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SSeeing Isandlwana on horseback must easily be one of the most enthralling ways to experience South Africa’s Anglo-Zulu War history and explore its silent, eerie battlefields. Traverse Zululand’s wide, open plains on horse while tracing the path of the storming British Army as they prepared to attack the Zulus.
Isandlwana on horseback is a moving and fascinating experience. Riding through the quiet grasslands, you get a real sense of the fight that ensued here more than 130 years ago when the British Army clashed with Zulu impis in what was to become known as the Battle of Isandlwana.
Recognised as one of the most famous KwaZulu Natal battlefields, Isandlwana was the site of the first major encounter between these 2 factions and a turning point in the Anglo-Zulu War, as the British were hopelessly defeated.
While walking tours of the Battlefields have long been available, following the trails of these fated soldiers on horseback is a relatively new experience and an exciting way to immerse yourself in the tales of these bloody, historical battles.
Two operators offering the opportunity to see Isandlwana on horseback are Rorke's Drift Lodge and Isandlwana Lodge, both located in the heart of the Battlefields region.
The trails offered are guided by experienced riders, well-versed in the history of Isandlwana, and are suitable for both novice and expert riders. They traditionally leave the lodges in the morning, crossing the vast Zululand plains and Buffalo River before stopping at the foot of Isandlwana hill, where memorials commemorate the lives that were lost on both sides. Picnic lunches are normally served once there, giving visitors the chance to hear stories of the battle before returning to the lodge before sundown.
The trails are unique in that they literally follow the paths the mounted British soldiers would have taken in advancing on Isandlwana, adding an air of authenticity to the experience. Enjoy the wind in your hair, the endless landscape and the sense of peace that has now settled on this once turbulent site.
Whether you're a history buff, keen horse rider or simply a visitor looking for a new way to explore South African history, make sure you sign up for a ride to Isandlwana next time you visit the Battlefields.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)34 271 8301
Rorke's Drift Lodge
Tel: +27 (0)34 642 1805
How to get here
Fly direct from any major city to Durban. From Durban take the N3 to Mooi River/ Ladysmith. At Ladysmith, take the route towards Dundee. Drive through Dundee and then follow the signs to Isandlwana. If you’re driving from Johannesburg take the N3 to Ladysmith, and from Cape Town take the N2 to Durban, before picking up the route above.
Best time to visit
Horseback tours of Isandlwana are offered throughout the year. Winter (June – August) days are mild, but nights can get very cold.
Things to do
Any of the Anglo-Zulu-Boer war routes, including guided tours of the battle sites, monuments, memorials and graveyards; the arts and crafts centre at Rorke’s Drift; visits to Zulu cultural villages; Museum Village; Talana Museum; Ladysmith Siege Museum; Zululand Historical Museum; Vukani Museum.
What to pack
Clothing that you’re comfortable to ride and get dirty in; sun protection, including a hat, sunglasses and lotion; enough water.
Where to stay
Both lodges offer accommodation, including self-catering or B&B.
Length of stay
The Isandlwana trail takes a full day, but you’ll need another day or 2 to complete the other war trails.
What will it cost?
The cost of the day trail varies, so contact the lodges for a quote. Fees might be discounted if you choose to stay at the same lodge.
Regular battle re-enactments are held throughout the year – check with the local tourism authority for dates and venues.