Open Africa
Open Africa

Drakensberg Experience Route


Attractions

Fort Durnford Museum
Fort Durnford is a museum with many interesting displays including fossils, Iron Age and Stone Age items, old wagons and...

Weenen Museum
This town was laid out in 1838, making it the second-oldest settlement in KwaZulu-Natal. The two-roomed museum houses a...

Winterton Museum
The Drakensberg is one of South Africa’s most outstanding attractions, which draws hundreds of thousands of visito...


Features

   Accommodation

Below is a list of accommodation establishments along this route. Bookings and enquiries can be made directly with the establishment.

Champagne Lane Resort
Guests at Champagne Lane Resort in the Central Drakensberg enjoy the magnificent views from well furnished, spacious, se...

Accommodation at Treks, Trips & Trails
Bergvlei: Bergvlei is home to a bed and breakfast and self-catering cottage (six-sleeper). The cottage consists of a sp...

Ardmore Guest Farm
Ardmore is situated below the majestic Champagne Castle mountain range in a warm, scenic valley. The atmosphere is quiet...

Ashtonville Terraces Guesthouse
Ashtonville Terraces Guesthouse is a lovely colonial-style home situated on 4 049m² of terraced lawn and is su...

At Home B&B
At Home B&B offers comfortable accommodation with a lapa and jacuzzi on the premises. Self-catering is also availabl...

Beechwood Place
Beechwood Place is situated in a quiet residential area and is ideally located as a base for visiting the KwaZulu-Natal...

Bell Park B&B and Self-Catering
Entertainment in the valley consists of: Hotels; Restaurants; Roadside stalls; Berg walks; Horse-riding; Golf;...

Berghouse and Cottages
World Class Mountain Views from seven comfortable cottages on a 648ha privately owned estate, offering visitors spectacu...

Blue Haze Country Lodge
Accommodation is offered in 23 en-suite rooms with television and tea/coffee-making facilities. Accommodation: Nine...

Clivia Hill Guest Cottages
Clivia Hill Guest Cottages offer self-catering or bed and breakfast accommodation on the shores of the Bell Park Dam in...

Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort
Dragon Peaks Mountain Resort is situated in the beautiful Champagne Valley, in the heart of the majestic Drakensberg Mou...

Drakensberg Mountain Retreat
"For quiet old fashioned holidays in a very special place!" Drakensberg Mountain Retreat offers spectacular views, wild...

Drakensberg Sun Hotel and Resort
The Drakensberg Sun Hotel and Resort is a luxury timeshare resort situated high in the dramatic landscape of the Cathkin...

Drakensville ATKV Holiday Resort
Just more than three hours' drive from Johannesburg or Bloemfontein and approximately two and a half hours from Durban,...

Ezulwini Berg Resort
Set in the peaceful surroundings of the Northern Drakensberg, Ezulwini Berg Resort offers self-catering accommodation wi...

Highthorn Farm
Highthorn Farm is a majestic stone farmhouse perfect for group getaways. It is set in the foothills of the Central Drake...

Hill Billy Cottages
Hill Billy Cottages offers lovely accommodation in two self-catering cottages. There is also a swimming pool for guests...

Hlalanathi Drakensberg Resort
Hlalanathi Drakensberg Resort offers accommodation in chalets with two, three, or six beds. The chalets are fully equipp...

Inkosana Lodge and Backpacking
Inkosana Lodge offers a range of backpacker accommodation, from suites to camping and from bed and breakfast to self-cat...

Inkungu Lodge
Inkungu is a boutique hotel lodge that offers luxury accommodation to guests. All guests are accommodated with personal...

Khonjwayo B&B
Khonjwayo B&B is situated in a rural area close to the Drakensberg. Khonjwayo B&B offers accommodation in four...

Leopard's Lair
The thing that is always amazing about being on a farm is the sound of silence. You realise something is different - the...

Little Acres B&B and Self-Catering
Little Acres offers bed and breakfast accommodation, as well as a self-catering cottage.

Mountain Splendour Eco-Resort
Mountain Splendour Eco-Resort is a camping and caravan resort located in the Champagne Valley. It is a family-owned and...

