Are you a battlefield enthusiast? Did you watch the film Zulu or Zulu Dawn with your parents years ago? Have you read the many, many books or perhaps even perused YouTube video’s about Rorkes Drift or iSandlwana? Or are you just the adventurous type looking to explore a corner of the world so different from your own?
Whatever your motivations are, spending time at the battlefields of Rorkes Drift and iSandlwana is an experience that you’ll never forget. How do you get there though, where can you stay, what will you see; these are some of the questions I have been asked over the years and I hope to answer them in today’s blog post.
- Where are the battlefields of Rorkes Drift and iSandlwana?
- Self drive to Rorkes Drift or go with a tour?
- Is it better to do a day tour or spend a few days in the area?
- Where can we stay when visiting Rorkes Drift?
- Is Rorkes Drift safe to visit?
- How do I book a tour to Rorkes Drift with you?
- Watch this blog post video instead of reading
Where are the battlefields of Rorkes Drift and iSandlwana?
Fortunately for us here in the great city of Durban, both the battlefields of Rorkes Drift and iSandlwana lie closer to Durban than Johannesburg or Cape Town. It’s a quick and easy flight to King Shaka International Airport 20 min north of Durban after which you can hit the road north to the battlefields.
Now from Durban, the trip to the battlefields is about 4 hours regardless of which road you take; some roads are better than others of course. If you have a look at Open Street View or Google maps, you’ll see Rorkes Drift is pretty far inland.
Typically for a day tour I’ll pick you up at 6am and we generally get to the battlefields around 10am, and we’ll leave at about 3pm to get back to Durban around 8pm. It is a long day for sure (but so worth it).
Self drive to Rorkes Drift or join a tour?
As a tour guide, specialising in the Anglo Zulu War battlefields, it kinda goes without saying I would prefer you booked a tour to the battlefields with me. But, it’s perfectly fine to self-dive to the battlefields yourself.
Two routes to Rorkes Drift
From Durban, there are two main routes to get to the battlefields. The best one in my opinion and the one I use 99% of the time, the route that take you north from Durban and then swings west towards Rorkes Drift – I call it the coastal route.
The Coastal Route
The coastal route is great since it give you just achingly gorgeous views of Zululand, absolutely breathtaking views that stretch out into tomorrow. Even on overcast or rainy days where perhaps the views are cut short, the sheer ruggedness of the terrain is balm to the heart – I cannot describe just how beautiful the views are.
Along the way of the coastal route you’ll be able to view the battlefields of Gingindlovu and Nyzane, the Mtonjaneni hills, the forts of Person and Tenedos, the Ultimatum Tree, the bivouac sites at Babanango and Sitezi as well as the most likely site of the Battle of Italeni.
The other option is the inland route I call the “western road”. Here you leave due west from Durban towards Pietermaritzburg all the way to Ladysmith before heading northwards to Rorkes Drift.
The Western Route
On the Western Road you’ll see Pietermaritzburg where the British pushed off from, the spot just outside Colenso where thd future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was captured, a bunch of Boer war sites and depending on your time, the old site of Helpmekaar.
Why you should book a tour
The problem though of travelling yourself is that you may very well miss out on seeing these sites as many of them of not well marked, or in the cases of forts for example, require a bit of information.
The road is also not very well sign posted. If using the Coastal Route you really have to watch for two particular turn off’s, if you miss them (and so many have), you’ll be going on one hell of a scenic drive before you finally get to the main road again!
Tolls and other road obstacles
If you do choose to self-drive, you do need to know that regardless of routes, you will need to have cash readily available for the tolls on the routes and need to keep a weather eye out for goats, dogs, cattle and children, all of whom like to dash across the road with little warning!
Is it better to do a day tour or spend a few days in the area?
You can get to the Rorkes Drift from Durban and back in a day, I do it all the time, but it is a long day.
I’ll pick you up at 6am, by 10am we’re close enough to begin the tour proper, by 11am we’re walking on the battlefield of iSandlwana, at 1pm we’re at Rorkes Drift and around 2:30pm we’re starting in the return journey of 4 hours – it’s a long day.
The other option is of course is staying overnight in the area. Typically we leave Durban after breakfast at 8am, we stop at a number of sites along the way, getting to iSandlwana after a lunch time picnic. Then it’s onto our accommodation for dinner and bed and the next day we head out to Fugitives Drift and Rorkes Drift.
So spending a night or two in the area is far better than a day trip because it’s a little more restful, there are more sites at which we can stay, you’ll get more out of the experience since there’s more time to absorb it all.
