Battlefields Travel Guide
Blood River, South Africa © Renier Maritz
Zululand is the ancestral home of the Zulu people. The site of many a bloody battle between the British, the Boers, and the Zulus during the 19th century, it abounds in significant towns, memorials, and battle sites that form part of the historic Battlefields Route.
This land once encompassed the Zulu kingdom led by legendary Shaka Zulu, and then by his half-brother Dingaan, who clashed with both the British and Afrikaner settlers in what are today recorded as some of the most important battles in South African history.
Over a period of about 70 years, the plains, rolling hills, and river valleys of this region saw numerous brutal, blood-soaked conflicts over land ownership, political independence, and colonial domination.
The first major battle, and one of the most terrible, took place in 1838 between the Voortrekkers and the Zulus in what became known as the Battle of Blood River. Then followed the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879 in response to British dissatisfaction regarding the increasing strength of the Zulus, and the battles that took place at Isandlwana Hill and Rorke's Drift are remarkable for their tales of heroism and brutality.
In 1880 and again in 1889, anti-British sentiment among the disgruntled Voortrekkers, as well as a desire for Afrikaaner independence, led to the two Anglo-Boer wars, now collectively called the South African War. This captured the attention of the world and resulted in heavy loss of life among both the Boers and the British. 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 between 1889 and 1902.