No.2 Highlands
This facility offers accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis with dinner served on request. Guests can enjoy the mag...

Nzima B&B
Nzima B&B offers comfortable accommodation in the town of Estcourt. Please contact Thulani for more information.

Peak View Cottage
Peak View Cottage is situated on a family-owned timber farm in the heart of the Champagne Valley area of the Central Dra...

Sandford Park Country Hotel and Conference Centre
Sandford Park Country Hotel and Conference Centre invites you to escape from the stress of city living, and take a breat...

Summer Place Backpackers Lodge
Summer Place Backpackers Lodge offers en-suite rooms with dinner, bed and breakfast or self-catering facilities. They ar...

The Bridge Lodge, Pub, Restaurant & Accommodation
This lodge is ideally situated in Winterton, a serene country town at the foot of the Central Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Nat...

The Cavern Resort and Spa
The Cavern Resort and Spa is located in the Northern Drakensberg, three and a half hours from Gauteng and three hours fr...

The Riverhouse Guesthouse
The Riverhouse Guesthouse is a restored Cape Dutch-style house. All rooms are tastefully decorated with private bathroom...

Three Trees at Spioenkop
Three Trees Lodge is surrounded by the Drakensberg Mountains and overlooks a secluded valley of the Spionkop (Spioenkop)...

Tugela Rapids Bush Camp
Tugela Rapids is a bush camp situated on the banks of the Thukela (Tugela) River in the Bergville district of KwaZulu-Na...

White Mountain Lodge
White Mountain Lodge caters for all occasions from holidays, weekend getaways, overnight stays, conferences and team bui...

Wits End Mountain Resort
This self-catering resort is a 2 hour drive from Durban and 4 hours from Johannesburg. Wits End encourages group booking...

Lords of the Manor
Lords of the Manor offers a blend of modern comfort and classic elegance, together with old-world charm and luxury. Con...

Monte Vista Guesthouse
Monte Vista Guesthouse offers extremely comfortable accommodation to travellers and tourists. They offer four en-suite d...

Winterton Country Lodge @ Rose Cottage
Winterton Country Lodge @ Rose Cottage offers the perfect breakaway or stopover on your way to the coast. Indulge yourse...

Old Beacon Hill
Old Beacon Hill is positioned in the Lowlands - set in the tranquil, picturesque KwaZulu-Natal countryside. Whether it i...

Montusi Mountain Lodge
Montusi Mountain Lodge offers spacious and tastefully decorated garden suites with comfortable bedrooms, en-suite bathro...

Mount Everest Game Farm
Mount Everest Game Farm is a 1000ha working sheep farm and home to a lively family. The farm is centrally situated appro...

Oak Cottage B&B and Self-Catering Cottages
Oak Cottage is a bed and breakfast located in Estcourt, just outside the central business district. The original buildi...

Shiriba Farm
Situated in the Central Drakensberg World Heritage Site, Shiriba Farm is a 40ha (100 acre) property nestled in the heart...

Thyme & Again B&B and Guesthouse
Thyme & Again was established in July 1995. The property is ideally situated in Lorne Street, the main road into Est...

Willow Grange Hotel
New owners Peter and Shelley Vergottini and Hennie and Cathy van Heerden welcome guests to experience a truly relaxing g...

Ukhozi Bush Lodge
Ukhozi Bush Lodge offers self-catering or B&B accommodation in the peaceful surroundings of the Central Drakensberg....

Slievyre Game Farm
Set in the beautiful bushveld of the Natal Midlands, 10km from Estcourt and the N3. Slievyre - A private nature reserve...

The Nest Drakensberg Mountain Resort Hotel
Activites: Drakensberg Boys Choir:  A major attraction every Wednesday (except during school holidays). This is...

Swallow's Nest B&B
Swallow's Nest B&B is situated opposite the Country Club in Winterton.Swallow’s Nest is an attractive guesthou...

Acorn Cottages
Acorn Cottages offer a wide range of accommodation in the scenic Drakensberg Mountains. Each cottage has a veranda where...

Ama Casa Cottages and Nursery
"Relax and unwind in spectacular beauty." Ama Casa would like to introduce you to their special part of the world. The...