Have I convinced you to take a trip to Rorkes Drift yet? If not, keep reading, if yes, then why don’t you take a look at the three tours I offer? The best and possibly the most popular is the 3 day tour, but I also offer a 2 day tour as well as a 1 day tour to the Rorkes Drift and iSandlwana.
If you do decide on a few extra days in the battlefields, there are other experiences you could think about. Nearby is the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, as is Itala Game Reserve. Two hours or so is the Drakensberg Moutains and if you’re so inclined, there are a number of Boer War sites dotted about as well. All the more reason to extend you stay!
Where can we stay near Rorkes Drift?
There are a few places you can stay when visiting Rorkes Drift. I have my favourites but there are definitely options to suit a few budgets.
Whichever you prefer, just email me your dates and I can make a booking for you.
Rorkes Drift Hotel
First off there is a the Rorkes Drift Hotel. The newest of the 3 hotels within minutes of Rorkes Drift and the most affordable. The hotel overlooks the actual drift that the early settlers and travellers to the region used to cross over the Mzinyathi (Baffalo) River. Rooms a simple and comfortable, the food is homely and delicious and the hosts are the owners so they take a personal interest in your stay.
The second option is Isandlwana Lodge which reopened not so long ago after closing during covid. Some of the larger groups stay here as is has the most amazing views over the iSandlwana battlefield. The rooms are lovely and the food is hearty and delicious. Rates are inline with the amazing views and service.
Fugitives Drift Lodge
The third option is Fugitives Drift which I think may the most well known since the owner, David Rattray, wrote books about the battles at iSandlwana and Rorkes Drift. The lodge overlooks the Mzinyathi River and is a stones throw away from Fugitives Drift where Lt’s Melville and Coghill famously won their posthumous VC’s. Fugitves Drift Lodge is amazing, the decor is all Anglo Zulu war, the food is superb and is happens to be a working game farm so there are loads of wildlife like giraffe, wildebeest and more roaming about.
Sneezewood Bed and Breakfast
In the nearby town of Dundee there are a number of bed and breakfast style options for accommodation. I haven’t stayed at all of them, but of those I have stayed at, Sneezewood B&B I think is one f the best. It’s some ways out from Rorkes Drift (around 40km’s) but it’s situated on a working farm, the hosts are gracious and helpful, the food is local and organic and delicious (the honey bacon alone is worth the stay) and they are close enough to the town of Dundee to pop in for supplies.
Is it safe to visit?
It’s unfortunate that this question gets asked as often as it does, a sign of the times I guess. But the answer is a resounding YES!
The drive to Rorkes Drift or the other surrounding sites does take you along rural routes, some are tarmac (asphalt) and others are dirt roads. Apart from potholes the road and actually quite enjoyable to drive on.
The people in rural areas in my opinion and experience are some of the friendliest you;ll ever have the pleasure to meet. One on occasion I had a fl’t tyre and within 2 minutes a group of locals stopped to take over the changing of the tyre while I stood by entertaining my guests. On top of that my guests got a number of invites to join the locals for a mid-afternoon beer that unfortunately we had to turn down on account of needing to get back to the airport!
There is adequate cell phone reception, there is plenty of police on the roads, and on the whole, it’s probably a safer destination to visit than many others.
One thing I do have to point out though, it that South African drivers are not very good at following speed restrictions or road rules. Often you’ll see drivers overtaking where they shouldn’t or perhaps stopping in a road to chat to mates or collect people – if you’re not used to it, it can be a bit hair-raising. The best way to deal with it, drive below the speed limit, obey the road rules, and expect every other road user to do something stupid.
How do I book a tour to Rorkes Drift with you?
Hopefully by now I’ve convinced you to visit Rorkes Drift when passing through South Africa, and more importantly, to book a tour with me to Rorkes Drift from Durban!
As I mentioned earlier on, I have three options for you to choose from;
- A 1 day tour from Durban
- A 2 day (one night) tour from Durban
- A 3 day (two nights) tour from Durban
- Not live on the website yet, but I also have an extended 7 day tour of the battlefields (email me for more info)
To keep things interesting you can add a safari tour onto the beginning or the end of your battlefields tour or even include the Rorkes Drift tour portion to a longer 14 or 21 day tour of South Africa.
To book a tour or to get more information just reach out to me using any of the options below or fill in the form at the end.
- WhatsApp or call me on +27 (0) 74 995 6669
- Email me on email@example.com
- Use the contact form below