Using Dundee as a base, any of the one day or half day tours may be combined to suit your personal requirements. Tailor made tours can also be designed for your specific requirements.
Guides with wide ranging and specific knowledge of events in this area conduct tours that bring our past alive.
Come and experience our beautiful country, our unique and varied military history and aspects of Zulu culture that haven’t changed much over the past century.
As you travel around with us, you will discover interesting cameos of a land rich in history, traditional culture and a quality of friendship that you never expected.
We offer 3 levels of tours:
- For school groups
- For those with a general interest who would like to visit the sites and hear the stories
- For the military history specialist who would like to have lots of specific detail
Tours are offered in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and French.
WHEN TO VISIT
Any time of the year, but note that summer’s can be very hot.
You may wish to coincide a visit with some of the annual events that happen in the battlefields region.
Travel to Dundee the day before. Remember to wear suitable clothes and shoes for the terrain, a hat and sun protection. Carry water to drink.
You may wish to combine other tours to battle sites or places of interest in the area.
Why hire a guide? Although you can enjoy our area by yourselves you will benefit by hiring a professional guide to bring the history to life for you. Professional specialist guides will enhance your experience and share a wealth of local information with you that you might otherwise never experience.
All tours depart from and return to Talana Museum, unless otherwise indicated. There is secure, under cover parking for vehicles.
Half Day Tours Info
Talana Museum – Dundee
Open weekdays 8am – 4.30 pm
Weekends and public holidays 9am-4.30pm
All the museum exhibits are self- explanatory and you can wander around to your heart’s content. However, a guided tour brings items alive with their stories and the tale of the battle gives so much more meaning to the site. We would recommend a guide for 1 or 2 hours and then leave you to spend time in the exhibits where you wish to spend more time.
Talana Museum is situated on the outskirts of the town of Dundee, on the Talana Battlefield, site of the original farmstead of Peter Smith. The town of Dundee was named by Peter Smith one of the founders who came from a small village near Dundee, Scotland.
The Smith Cottage has been restored and furnished with period accuracy. Talana House, built in 1894, exhibits artefacts from the earliest inhabitants of the area, as well as the military history of the Voortrekkers in the Endumeni valley and the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer Wars, with emphasis on the battle of Talana.
The combined Museum complex of 42 buildings on 310ha of land has a marked walking trail up Talana hill, which also incorporates within its precincts the Kwakunje Cultural Village, which keeps its Zulu character but offers B&B accommodation for individuals, groups and school groups, gives a whole new meaning to the commonly held view and concept of ‘Museum’! The red brick Henderson Hall contains a magnificent glass and bead collection, the Chamber of Mines Coal Museum and the Iscor Hall of Mining.Exhibits on the “Great War” and the 1913 Passive Resistance Movement and the Dundee Heritage exhibit put the people and role of Dundee in the context of major world events.
The Museum Shop sells many items produced by local crafters as well as a comprehensive stock of books on the history of the area.
Louis Napoleon – Prince Imperial of France
We recommend that you have a guide for this visit as there are no road signs to the site. Depart Dundee at 8:15 via Nquthu.
Visit the site where the young Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon of France met his untimely fate on I June 1879, in the closing stages of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. His poignant monument in the picturesque countryside is also the place where his mother (the Empress Eugénie) spent a solitary night on the anniversary of his death a year later.
For details of the French Presence/Prince Imperial brochure, the Prince Imperial rose, the Prince Imperial wine and for further revelations about the other French Presences (the French Presence of the Anglo-Boer War, the French missionary order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the French Augustinian Sisters) and the project’s accompanying community outreaches along the N3, consult: www.princeimperial.co.za
Open daily 8am-4pm
By 1836 relations between the British rulers in the Cape and the Dutch settlers had reached an all- time low. They decided to pack-up their worldly goods load them onto covered wagons and head into the largely unknown interior of South Africa. Thus began in 1836 the exodus that would be recorded by history as ‘The Great Trek’!
The north, west and eastward movement of this exodus of Trekkers, who became known as Voortrekkers inevitably led to conflict with the indigenous peoples who inhabited the hinterland.
