Visiting Zululand


I’m really trying to figure out how to make it up to Zululand.The coastal advance into Zululand by the British First Division took a similar route that the R102 today follows. It seems like it’s a 326 kilometer drive from Durban. It would be nice to participate in a Zulu wedding, but it doesn’t seem that it is to be. I’ll console myself with a bit of Zulu history and a wish to return one day.

The tale of Victorian Britain’s imperial ambitions

The formidable Zulu kingdom in the late 1870’s was seen by British imperialists as a major obstacle in their bid to colonise southern Africa which was on the verge of being turned into an economic powerhouse with the discovery of diamonds in the Kimberley region.

A number of petty incidents and border infringements were considered enough justification and excuse for the British to take action against the Zulu.

As British soldiers began assembling at different locations on the border between Natal and Zululand and preparing for war, the British summonsed King Cetshwayo’s representatives to the southern bank of the Thukela River where they gathered under a sycamore fig tree and listened in silent disbelief to the impossible terms of the ultimatum being served on their king by the British.

Though given 30 days in which to comply with the conditions of the ultimatum, Cetshwayo had no alternative but to prepare for war and allowed the ultimatum to expire. On 11 January 1879 the British invaded Zululand.

The British plan was to use three columns assembled at strategic points on the boundary between Natal and Zululand and then to converge on Cetshwayo’s capital at Ondini.


The Valley of the Kings

Visit one of several excellent Zulu cultural villages – Shakaland in Nkwaleni valley, Simunye Zulu Lodge in the Melmoth area or Umuzi Bushcamp outside Ulundi.

Hire a guide to take them to the cultural sites of the region, or

Take a self-guided excursion of the various heritage sites listed below.

The beautiful and fascinating royal residences of King Dingane at uMgungundlovu and of King Cetshwayo at Ondini have been partially reconstructed and include major site museums.

They give a wealth of information about the secluded life in the Royal palaces of the kings and are both highly recommended.

Valley of the Kings
King Dingane’s spring at Mthonjaneni is a good starting point for a trip to the Valley of the Kings. Young maidens walked daily to the spring to collect water at the spring which was reserved for the exclusive use of King Dingane.

Highlights of the Valley


Zulu-kids-SAThe Spirit of Emakhosini is a memorial with panoramic views of the valley. There is a guide on hand to point out the different points of interest in the landscape.

The reconstructed capital and museum of Mgungundlovu.

The mass grave of Piet Retief and his followers.

The site of the Battle of Gqokli Hill. Shaka’s dominance over the region was sealed by the defeat of the Ndwandwe clan in this valley in April 1818. More than 7 000 Nwandwe members and about 2 000 of Shaka’s Zulu clan were killed in this battle and it became the defining battle of his reign.


Battle of Nyezane

The R102 route from Thukela and then the R66 to Eshowe closely follows the route which the British Coastal Column took on their invasion of Zululand and granite crosses on the side of the R66 between Gingindlovu and Eshowe mark the sites of two battles between the British and the Zulu armies. Anglo_Zulu Cross
The first battle of the Anglo- Zulu War was fought near the Nyezane River on 22 January 1879.

Fought mainly on the run, the British managed to avoid the defeat which the Central Column faced at Isandlwana on the same day. Twelve British soldiers killed in the battle were buried nearby and by noon the British resumed their advance on Eshowe, which they reached the next day.
The memorial commemorating the Battle of Nyezane is about 500m off the R66 closer to Eshowe.

The Ultimatum Tree is situated just below the N2 bridge crossing Thukela River but visitors wishing to stop are obliged to get onto the R102 and take the Harold Johnson Nature Reserve road.

From the UltimatumUltimatum Tree Tree it is a steep climb to Fort Pearson from where there are magnificent views of the river as it flows toward the Indian Ocean. There is also an interpretation centre explaining the causes of the Anglo-Zulu conflict.Battle of Ulundi

Battle of Ulundi
The last battle of the Anglo-Zulu War took place close to present-day Ulundi.

The British army took up position on the south bank of the White Mfolozi River overlooking King Cetshwayo’s capital Ondini and on the morning of 4 July 1879, about 5 000 men crossed the river, formed a hollow square and began to advance across the plain where 20 000 Zulu warriors awaited them.
The battle lasted less than 45 minutes and despite the great courage and determination of the Zulu men as they faced two Gatling guns, infantry rifle fire and artillery, few got within 30 metres of the square.
Only 12 men were killed on the British side, while the Zulu were thought to have lost up to 1 500 in the battle which effectively ended the war, the rule of King Cetshwayo and the independence of the Zulu kingdom.

Those killed in the battle are buried in a garden of blood-red flowering aloes and today white stones mark the position of the British square on the Ulundi battlefield. A picturesque domed stone memorial bears the inscription:

“In memory of the brave warriors who fell here in 1879 in defence of the old Zulu order”.


2 thoughts on “Visiting Zululand

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s