ISANDLWANA – heart of the Battlefields
Isandlwana, in the heart of the Battlefields, is one of the ‘hidden gems’ which we at WOWZULU want to show every visitor to KwaZulu-Natal. Because it’s no longer just the site of a battle – it’s the centre of a beautiful area and the home of a vibrant community with lots to offer.
During the battle of Isandlwana of 1879, the British suffered what is reputedly ‘the single greatest defeat for the British Army at the hands of a native army’.
The battlefield, at the foot of the iconic, helmet-shaped mountain of the same name, today adjoins a charming, contemporary village where visitors are welcome and can connect with the everyday life of a community. The Isandlwana Museum and our WOWZULU Marketplace are part of this community, and from the hill above the village the luxury Isandlwana Lodge overlooks the village and the Battlefield.
Isandlwana is one point of a triangle that connects the battlefield via the Fugitive’s Trail to Fugitive’s Drift on the Buffalo or Umzinyathi River, where the survivors of fleeing British soldiers crossed, and Rorke’s Drift further along the river, where a valiant group of British soldiers defeated Zulu pursuers the next day.
Further afield is Nondweni, where a French Prince Imperial, the last of the Boneparte dynasty, died in one of the area’s many skirmishes, and where talented Zulu women now run a business manufacturing hand-embroidered cushion covers that are exported across the world. Close to Isandlwana, in a community of the descendants of Basotho tribesmen who were brought into the area to create a buffer between them and the Zulus, is the beautiful historical school and church St Augustine’s, where another group of women make beads from recycled beads and create beautiful beaded jewellery.
This corner of the Battlefields is a place that’s alive with stories – the story of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift; the story of the museum and church built by the British after the battle; the story of British and Swiss missionaries who established missions on opposite sides of the Umzinyathi (Buffalo) River and never spoke to one another; the story of the two ‘mad American women’ who came to Africa to build a luxury lodge ‘in the middle of nowhere’; the story of the rock and tree ‘dassies’ on a hill next to the lodge; and the many stories of the Zulu and Basotho tribal communities who live in the area.
The Battlefields are in the heart of KZN and are generally an all-year-round destination, although the winter months (June to August) usually bring mild to warm days with cold nights perfect to gather around a fireplace and exchange stories from the day.
THIS MONTH’S RECOMMENDATIONS
Charming and knowledgeable local tour guide Dalton Ngobese takes visitors on scenic one- or two-day hikes in the area surrounding the WOWZULU Marketplace at Isandlwana. Dalton is a descendant of Inkosi Sihayo, one of the Zulu chiefs who was embroiled in the conflict that led to the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. Dalton gives both a Zulu and an English perspective on the battles of Isandlwana and Rorkes’ Drift, and introduces hikers to the local flora, fauna and wildlife, as well as to the culture of both the Zulu and the Basotho communities who live peacefully side by side in the area.
Mountain Bike ToursR1.00
Be Guided along the Fugitives Trail WalkR1.00
Isandlwana Village WalkR1.00
Historical Battlefield TourR1.00