The rolling hills and lush river valleys of Zululand, ancestral home of the Zulu people, are both beautiful and rich in natural resources. It is little wonder that wars were fought here. The Zulu people called it "Heaven" and, led by the legendary Shaka Zulu, and then by his half-brother Dingane, fought bloody battles against both the British and the Boers over land ownership, political independence and colonial domination.
Today, the Zululand Battlefields region abounds in battle sites and memorials to some of the most important battles in South African history. Isandlwana, Rorkes Drift, Ladysmith, Dundee and Blood River are just some of the famous landmarks, which bear witness to the struggles of the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer Wars. Luxury guest lodges with specialist guides offer an intriguing insight into history as they recount the stories of the Battlefields.
The Battle of Blood River (1838)
The first, and one of the most terrible of the battles, took place on 16 December 1838 between about a group of about 470 Boer Voortrekkers, led by Andries Pretorius, against more than 10,000 Zulu impis, ruled by King Dingane. Dingane had killed one of the Voortrekker leaders, Piet Retief, and his impis had slaughtered many defenceless women and children. The Voortrekkers arranged their ox wagons into a laager on the banks of the Blood River, and in spite of repeated attacks only 3 were wounded, contrasting with more than 3,000 Zulu warriors being killed.
Today, 16 December is a public holiday in South Africa - known as the Day of Reconciliation.
The Anglo-Zulu War (1879)
As Britain expanded her colonial interests, the dissatisfaction regarding the increasing strength of the Zulu nation resulted in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. The battles of Isandlwana Hill and Rorke's Drift are remarkable for their tales of brutality and heroism, and remain some of the most dramatic in both British and South African history.
The Anglo-Boer War (1880 and 1889-1902)
In 1880 and again in 1889, disgruntled Voortrekkers, wanting Afrikaaner independence from the British, led to the two Anglo-Boer wars that captured the attention of the world. The devastating siege of Ladysmith and the Battle of Spioenkop are among the most famous battles that took place during the second Anglo-Boer War. More than 22,000 British soldiers were lost, and over 34,000 Boers and 15,000 black people died.