Accommodation Drakensberg
Accommodation Drakensberg offers self-catering cottages, guesthouses and B&B from the Natal Midlands right up to Cha...

Gina's Self-Catering Chalets
Gina’s Self-Catering Chalets are located in Geluksburg, which is an ideal place to relax and break free from city...

Sewula Gorge Lodge
Sewula Gorge Lodge is particularly suited to small groups of family or friends, or business colleagues who enjoy the inf...

Alpine Heath Resort
Alpine Heath Resort offers superb chalet accommodation. Each chalet sleeps up to six people. All chalets are fully equip...

Bingelela Guesthouse & Restaurant
Bingelela Guesthouse & Restaurant is situated on a farm between the towns of Bergville and Harrismith on the R74 roa...

   Activities

Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Booking and enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Africa Untouched
Africa Untouched offers exciting and authentic adventures in the Drakensberg and Lesotho area.  These adventures in...

Berg Venture
Since 1970 Bergventure was run by the FAK, but a few years ago it was bought by Fernwood Lodge. Now, after a few changes...

Champagne Castle Adventure Centre
Champagne Castle Adventure Centre is based at the foot of the majestic Drakensberg. Activities: Abseiling; School G...

Drakensberg Canopy Tour
Drakensberg Canopy Tour offers an unforgettable experience in the valley of the Central Drakensberg. This canopy tour fo...

Estcourt Bowling Club
The Estcourt Bowling Club keeps a well maintained bowling green and also has a fully licensed bar.

Falcon Ridge
A falconry where visitors can watch magnificent raptors perform in the skies above the majestic Drakensberg Mountains. D...

Four Rivers Rafting and Adventures
Four Rivers Rafting and Adventures offers fun and exciting adventure activities. Situated in the Central Drakensberg of...

Sagarmatha cc Monks Cowl Adventure
Monks Cowl Adventure specialises in adventure activities and is located in the Central Drakensberg. They offer various t...

Treks, Trips and Trails
Treks, Trips and Trails specialises in customised tours. Let their extensive local knowledge be your guide for an introd...

Westline Aviation - Drakensberg
Westline offers scenic helicopter flights into the Drakensberg mountains, Midlands and over the battlefields. There are...

Lowlands Hunting Safaris
Lowlands Hunting Safaris takes pride in offering tourists some of the top hunting sites in KwaZulu-Natal. With more than...

Spanafrican Adventures
Would you like to do a hike in the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa? We can organise your hiking exper...

The Zingela Safari and River Co.
Established in 1983, this camp has been lovingly created from the natural materials that occur in the area. From simple...

All Out Adventures
All Out Adventures offers unique opportunities for schools, corporate and all sorts of adventure seekers. Spectacularly...

Gemini Tours
Gemini Tours offers cultural and historical tours of the Drakensberg area, Estcourt and Weenen. These tours include Voor...

Itchyfeet SA
Itchyfeet SA is all about paddling white water, climbing rock and hiking the Drakensberg. Whether you are looking for ri...

   Arts & Crafts

Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

African Loom
African Loom is a weaving business creates vibrantly coloured bags, cushions, placemats and other items.  *This pa...

Angel Wings Gems & Jewels
Angel Wings is situated in the foothills of the famous Drakensberg Mountains of Kwazulu-Natal - a true inspiration for t...

Glamosa Glass
This business started in 1958 and was the first manufacturer of glass mosaic, glass lamp ware, glass décor, glass...

Isibani Sezwe
This group started in 1993. They consist of 14 men who practise isicathamiya music. Their music is the same genre as the...

Jean Elworthy Gallery
A fine art gallery that offers a variety of art for sale.

KwaZulu Weavers & Waffle Hut
KwaZulu Weavers: The KwaZulu Weavers factory was established some 15 years ago, bringing together generations of experi...

Ntantakhusa Weaving
This business sells school uniforms and traditional dresses. *This participant is a member of the Africa Craft Trust....

Sigcawu
Sigcawu began more than 10 years ago. They sell a wide variety of crafts and also teach kids to do basketwork. Products...