Trek leader Piet Retief and his party were killed at King Dingane’s capital of Mgungundlovu in February 1838. In December of that year Andries Pretorius led a commando consisting of 464 men to a strategic site on the banks of the Ncome (‘Praiseworthy’) river. The commando formed a defensive position with their 64 wagons (known as a laager) and awaited the Zulu onslaught.
The Zulu army attacked across the Ncome River their strength estimated to be between 12,000 and 15,000. This battle took place on Sunday 16th December 1838. In the ensuing struggle approximately 3000 brave Zulu warriors perished. So many died it is said that the river ran red with blood, hence the modern day name – Blood River!
The Boer commando suffered no dead, only a small number of wounded.
Today visitors can view a replica laager, with 64 life-size ox-wagons cast in bronze at the site of the Blood River/Ncome Battlefield. Across the river is the Ncome memorial to the Zulu warriors who died in the battle. The Ncome Museum is a unique building, taking its shape from the Zulu battle formation, known as the ‘Horns of the Beast’, initiated by King Shaka kaSenzangakhona.
Dundee and the surrounding area is rich in history and numerous historical buildings and sites are a testament to our past heritage. If only these buildings could talk – but your guide can and will keep you enthralled with the stories and the people associated with the buildings as you walk around the centre of the town.
There are a number of other heritage trails in and around the town. These need vehicle access and the heritage trail brochure is available from the Tourism Office or Talana Museum.
For more information please click here
Maria Ratschitz Mission
Drive through the Wasbank valley to the magnificent site of Maria Ratschitz mission at the base of Hlatikulu mountain. Established in 1882 this out station of Marianhill, has a wonderful history. The cathedral-like church has decorated interior walls, which have been restored to their original magnificence. This peaceful place nestled in the foothills of the Biggarsberg Mountains was founded and built by the Trappists under the leadership of Abbot Francis Pfanner, in 1890.
The community around the mission flourished and many skills were imparted – farming, carpentry, metal work and general building. In 1892 a primary, senior and boarding school were established. The children received an excellent education.
As a consequence of forced removals in 1968 the entire complex ceased to function and went into decline. The uninhabited buildings turned slowly into ruins. The majestic church also deteriorated. In 1996 after receiving a large anonymous donation from Germany for the specific purpose of restoring the church and mission, the Diocese of Dundee embarked on the restoration of Maria Ratschitz. In the year 2000 the work was completed and today the visitor can truly enjoy the peace and solitude of this special place.
The gardens are lovingly cared for and many have described this oasis in the wilderness as a little piece of paradise!
The restoration of the buildings and site have been remarkable over the past 20 years. Now an Aids hospice, a retirement home for nuns, a retreat and a remarkable site – peaceful, thought provoking and a visit that will remain in your minds and hearts for years to come.
Visit rock art sites in the Dundee/Rorke’s Drift area. These sites are considerably older than sites in the Drakensberg. Your guide will explain the symbolism of rock art, the daily life and culture of the San/Bushman in this area.
Full Day Tours Info
The Khaki Tour
Depart Dundee 8:15
Accompanied by experienced and knowledgeable guides from Dundee visit Talana Museum and battlefield on the outskirts of Dundee.
Feel the atmosphere and experience history come alive as you follow your guide in the footsteps of the British soldiers across this blood drenched battlefield and up the walking trail on Talana hill.
The battle of Talana was the first battle of the Anglo Boer War 1899-1902 and the battlefield, hill and British soldiers cemetery are all part of the heritage park.
The museum set at the base of Talana hill has 27 buildings with a number of different exhibits ranging from the battle of Talana and the Anglo Boer War, Anglo Zulu war of 1879, the early San inhabitants of the area and their rock art, the national coal mining museum, a magnificent glass gallery and bead gallery. The Smith cottage is the home of one of the founders of the town, Peter Smith and the museum is on his original farm. Exhibits on the Great War 1914-1918 and the Dundee and South African involvement, the 1913 Passive Resistance Movement, agriculture, a superb clothing collection and evocative Zulu cultural village, as well as the Smith family, pioneer and military cemetery are some of the experiences of this unique and fascinating museum.
