Diana and David's visit to South Africa 2010 - Rorke's Drift, Isandlwana and Blood RIver battlefields, KZN

We'd intended visiting these battlefields with Diana and David last year on our way back to Richmond from Mpumalanga but had to change our plans when the wheel came off the truck so we arranged accommodation in Dundee for a couple of nights on this trip so that we could spend a day visiting the battlefields.

Talana Museum (S28 09.342 E30 15.604)

This museum on the outskirts of Dundee is at the site of the Battle of Talana (second Anglo-Boer war) and as well as information about the battle has lots of other interesting sections linked to local events and activities.

This cottage (originally thatched) was built in 1859 by Tom and Peter Smith who later developed the town of Dundee on their property. During the battle of Talana the verandah of this building and the one that houses the battlefields museum was used as a British field dressing station.

The inside of the cottage has been furnished in its original style.

Near the cottage is the cemetery which has the graves of the Smith family and British casualties from the battle.

Talana House, built nearby by Peter Smith's son, houses the battlefields museum.

There are displays about the Zulu people, the Voortrekker movement into the area and the two Anglo-Boer wars.



Some of the other exhibits at the museum include:

Gandhi Memorial. He spent several years in this area of South Africa.

The bead gallery shows different ways in which beads are used by the African people.

From the late 18th centaury Dundee was an important mining centre.

This steam locomotive was originally used for hauling coal.

Battle of Rorke's Drift / Shiyane, 22nd January 1879. (S28 21.508 E30 32.164)

From the terraces above you get a clear view of the position of the old mission station of Rorke's Drift and, to the east, the Buffalo River - a Drift is a river crossing. The buildings were not built closer to the river due to the possibility of flooding during the rainy season.

The film 'Zulu' is based on the battle of Rorke's Drift where 150 British soldiers managed to hold off an attack by 4000 Zulu warriors until reinforcements arrived.

The Museum stand on the location of the hospital at the mission station.

The lines of stones mark the position of the mealie bags which the British soldiers used to protect themselves from the Zulu attacks.

Inside the museum there is lots of information about the battle.

Since we last visited rorke's Drift a new memorial has been added which commemorates the thousands of Zulu warriors killed in the battle. It depicts a leopard, representing the Zulu monarch, protectively covering the shields of the fallen Zulu warriors.

Battle of Isandlwana, 21st January 1879. (S28 21.387 E30 39.113)

A new road has been build with a bridge crossing the Buffalo river. Previously it was a 60km drive to reach Isandlwana but the new road means that it's less than 20km way.

The Buffalo river from the bridge.

The new road also offers an excellent view of Isandlwana from the North.

The road takes you all the way around the hill and you finally approach the battlefields from the South.

The battle of Isandlwana (the film 'Zulu Dawn') occurred a day before the battle of Rorke's Drift. A British force of 1700 men was virtually wiped out by a Zulu army of around 20 000 warriors. This may sound like overwhelming odds but whereas the British had rifles and cannon all the Zulus had were spears and out dated firearms.

A new memorial commemorates the Zulu dead. It takes the form of a Zulu bravery necklace.

White stones show where British soldiers died.

Battle of Blood River / Ncome, 16th December 1838.

There are 2 separate museums at this site, one of either side of the river, as the Boers and Zulus do not agree on the cause of the battle.

Ncome Zulu Museum (S28 06.359 E30 32.767). This museum was only built in 2003 and gives the Zulu interpretation of the battle.

Inside the visitor's centre is information about the battle as well as other facts about Zulu culture.

An explanation of the different coloured shields.

Herbs and plants used medicinally.

Blood River Museum
(S28 06.330 E30 32.355). The laager of 64 life-size ox wagons cast in bronze was erected as a replica of the original voortrekker laager.


1. Richmond.

2. Giant's Castle and Royal Natal Reserves, Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal.

3. Rorke's Drift, Isandlwana and Blood RIver battlefields, KwaZulu-Natal.

4. Hlane Royal National Park,, Swaziland.

5. Kruger National Park.

6. Arathusa Safari Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

7. Drakensberg Escarpment, Mpumalanga.

8. Johannesburg.


One of the life size bronze ox-wagons.

The ox-wagon monument, outside the visitor's centre is made from granite.

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