Thuthukani Mpofane
Items for sale: Baskets; Trays; Door mats; Laundry baskets; Hats; Walking sticks. *This participant is a memb...

Zakheleni Club
This business started more than 20 years ago. These women taught each other basket weaving. Products for sale: Magaz...

Zamos Arts & Crafts
Zamos Arts & Crafts mostly specializes in wooden sculptures. They also make furniture. *This participant is a membe...

Amangwe Zulu Crafts
The Amangwe Zulu Crafts business project is jointly managed by women elected from among the crafter and experienced volu...

Amazizi Co-Operative
This business started in 1993, but was only registered as a company in 2005. Since then they have grown to 65 members....

Bambasanani Arts & Crafts
This business started in 2003 and produces high quality beadwork. Items for sale: Beaded dolls; Necklaces; Bracele...

Impumelelo Craft Centre
Items for sale: A variety of baskets; Grass mats; Small bowls; Beaded jewellery; Trays; and Laundry baskets....

Tam's Treasures
Tam's Treasures was established in 2003. Tamara works from home in a workshop behind her house. It all started out as a...

International Airplane Toys
Sibusiso creates sculptures from scrap metal. A huge beautiful metal airplane sculpture can be seen, as well as toy airp...

   Environment

Below is a list of environmental attractions on this route. Booking and enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Weenen Game Reserve
Weenen Game Reserve was established in 1975 and is 5000ha in extent. This area of attractive, undulating thronveld is a...

   Food & Drink

Below is a list of restaurants and other food and beverage outlets on this route. Bookings and enquiries can be made directly with the establishment.

Beanies Coffee Shop
Beanies is a coffee shop/restaurant in Mooi Rivier. They serve a variety of fresh food and beverages.

H&D Honey Products
H&D Honey Products sells a variety of honey products including raw honey, brittle and snack bars. They also conduct...

Scrumpy Jack's Farmstall
Scrumpy Jack's Farmstall stocks a wide range of items including trout, wines, homemade jams, preserves, cheeses, farm bi...

The Dragon's Cave Farmstall
This farmstall sells a variety of home-made goods such as fresh jams, pickles, farm bread, sweets, biltong (jerky), trou...

The Village Gossip
The Village Gossip is a coffee shop offering a menu filled with local delicacies and coffees.

Valley Bakery, Coffee Shop and Art Gallery
Valley Bakery, Coffee Shop and Art Gallery is situated in the Central Drakensberg. The shop is filled with delicious pas...

   Services

Below is a list of services on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

AB Richards and Futurenet
AB Richards and Futurenet offer services such as printing, copying, faxing and internet and also sells stationery. Busin...

Eskort Limited Factory Shop
In mid-1917 a group of nine people gathered in Estcourt to discuss the establishment of a bacon curing factory in the ar...

Acutts Estcourt
Acutts spesialises in property and real estate around the Estcourt, Winterton, Bergville and Central Drakensberg region.

All Shoes
All Shoes spesialises in health- and comfort footwear for both ladies and men. They also sell hiking boots.

Central Drakensberg Information and Booking Centre
The Central Drakensberg Information and Booking Centre offers a comprehensive area-information service: Accommodation...

Estcourt Hospice Association
The Estcourt Hospice Association was established in 1991 and offers palliative home-based care to those patients in the...

Estcourt Pharmacy
Estcourt Pharmacy is located in Victoria Street, Estcourt, and sells all types of medication, as well as other goods.

First National Bank
First National Bank is a financial institution in Estcourt.

Gerry's Motors
Gerry's Motors provides services to the motor industry. They mainly operate on the N3 highway. Their policy is to provid...

Glenbella Farm Nursery (Flora Symons)
This nursery offers visitors the opportunity to purchase South African indigenous plants, aloes and trees, all at reason...

Harcourts Town and Country
Harcourts Town and Country specialises in the selling and renting of residential property, smallholdings and farms in th...

Entabeni Communications
Entabeni Communications is a field leader in environmental communications, education and youth tourism. Based in the Hla...

Estcourt Butchery (Pty) Ltd
Estcourt Butchery was established in 1890. In 2007 it was bought by Hennie and Elize Nel. Elize is a qualified butcher w...

