The Zulu tale is one largely untold. Written records prior to colonial influence are sparse. Only through exploring their landscape, artefacts and culture, do we begin to unravel their mysteries.
Several books and films have painted a picture of the Zulu’s pride and bravery, but nowhere will you see their portrait more clearly than with a visit to the homeland they fought so fiercely to protect. KwaZulu-Natal encompasses the historic lands of the Zulu Kingdom and the former Dutch Republic of Natalia. Relaxing with a glass of wine on the terrace of Isandlwana Lodge, it’s pretty difficult to imagine its surroundings being anything other than still, serene and timelessly beautiful, but looks can be deceiving. Just over 130 years ago, its plains and peaks ran red in one of the British Empire’s most crushing defeats.
This area of KwaZulu-Natal is known as Battlefields. Here, the fighting wasn’t just between natives and foreign invaders. The British and the Dutch also had their share of disagreements, most notably on the nearby mountain of Spion Kop, which dealt another embarrassing blow to British imperial ambitions, but was survived by two huge 20th century icons. A young Winston Churchill was there as a journalist, running correspondence between the battlefield and the General’s headquarters and, in the heart of the action, rescuing wounded Brits from the battlefield, was a name not usually associated with armed conflict. Serving as a medic was the man, who would later rustle Churchill’s feathers and lead India on a path to freedom – Mahatma Gandhi.
Those bloody battles are just a tiny blip in the history of this timeless land. Today, like the majority of its days, KwaZulu-Natal is a place of fulfilling tranquillity. Move out towards the coast and you’ll find South Africa’s most populous coastal city, Durban, which is favoured by tourists for its subtropical climate and, as home to the largest Indian community outside of India, is renowned for its mouth-watering curries. If you’d like sea and sand, then head North of Durban and you’ll reach Umhlanga, whose famous Oyster Box hotel not only sits on the most popular beach in KwaZulu-Natal but actually predates the town, originally built as a beach cottage in 1869.
Thanks to the likes of South African figures like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, the African principle of ‘Ubuntu’ is one Zulu facet that has survived into the modern era. The term, translating as ‘human kindness’ or ‘togetherness’, captures the resilient spirit of the inviting African hospitality you can expect to receive in KwaZulu-Natal. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site, just thirty minutes outside of Pietermaritzburg, is a must-see monument dedicated to the man who dramatically changed the course of South African history.
If all of the above rouses your interest, then read on because we have the perfect 11 day itinerary for you. The KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields and Bush tour is a journey through the rich culture and history of this stunning landscape, combining the highest levels of luxury service and accommodation with the magical experience that is an African safari expedition. Our experienced guides on this tour provide not only an impeccable knowledge of their country but will reward you with a very practical sense of what the word Ubuntu means.
Two hundred years on from the arrival of the first European colonisers, the land of Zulu kings is more alluring and intriguing than ever.