may even swim across.
The resort includes a wonderfully designed library, much quieter than the main communal area, lovingly decorated, and an outdoor swimming pool.
The half day tours to the Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift battlefields are very well guided. While Isandlwana is relatively untouched since the day of the battle, Rorke’s Drift, although well reconstructed, has less of an impact due to its slightly less spectacular setting. Both tours are well worth taking for anyone with an interest in the history of South Africa.
During my two weeks in South Africa I took in many sites but this three-day slice of history and nature was the most enjoyable part. Highly recommended.
For more information visit the Fugitive Drift Lodge website.
The author did not receive any complimentary services or payment for this article.