Kwa-Zamokuhle School for the Handicapped
Kwa-Zamokuhle is a rural special school in KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. It is situated in the area of ePhangweni Mission abou...

Medical Hall Pharmacy
Medical Hall Pharmacy is located in Harding Street, Estcourt and sells medication and other goods.

Mnweni Tourism Centre
In 1999 Rand Water contributed R2-million to the establishment of the Mnweni Rand Water Trust. This gesture was the culm...

Phumelelani Primary
At Phumelelani Primary they are dedicated to transform education in order to build a firm foundation for their learners....

Plows Optometrists
Plows Optometrists specialises in vision testing, spectacle repairs, new spectacles, contact lenses, contact lens soluti...

Saverite Supermarket @ Cedarwoods
Saverite Supermarket @ Cedarwoods is a fully stocked one stop shop. Items for sale include: Airtime; Fish tackle;...

Sweet Dreams Bed Shop
Sweet Dreams specialises in: Beds; Mattresses; Base sets; Sleeper couches; and Pillows.

Tall Tree Service Station and Tall Tree Supa Quick
Tall Tree is a BP Service Station and a convenience store that operates 24 hours a day. Travellers can use clean toilets...

TJN Vananda Trans
TJN Vananda Trans specialises in the transfer of tourists to and from Estcourt and the surrounding areas.

Umtshezi Arts and Culture Beneficiation Project
The Umtshezi Arts and Culture Beneficiation Project offer visitors a chance to hear traditional Zulu songs and see dance...

Umtshezi Tourist Information Bureau
Umtshezi is a tourist information office in Estcourt. They offer a range of services to travellers.

Winterton News
Winterton News is a local newspaper published monthly. It reports on happenings in the local and surrounding areas, and...

Nedbank
Nedbank is a financial institution (bank) in Estcourt.

Drakensberg Boys' Choir School
The Drakensberg Boys' Choir School is situated in the Champagne Valley of the Central Drakensberg. It is one of the few...

Foto First Estcourt
Foto First is the leading premier photographic retail franchise in South Africa, specializing in high quality photograph...

KwaZulu Shoe Factory Shop
KwaZulu Shoe Factory Shop is the home of Bata Toughees School Shoes.Products on sale: Bata Toughees school shoes; Ba...

 

Overview
Events
History
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The Drakensberg Experience is located in the Midlands of the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. The route is centred on the Drakensberg World Heritage Site, which includes Giant’s Castle and the Central and Northern Drakensberg.

The route extends from Hidcote in the south to Sterkfontein Dam in the north, including towns such as Estcourt, Winterton, Bergville, Weenen and Geluksburg, and covering the area up to but not including the towns of Colenso and Ladysmith. 

Reasons to visit:

Known to the Zulu people as uKhahlamba ('barrier of spears'), the Drakensberg mountains ('dragon mountains') provide a magnificent semi-circular border between KwaZulu-Natal and the inland mountain kingdom of Lesotho. The watershed of the basalt peaks divides the rain and snow, some flowing westwards over the alpine plateau of Lesotho towards the Atlantic Ocean, and some down the vertical slopes into KwaZulu-Natal, towards the warm Indian Ocean. 

This 200km-long mountain range has witnessed many historical events in South Africa's history. The San people were probably the first to gaze upon its magnificence, but they tragically disappeared in the late 19th century, leaving only engraved rock walls and artefacts to remember them by. The same range was also the western boundary of the mighty Zulu kingdom, encountered by the Boer settlers around 1837 on their Great Trek north from the Cape Colony.

The name Drakensberg was coined only 40 years later, however, when a Boer father and son reported seeing a dragon flying high above the cloud-shrouded mountain peaks.

Sani2c
When: 
Watch this space for next year's date
Where: Underberg School, Underberg
Mob:  +27 82 786 9201
Email:  kelly@strathfield.co.za 
An outdoor sporting endurance activity that includes adventure, trail and race - three days of each.
 

