After arriving at Johannesburg International Airport we will embark on a 4-hour journey to the battlefields of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands.
The route will take us through the scenic Transvaal Highveld before descending via the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains (Afrikaans for the ‘Dragon Mountains’).
We will stop for lunch along the way and arrive at Spion Kop Lodge at around 16:30.
Spion Kop Game Reserve
After checking in at Spion Kop Lodge, afternoon tea will be served on the veranda overlooking the waterhole. Then we will hop on the safari vehicle for a 10-minute transfer to the Spion Kop Game Reserve (Afrikaans for ‘Spy Hill’), where we will enjoy sundowners amongst a selection of wildlife, including white rhinoceros, giraffe and a variety of plains and bushveld antelope.
In the morning, we will tour the Spion Kop Battlefield, where the futility of war is brought home. We will start the day at Mount Alice (Bullers HQ), where the battlefield spreads out before us, and end the tour on top of Spion Kop, amongst the graves of the combatants, the famous ‘acre of death’.
Lunch will be served back at the Lodge. In the afternoon, we will head for the Drakensberg Mountains for a wander around the shops, where local hand-crafted souvenirs can be purchased. After some retail therapy, we will spend time relaxing on the porch of Cathedral Peak Hotel, with a cup of tea in hand, admiring the beautiful Drakensburg mountain vistas. For dinner, we will be treated to a traditional South African braai (barbecue).
Spion Kop Battlefield
General Sir Redvers Buller VC Commander of the British forces in Natal was attempting to relieve a British force that was besieged in Ladysmith. The Boers, under General Louis Botha, although outnumbered, were mostly equipped with modern Mauser rifles and up-to-date field guns, and had carefully entrenched their positions.
The British suffered 243 fatalities during the battle; many were buried in the trenches where they fell. Approximately 1 250 British were either wounded or captured. The Boers suffered 335 casualties, of which 68 were dead.
Did you know?
There were three famous people on the battlefield the day of the Spion Kop Battle:
Mahatma Gandi (left) was a stretcher bearer, Winston Churchill (centre) was a newspaper reporter, and Louis Botha (right) was a Commander of the Boer Forces and later became the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa.
On Day 3, we will visit the site where Winston Churchill, a war correspondent for the Morning Post, was captured in the famous armoured train incident.
Lunch will be taken in Colenso town, where we will be able to see the site where Lieutenant the Honourable Freddie Roberts fell at the Battle of Colenso, before moving on to the final ‘breakthrough’ Battle of Tugela Heights.
We will head back to the Lodge for dinner.
Battle of Colenso
Buller’s first attempt at relieving Ladysmith was at the Battle of Colenso, where the Boers had dug into positions along the Tugela River and, with their cannons hidden and pointing along the river, were well positioned to take full advantage of any developing attempt to cross the river to relieve Ladysmith.
The battle was a disaster for the British and destroyed several military careers. However, with the defeat came heroic bravery; at Colenso, four Victoria Crosses were awarded.
This was also the battle where Lieutenant the Honorable Freddie Roberts, the only son of Field Marshal Lord Roberts, was mortally wounded trying to save the naval guns.
Battle of Tugela Heights
The Battle of Tugela Heights was Buller’s fourth attempt to break the resistance of the Boer forces and relieve Ladysmith. It was a series of skirmishes that lasted all of 2 weeks and eventually forced the Boers to retreat, thus ending the Siege of Ladysmith.
We will depart from Spion Kop Lodge and make our way to the Siege Museum in Ladysmith.
Just before lunchtime, we will arrive at the Esiweni Lodge, which is situated in the malaria-free Nambiti Private Game Reserve.
Spa treatments can be arranged for relaxation.
Dinner will be served at the Lodge.
The Siege Museum is considered to be one of the most comprehensive Anglo Boer War Museums in the country and houses one of the greatest collections of artifacts from the 118-day siege.
Nambiti Game Reserve – Home to the Big 5
Experience the lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros in over 22 000 acres of grassland, riverine bush, savanna and thornveld. This game reserve offers an abundance of animal sighting opportunities and you’ll have the next 2 days to explore it.
After breakfast we will head to the Elandslaagte Battlefield, which is situated just outside the entrance to the Reserve.
Later that morning, we will move on to Dundee and visit the Talana Battlefield and Museum. We will stay overnight at the Battlefields Country Lodge.
Elandslaagte is one of the few clear-cut tactical victories won by the British during that conflict. It was also the last time that the British used cavalry during battle in South Africa.
The Talana Battlefield was where the first major battle of the Second Boer War between the British and the Boers took place, and the first time that the British troops wore khaki uniforms in the field. The Boers occupied Talana Hill during the night of the 19 October 1899, and early the following morning, when the mist lifted, they shelled the British camp on the opposite side of the town.
The British retaliated and drove the Boers off Talana Hill. They suffered significant causalities, including their commanding officer, Major General Sir William Penn-Symons. Two days later, faced with a major threat by the advancing main Boer army, the British evacuated the town.
Today we will visit the Blood River Battlefield Monument, a tribute to the Battle of Blood River. The monument consists of 64 bronze-cast Voortrekker wagons that are situated just as they were on that historical day – 16 December 1838.
After a light lunch we will head to Isandlwana Lodge, which will be our home for the next 2 nights.
Battle of Blood River
The Battle of Blood River took place on the 16 December 1838. Only 470 Boers took on the might of the Zulu army, with an estimated 15 000-21 000 Zulus.
The Boers were determined to avenge the death of Piet Retief and punish the Zulu king, so they set out for his Royal Kraal at UmGungundlovu. The Boers employed the laager system, which proved decisive in the battle. On reaching the Ncome River, they set up camp for the night. They chose a defensible area next to a hippo pool in the Ncome River, which provided excellent rear protection. The open area to the front provided no cover for an attacking force, and a deep dry river bed protected one of the wagon laager flanks. As usual, the ox wagons were drawn into a protective enclosure or laager. Movable wooden barriers that could be opened quickly were fastened between each wagon to prevent intruders, and two cannons were positioned.
The Zulus attacked at dawn. After 3 hours, the Boers had killed an estimated 3 000 Zulu soldiers and had only three of their men wounded. The Zulu army withdrew in defeat, many crossing the river, which had turned red with blood and was thereafter known as the Battle of Blood River.
The two famous battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift will be brought to life today.
Battle of Isandlwana
We will visit the site of the Battle of Isandlwana, which was in 1879, during which the British Army fought against the Zulus, who were equipped with only short stabbing spears and shields. In less than 1 hour, 24 000 Zulus wiped out almost an entire regiment.
Defence of Rorke’s Drift
In the afternoon, we’ll move on to the second battle ground at Rorke’s Drift, where on the same day in 1879, just over 150 British and Colonial troops were outnumbered by 4 000 Zulus, who defended the garrison for over 12 hours to eventually claim victory. The British were outnumbered 35:1 and their bravery was recognised by the awarding of 11 Victoria Crosses.
* All Battlefield Tours will be hosted by experts at each battle site.
With the battlefields explored, we will leave for the vibrant east coast city of Durban.
We will check in to our hotel, The Oyster Box Hotel, in Umhlanga late that afternoon.
Midlands Meander Route and Shopping
Our journey to the east coast of South Africa will find us winding our way through the famous Midlands Meander Route, which is well known for its beauty and unique arts and crafts. There will be plenty of time to sample the local cuisine too!
Today we will explore the mother city of Cape Town – ranked as the top holiday destination by The Guardian and The New York Times in 2014.
Cape Town Tour and V&A Waterfront
We will hop on the red double-decker Open-top Bus to take in all the major attractions, with informative audio commentary.
The tour will include a cable-car trip up to the top of the famous landmark, Table Mountain. After a busy sight-seeing morning, we will head to the V&A Waterfront – the most visited tourist destination in Africa – where you can shop ‘til you drop!
After breakfast we will embark on a tour of the Cape Peninsula.
Cape Peninsula Tour
The Cape Peninsula is an exceptionally scenic route, where the two oceans of the Atlantic and Indian come together. We will pass through small fishing villages as we meander down towards Cape Point, a 15 000-acre nature reserve. The views from the lighthouse are simply breathtaking at the ‘most south-western tip of Africa’.
You will need to be aware of the very bold baboons, and keep your eye out for bontebok, ostriches, zebra and the biggest of all the antelopes – the eland.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – acclaimed as one of the great botanical gardens of the world – will be our afternoon stop. The gardens boast a new Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, which takes you from the forest floor, through the trees and above them for unbelievable views.
Today you will spend the morning at leisure in Stellenbosch, and continue to explore this special town.
The Historic Town of Stellenbosch
The morning will be spent exploring Stellenbosch – South Africa’s second oldest town – which was founded in 1679 by Simon van der Stel. Steeped in history and with oak-tree-lined streets, there is an abundance of shops, art studios, restaurants and museums.
We will travel to Cape Town International airport in the late afternoon to catch your connecting flight.