After lunch in the 1912 Miner’s Rest restaurant travel to Elandslaagte- the second battlefield of the Anglo Boer War.
Just some of the interesting facts about these 2 battlefields that you will hear is that they are the only ones in which the British soldiers wore flashes on their helmets. As the coloured flash became a target for Boer sharpshooters they were removed, as were the metal officers insignia (which reflected in the sun and made officers a target). At Elandslaagte the Scottish troops covered their sporrans with khaki cloth to prevent them reflecting the sunlight and becoming a target for the Boers.
Stand on the hills at Elandslaagte, look out over the battlefield and allow your imagination to recreate the tremendous late afternoon storm, lightning, thunder, British troops attacking the hills, the Boer retreat and the charge of the British lancers into the ranks of the retreating Boers.
These tales and local stories related to these sites bring them alive as never before. Return to Dundee by 17:30.
The Red Soldier Tour
Depart Dundee at 8:15 accompanied by an experienced and knowledgeable guide. Travel via Malonjeni and the site of the First World War soldier settlement scheme, to Nqutu and then view Isandlwana battlefield from the Nqutu heights. This is the commanding position from where the Zulu commanders controlled the battle. At St Vincents Mission visit the museum and then proceed onto the battlefield. Feel the atmosphere and experience history come alive as you follow your guide across this blood drenched battlefield. Travel on to Rorke’s Drift, en route hearing the tale of the skirmish at Sihayo’s kraal on 11 January and the story of Henry Harford and his beetle. Crossing the Buffalo river allow your imagination to travel back in time and see the soldiers crossing on the pont where you are in your vehicle. Lunch at Rorke’s Drift cafe.
Rorke’s Drift – the name echoes down through history. Relive this epic battle as your guide walks and talks you around the battlefield, the walled British cemetery and the Zulu mass burial sites. Your return to Dundee will enthral you with more tales as you travel either up the Helpmekaar heights or past St Augustines’ church (a superb missionary church), with time for a quick visit.
Discuss your options with the guide on booking whether you wish to visit Mangeni Falls or Fugitives Drift (this is only because of time constraints) and your return route. All these sites have amazing stories and atmosphere. Hear not only the history but the local traditions related to these sites. Return to Dundee by 17:30.
Elandskraal and Rorke’s Drift area
Depart Dundee 8:30 for Elandskraal. On route stop at lookout over Isibindi Falls. Then travel to the viewpoint overlooking the Elandskraal and Rorke’s Drift valley. Hear the stories of Helpmekaar, just behind you – from both 1879 and 1899 and the San/Bushman people who lived in this area. Drive into Helpmekaar village and visit the 1879 cemetery. From here drive along the road towards Elandskraal. Visit Itshe lamazimu, the cannibal rock, where “people were kept until needed for the cooking pot”. Moving down the pass visit Wezandla handcrafts and see local people making wire work baskets and beadwork. This project is a success story has created beautiful items and created numerous jobs, providing income into an impoverished area. Leaving Wezandla you will hear further tales of cannibals in the area in the early 1800’s.
At Elandskraal village, the centre of German missionaries from the mid 19th century, has a superb church, interesting cemetery and a trading store that echoes time past, particularly on month ends with the pension pay outs. Here you will see local people in their traditional dress, watch maize being ground and donkeys emerge from the white cloud laden with sacks of flour. The trading store is an eye opening view into life in rural areas.
Continue on to Nazareth church, another of the German mission churches in the valley. Heading towards Rorke’s Drift we will stop on a private farm to see one of the sites where Zulu warriors sharpened their assegais. If you are lucky you might see the otter who lives in this stream.
Our lunch stop will be at Rorkes Drift. After lunch and a visit to the battle site we return to Dundee. The return route takes us past the position where the Buffalo Border Guard had their guns overlooking Vants Drift, the vanished gold mining village at Malonjeni, and the reasons for the establishment of the Dundee research station.