Splashy Fen Music Festival
When: Watch this space for next year's date
Where: Himeville, Underberg District, Drakensberg
Tel: +27 31 563 0824
Website: www.splashyfen.co.za 
Over the years, Splashy Fen has evolved into one of South Africa’s premier music showcases and built a reputation extending beyond our borders without losing the unique character and appeal along the way, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons why it has endured for nearly two decades to become the longest-running music festival in the country.

Drakensberg Boys Choir Concert
Tel:
+27 36 468 1012
Fax: +27 36 468 1709
Email: administration@dbchoir.co.za (admin) / admissions@dbchoir.co.za (admissions)
The Drakensberg Boys Choir School, situated in the Champagne Valley, Central Drakensberg, close to Winterton in KwaZulu-Natal, is an independent school with an emphasis on choral singing. The DBCS has a Christian ethos and caters for boys from Grade 4 to Grade 9.
 

White Mountain Festival
When: Watch this space for next year's date
Where: White Mountain Lodge, Giants' Castle Road, Central Drakensberg Region, KwaZulu-Natal
Contact Person: Pedro (Festival Organiser)
Tel: +27 31 563 0824
Fax: +27 86 689 2346
Mob: +27 82 892 6176
Email: whitemountainfestival@gmail.com
Four days of laid-back acoustic music in an awesome setting near Giant's Castle in the beautiful Central Drakensberg region of KwaZulu-Natal.
 

Royal Drakensberg MTB Challenge
When:
 Watch this space for next year's date
Where: Bergville
Contact Person:  Chris
Mob: +27 72 386 1344
Come and take part in the Royal Drakensberg MTB Challenge. There is a race for all fitness and experience levels at this challenge in Bergville, Drakensberg.

The San people:

The Bushmen, San, Sho, Basarwa, !Xun or Khwe are indigenous people of Southern Africa, who inhabited most areas of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia and Angola. They were traditionally hunter-gatherers. Genetic evidence suggests they are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, peoples in the world.

Conflicts over land and hunting of animals resulted in the culture of the mountain Bushmen being wiped out by the late 19th century. There are still Bushmen groups in the Kalahari and Namib deserts.

The Zulu Kingdom:

The Zulu were originally a major clan in what is today northern KwaZulu-Natal, founded in 1709 by Zulu kaNtombhela. In the Nguni group of languages, iZulu/iliZulu/liTulu means heaven, or sky. At that time, the area was occupied by many large Nguni communities and clans. Nguni communities had migrated down Africa’s east coast over thousands of years, as part of the Bantu migrations, probably arriving in what is now South Africa in about the 9th century AD.

The Zulu formed a powerful state in 1816 under the leader Shaka. On December 11, 1878, agents of the British delivered an ultimatum to 14 chiefs representing the Zulu ruler Cetshwayo. The terms required Cetshwayo to disband his army and accept British authority.

Cetshwayo refused, and war followed at the start of 1879. The Zulus handed the British their most severe defeat prior to World War One at the Battle of Isandlwana on January 22, 1879. The British managed to get the upper hand after the battle at Rorke's Drift, and finally won the war with the Zulu defeat at the Battle of Ulundi on July 5.

After Cetshwayo's capture a month after his defeat, the British divided the Zulu empire into 13 'kinglets'. The subkingdoms fought among each other until 1883 when Cetshwayo was reinstated as King of Zululand. This still did not stop the fighting and the Zulu monarch was forced to flee his realm by Zibhebhu, one of the 13 kinglets, supported by Boer mercenaries.

Cetshwayo died in February 1884, possibly poisoned, leaving his son, the 15-year-old Dinuzulu, to inherit the throne. In-fighting between the Zulus continued for years, until Zululand was absorbed fully into the Cape Colony.

Although KwaZulu-Natal is still the heartland of today’s Zulu population, large numbers have been attracted to the relative economic prosperity of Gauteng province. Zulu is the most widely spoken home language in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Great Trek:

The Great Trek was an eastward and north-eastward migration during the 1830's and 1840's of the Boers (the name being Dutch or Afrikaans for 'farmers'). They were descended from settlers from western mainland Europe, most notably from the Netherlands.

