Overlooking the iconic Isandlwana Battlefield, arguably the most recognizable feature on the KwaZulu/Natal Battlefield Route sits Isandlwana Lodge, a four star hospitality establishment reflecting all the by now well established traditions of the South African, and in fact African, wilderness lodge network. As might be expected Isandlwana Lodge is themed around the local Zulu culture, embedded on high ground overlooking the battlefield, with a wide wrap-around deck that allows guests to take in the more general views of the rolling KZN hill country, and of course the bucolic communal settlements that have grown up in recent years around the Isandlwana battlesite itself.
The lodge interior is quite modest in size, built on two levels and integrated very attractively into the structure of the steep hillside against which it is set. The decor features a curious fusion of ethnic Zulu – with the dining room chairs upholstered in raw cattle hide, and of course Zulu battle artifacts – and Victorian elegance, characterized by relevant British militaria and photo displays detailing not only the period aspects of the famous Anglo/Zulu War Battle of Isandlwana, but modern days battlefield reconstructions. The architecture likewise features a strong ethnic influence, replete with rough wood pillars, local stone masonry, expansive thatch, pattern stone flooring and much in the way of mock and authentic Zulu style flourishes. All in all the effect is pleasing, the mood one of elegance and attention to detail without the overwhelming expression of luxury that many of Africa’s themed bush lodges attempt to affect.
As a backdrop to the Battlefield it is of course both a comfortable and convenient location to stay, and the deck itself, offering a panoramic view of the scene of the action on the great but terrible day, is the perfect location for the preparatory lecture that usually precedes a visit to the Isandlwana battle field itself.
This, incidentally, is usually offered by one of many qualified battlefield guides available to articulate the facts of the battle and to help bring alive the dramatic sequences that took place on that day. South Africa enjoys a tremendous diversity of history, heritage and battle field guides, most offering an extremely high standard of guiding, with some, of course, better than others, but with the tradition still very much intact in the country. A great over 50s Boomer travel experience.
Surrounding Isandlewana lodge is a small local settlement, including the ubiquitous taxi stop, a rural store or two, the humble homes of the local villagers and two schools – and of course the Isandlwana Visitors Center and Museum – the latter being a single room offering a brief display of artifacts and a very general overview of the circumstances of the battle. This offers the opportunity for Isandlewana Lodge to play a part in the local community, something of a prerequisite in modern African tourism, bearing in mind that so many places of historic and natural interest lie within areas of settlement and communal use. This tends to place a value on areas of natural or historic importance for local communities, helping to ensure their preservation. In this case help and finance is routed through the US based WILD Foundation.