Isandlwana, Battlefields

The isolated hill of Isandlwana stands just south east of Rorke's Drift, 170 kilometres north of Durban. At its base lie a number of white boulders that mark the graves from the Battle of Isandlwana, fought on 22 January 1879.

It is an eerie sight.

The Battle of Isandlwana forms part of the Battlefield Tours in KwaZulu-Natal. It was one of the fiercest defeats suffered by the British at the hands of the local Zulus in a rather brutal battle that remains the single greatest defeat for the British Army at the hands of a native army.

The hill today looks benign enough, aside from the graves and monuments that lie at its base. But to do a tour and to hear the story recounted is, by all accounts, fascinating.

Isandlwana was the first battle of the Anglo-Zulu War. By all accounts the British completely underestimated the Zulu forces, under Dabulamanzi kaMpande. The Zulus numbered 20 000 when they marched out quietly, by all accounts with the intention to attack from the rear. Detected by a scouting party, they then went on the offensive.

There are conflicting accounts as to the exact history. One account suggests a shortage of ammunition as the reason for spreading the British too thin, allowing for the Zulu offensive that left most of the British soldiers dead.

To hear the battle in its entirety you can join a guided tour of the Battlefields guided by knowledgeable guides who give realistic and somewhat shocking accounts of the battle. The Anglo-Zulu-Boer war routes include tours of the battle sites, monuments, memorials and graveyards around Rorke's Drift, Ladysmith and Dundee.

Although it is highly recommended to join a guided tour, there are also self-drive routes through the battlefields. Take the N3 to Estcourt and stop at a local tourist information for a map.

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