During the Great Trek the Voortrekkers engaged in conflict with the Zulu of Natal. The Zulu launched large-scale hostilities after a delegation under the Trek leader Piet Retief was massacred by their chief, Dingane ka Senzangakhona, on February 6, 1838.

There are various interpretations of what transpired, as only the missionary Francis Owen’s written eye-witness account survived. Retief’s written request for land contained veiled threats by referring to the Voortrekkers’ defeat of indigenous groups encountered along their journey.

The Voortrekker demand for a written contract guaranteeing private property ownership was incompatible with the Zulu oral culture, in which a chief could only temporarily allocate land that was communally owned. 

Most versions agree that the following happened. Dingane’s authority extended over some of the land in which the Boers wanted to settle. As a prerequisite to granting the Voortrekkers’ request, Dingane demanded that the Voortrekkers return some cattle stolen by Sekonyela, a rival chief. Dingane then invited Retief to his residence at uMgungundlovu to finalise the treaty. He either planned the massacre in advance, or decided on it after Retief and his men arrived. Perhaps an earlier display of arms from horseback by Retief’s men provoked the massacre. In any case, Dingane’s reputed instruction to his warriors, “Bulalani abathakathi!” (Zulu for 'kill the wizards') showed that he may have considered the Boers to wield evil supernatural powers.

After murdering Retief’s delegation, the Zulu impis ('battalions') immediately attacked Boer encampments in the Drakensberg foothills at what was later called Blaauwkrans and Weenen. In contrast to earlier conflicts with the Xhosa on the Eastern Cape frontier, the Zulu killed women and children along with men in these attacks, wiping out half of the Natal contingent of Voortrekkers.

On April 6, 1838 the Voortrekkers retaliated with a 347-strong punitive raid (later known as the Flight Commando), supported by new arrivals from the Orange Free State. They were roundly defeated by about 7 000 Zulu warriors at Ithaleni, south-west of uMgungundlovu. The reluctance of Afrikaner leaders to submit to one another’s leadership, which later also hindered sustained success in the Anglo Boer wars, was largely to blame.

On December 16, 1838 a 470-strong force, led by Andries Pretorius, confronted about 12 000 Zulus at prepared positions. The Boers reputedly suffered only three injuries without any fatalities, while the blood of 3 000 slain Zulus turned the river red and the conflict later became known as the Battle of Blood River. The Boers’ guns offered them an obvious technological advantage over the Zulus’ traditional weaponry of short stabbing spears, fighting sticks and cattle-hide shields.

The Boers attributed their victory to a vow they made to God before the battle: if victorious, they and future generations would commemorate the day as a Sabbath. Thus, December 16 was celebrated by Boers as a public holiday that was first called Dingane's Day and later changed to the Day of the Vow. It is still a public holiday, but the name was changed to the Day of Reconciliation by the post-apartheid ANC government, in order to foster reconciliation between all South Africans. 

After the defeat of the Zulu forces and the recovery of the treaty between Dingane and Retief from the latter’s skeleton, the Voortrekkers proclaimed the Natalia Republic. This Boer state was annexed by British forces in 1843.

With the return of British rule, emphasis moved from occupying lands in Natal, east of the Drakensberg Mountains, to the west of them and onto the highveld of the Transvaal and Orange Free State, which were more thinly populated after the devastation of the Mfecane.

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Open Africa Routes

A route is a cluster of travel attractions, accommodation, tour operators, local artisans, guides and restaurants. It brings people together from all levels of community to promote travel to their area. You select what interests you on a route and create your own itinerary.

South Africa - KwaZulu-Natal

South Africa - KwaZulu-Natal

The Drakensberg Experience is located in the Midlands of the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. The route is centred on the Drakensberg World Heritage Site, which includes Giant’s Castle and the Central and Northern Drakensberg. The route extends from Hidcote in the south to Sterkfontein Dam in the north.

Key Contacts

Name:
Chris

Telephone: Click here
Mobile: Click here

Tags

mountains giants-castle hidcote champagne-valley colenso zulu-kingdom drakensberg arts crafts estcourt ladysmith adventure winterton kwazulu-natal bergville culture weenen birding geluksburg escape midlands

 

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