The smaller neighbour of Ladysmith, the quiet town of Colenso lies in the foothills of the Drakensberg, on the banks of the Thukela River. It is one of few towns in the area to maintain its country atmosphere and has a little over 6 000 residents.
Used as a base by the British Army during the Anglo-Boer War, the town is also known as eSkipeni (Zulu for Place of the Boat). Today its peaceful atmosphere belies the battle that ensued here, regarded as one of the lowest points of the British Army.
The Battle of Colenso, fought on 15 December 1899, was the first of five battles to try and lift the siege on Ladysmith. This battle was fought on three fronts, none of which managed success - one was repulsed, one was ambushed, and the last came under heavy fire and had to abandon its advance. In the process of attempting to retrieve guns, a number of men were lost including Lieutenant Freddy Roberts, son of Field Marshall Lord Roberts. In total 1100 men were killed at Colenso versus the eight Boers who lost their lives.
Colenso’s main attraction is to visit the several sites commemorating parts of this battle, including the Ambleside Military Cemetery, open daily. A number of smaller battles that became known collectively as the Battle of Tugela Heights - possibly the largest battle ever fought by the British Army up until the Second World War - were fought a short distance from Colenso, en route to Ladysmith.
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"We came to Colenso with the intention of exploring the historical battlegrounds. It was very interesting, and very beautiful too. We felt like we were miles ..." - Ella, Virginia USA
Featured Attractions in (or near) Colenso
The Bloukrans Monument marks the communal grave of those Voortrekkers - men, women and children, along with their servants - killed on the banks of the Bloukrans River in what went down in history as nothing short of a massacre by the Zulus, in the year 1837. The monument today ... more information
Fort Durnford was built out of local sandstone in a strong rectangular shape with thick, high walls and a couple of prominant towers. It was built to serve as a stronghold on a rise overlooking the old military post at Bushman's River drift. It is said to rest where the Voortrekker ... more information
Nambiti's chief appeal is its exclusivity as the only reserve in Kwazulu-Natal with big 5 viewing. Lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino are included in the 30 species of game the malaria-free 22 000 acre reserve offers in Ladysmith close to the southern Drakensberg, just three hours from ... more information
Lying virtually at the foot of the rugged Spioenkop Mountain, the dam was the site of one of the most bloody battles to ensue during the Anglo-Boer War in an attempt to lift the Siege of Ladysmith, Spioenkop Dam Nature Reserve is 4 400 hectares of thorn savannah that contrast magnificently with the ... more information
Things To Do in Colenso