In the northwest of South Africa, within the province of KwaZulu-Natal, you will find Rorke’s Drift, an area steeped in history. Immortalized in the film ‘Zulu’, the battlefields of Rorke’s Drift and nearby Isandlwana tell the story of the epic confrontations between the Zulu warriors and British soldiers.
Today, visitors are immersed in the dramatic and fascinating tales of the battle, told by master storytellers.
Visiting Rorke’s Drift, South Africa
This unassuming site in the middle of the Drakensberg Mountains would not be so well-known if it wasn’t for the famous battle that took place on 22nd January 1879 between British soldiers and Zulu warriors. Originally a trading post owned by an Irish man named James Rorke, Rorke’s Drift went on to become a Swedish mission station when he died and then later a make-shift hospital during the Anglo-Zulu War. It was here that 139 British soldiers defeated 4,000 Zulu warriors in a brutal and unexpected conflict. Unexpected because just a day before the British army had seemingly defeated the Zulu forces.
Exploring these vast open plains, you can almost hear the thundering noise of thousands of fearsome Zulu bearing down on the outnumbered soldiers and the intense battle that took place there. Now, visitors listen in wonder as historians and local experts recount the heroic stories of those who fought and lost their lives in this momentous and tragic event.
Rorke’s Drift Tours
Fugitive’s Drift lodge, a private game reserve and National Heritage Site, was founded by David and Nicky Rattray in 1989 who had a long fascination with Zulu history. The pair are recognized as world experts on the subject and their daily tours of the battlefields became legendary. When David passed away, his son Douglas continued his legacy by leading the hugely moving and thought-provoking tours of Rorke’s Drift, Isandlwana and other significant battlefields. He is joined by specialist lecturers, including Mphiwa Ntanzi whose great-grandfather bravely fought on the Zulu side at the Battle of Isandlwana.
Rorke’s Drift tours are also run by the Orientation Center. Log books, letters, artwork and tales passed down through the generations have built up an accurate and detailed picture of what took place all those years ago. And they are cleverly brought to life by the guides, who have a very special way of evoking the past and captivating their audiences.
Rorke’s Drift Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4 pm
Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm
Getting to Rorke’s Drift
Rorke’s Drift is a perfect stopping point for people traveling from either Johannesburg or Durban to safari in KwaZulu-Natal via the Drakensberg Mountains. We suggest spending between two and three nights in the area to really delve into the history.
Rorke's Drift, KwaZulu Natal and the north coast, South Africa
Fugitives' Drift Lodge and Guesthouse are simple and charming retreats with eight cottages and six rooms respectively, very close to the sites of two of the most famous battlefields in the history of the South African wars, Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift.