Fugitives’ Drift Guest House is one of a quartet of properties located in Fugitives’ Drift, a 2,000-hectare Natural Heritage Site. It’s an excellent option for travellers with a keen interest in the history of the Anglo-Zulu War.
Owned and run by the Rattray family, Fugitives’ Drift Guest House provides a charming base from which to explore the battlefields and the game reserve. Until 2007, the Rattrays included David Rattray, a historian of the 1879 war and an exceptionally good tour guide. The gardens of the guest house contain a plaque honouring his memory, and the ten cottages that make up fellow property Fugitives’ Drift Lodge are built on the original David Rattray Homestead. Accommodation is usually booked on a full-board basis and the guest house is open all year round.
Access & location:
To access this region of KwaZulu-Natal, travellers may self-drive from the international airport at Durban (4 hours), from O. R. Tambo International Airport at Johannesburg (5 hours), or from other towns within Natal. Fugitives’ Drift is clearly signposted, and with sturdy black gates at the entrance.
Accommodation & facilities at Fugitives Drift Guest House:
Guest accommodation consists of six luxurious suites amidst the grounds. These are comfortable and spacious, featuring a king bed or twin beds, bedside tables and lighting, a tea-and-coffee station, plenty of storage space, and a separate lounge area with a couple of chairs and a coffee table. The en-suite facilities comprise flush toilet with wooden seat, large washbasin, bathtub, and separate shower. Outside, there is a private veranda, with amazing views out onto the sprawling plains of the reserve and Buffalo River Gorge beyond!
The communal building at Fugitives’ Drift Guest House is also prettily situated within gardens, and it has a very welcoming feel. It was once the home of renowned storyteller Johan Potgieter – ‘Mr Pot’ – and family. The communal areas include an open-plan lounge and dining room. The lounge contains well-cushioned seating around a coffee table, as well as a cosy woodburning stove. On the other side of the room there’s a dining table and smart upright chairs, where guests can tuck into meals together. Both lounge and dining space feature memorabilia from the Anglo-Zulu War, such as art prints and weaponry. Outside, there’s an additional area with views of the Isandhlwana mountain, in addition to a large fire-pit, the beautiful gardens, and a swimming pool. There’s Harford Library too, an excellent events venue named after Henry ‘Charlie’ Harford. Charlie was a Staff Officer with a considerable enthusiasm for entomology. He was also David Rattray’s favourite character among all the persons involved in the Anglo-Zulu War!
Activities at Fugitives Drift Guest House:
Fugitives’ Drift Guest House offers an exhilarating variety of activities, as follows:
Battlefield tours- Tours of the battlefields are incredibly fascinating, featuring talks about the Anglo-Zulu War delivered by members of the Rattray family and their knowledgeable guides. These excursions include walks, the guides are happy to accommodate all levels of mobility. Tours for children, which have an interactive element, are available too.
Reserve tours- There are numerous trails around the reserve, which contains giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, kudu, jackals, monkeys, and spiky porcupines. Looking around the reserve usually follows a tour of the battlefields.
Hiking- If you’re feeling energetic, why not take a hike? As you roam the reserve, you can look out for some beautiful birdlife.
Biking- The reserve has a network of single tracks for keen bikers, varying from flat to steep. There’s several jeep tracks too. The lodge doesn’t provide bikes, but a prior arrangement can be made.
Fishing- Keen anglers can enjoy fishing on the Buffalo River, the body of water that witnessed the last moments of lieutenants Melvill and Coghill.
Guided or unguided nature walks- The reserve contains plenty of walking trails, and guests can set off on either guided or self-guided walks. You can have a lot of fun identifying various plants, insects, and birds; and if you opt for a guided walk, your guide will provide a wealth of information about a few plants’ medicinal uses.
Other historical tours- Please note, these trips are subject to the availability of a guide and they require advance booking. They consist of the Fugitives’ Trail walk from Isandlwana to the lodge (a fairly demanding excursion that might include swimming), Blood River, the Prince Imperial Site, Mangeni Falls, Masondo, Hlobane , and Kambula.