Driving back into Dundee you approach from the east side of Talana hill. Hear a brief account of the battle as you see the hills and mountains that played a pivotal role in the battle. You will be back in Dundee by 16:30.
After breakfast, we travel towards the rural areas of Zululand. The scenery is breath taking with spectacular views of deep valleys, high mountains and plateaus. Nature lovers will enjoy the variety of plants, trees and grasses. The flowering aloes in winter are also a “must see”. There is plenty for bird lovers too. The area boasts many bird species. Depending on your interests, we can visit paintings of the Bushmen that once roamed and hunted in the area. These painting are rarely viewed and few are known about. A visit to a rural homestead is the highlight of the day. THIS IS NOT PRE-ARRANGED – The visit is completely informal, not at all “set up” and you see the Zulu people the way they live everyday in these rural areas.
The guide will give detailed explanations of Zulu customs – handshakes, greetings, marriage etc and act as interpreter so that you may ask questions and gain an understanding of traditional rural life and customs. Remember that there are no toilets in the areas, so one must be prepared to use the bush.
Request a packed lunch from your B&B. Return to Dundee by 17:00.
Spioenkop and Ladysmith
Depart from Dundee at 8:00. Visit Ladysmith, under siege for 118 days and described by Churchill as “famous to the uttermost ends of the earth: centre of the world’s attention, scene of famous deeds, the cause of mighty efforts”. In the fascinating Siege Museum you will be able to get an insight into what it was like living in Ladysmith, of the weapons and tactics used by both sides and of the battles fought.
Then travel on to Spioenkop battlefield, one of the most famous and bloody of the battles. Spioenkop, “the acre of massacre”, occupied by the British in the early hours of the 24th January 1900 and fought over desperately by Boer and British for all that day until nightfall. The British withdrawal left over 330 of their men dead and many more wounded in their trenches.
Listen to the heartrending tales of confusion, bravery, missed opportunities, introduction of new battle tactics as you move around the battle site, inspect the monuments to Boer and British, and stand in silence at the long mass grave of the British.
Time permitting we may make a quick visit to the Platrand overlooking Ladysmith.
Note the Ladysmith Siege Museum is closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays and so cannot be included in the tour. Longer time will be spent on Platrand and include a number of different sites with the tale of the desperate battle fought in a raging thunder storm in January 1900. Return to Dundee by 17:30.
Siege of Ladysmith Tour
Depart from Dundee at 8:00 and start your tour in the Siege Museum at Ladysmith as an orientation to the battles fought to attack, defend and relieve this town. We will also visit the Anglican Church in Ladysmith where the walls of the nave are lined with marble plaques bearing the names of all the Imperial and Colonial soldiers that died in the Siege and battles to relieve Ladysmith. (The church is only open in the mornings by appointment)
As you drive along the modern road through the Tugela Heights and on to the site where the Armoured Train was ambushed and young Winston Churchill was captured, consider the British troops climbing and marching through these hills in the height of summer 1899 and 1900. Return back along the road to the military cemetery at Chieveley where young “Freddy” Roberts is buried and then visit the cemetery at Clouston before visiting the “Gun Site” at Colenso. From here you return to Ladysmith for lunch before visiting Platrand, a long ridge overlooking Ladysmith made up of two features, Caeser’s Camp on the east and Wagon Hill and Wagon Point on the west. These positions were the scene of a determined Boer attack in the early hours of 6th January 1900 and equally determined British defence. The battle eventually ended in a tremendous rainstorm in the late afternoon which enabled the British to finally gain control with the famous “Charge of the Devons”.
You will have the chance to visit the numerous monuments to the men of both sides, inspect the remains of the British defences, Fort Manchester, the position of 42nd Battery’s guns and the gun emplacement for the “Lady Ann” on Wagon Point. This latter position is often overgrown and the access path is rough, making it difficult to reach.
Note the Ladysmith Siege Museum is closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Return to Dundee by 17:30.
Special Tours – check dates as these are only offered on special occassions.
- Full moon tours of Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift battlefield
- Full moon touts of Talana battlefield
- Anniversary tours on specific dates for historical events.