It was a Norwegian missionary, Ommund Oftebro, who established what was to become Eshowe, when he built a mission in 1860 after being granted permission by King Cetshwayo.
The Zulus called this place kwaMondi after the missionary’s first name, while the name Eshowe is said to come either from the gentle noise of the wind through the trees, or from the Zulu name for shrubs that grow here. In 1887, Eshowe was made the capital of Zululand, a decision that paved the way for the town’s future.
Situated at the top of a hill amidst a beautiful forest, it is the trees that give Eshowe its wonderful character and which have led to it being described as one of South Africa’s most charming little towns.
Dlinza Forest, right at the heart of the town, is a famed birding spot and part of the Zululand birding route. A range of accommodation is available in the town and there are guides who will unveil the area’s best treasures for you.
Like most towns in this region, Eshowe also had its part to play in the Anglo-Zulu War. It was here, after the battle of Gingindlovu, that a Zulu force laid siege to the British for 10 weeks until they relieved by a column led by Lord Chelmsford. This history is on display in the local museum.
Look out for
Visit the museum housed in the Old Fort, built to house the barefoot Nongqayi police force. These days it is home to displays that cover Zululand’s past.
Zulu culture and art can be seen at the Vukani Cultural Museum. Superbly crafted basketwork, beadwork, tapestries, pots and more are on display and for sale, and one can appreciate the work and skill that goes into creating this art.
Walk amongst the tree tops on the wheelchair-friendly boardwalk in the Dlinza Forest. A point of pride on the Zululand Birding Route, Dlinza is one of just a few spots where the spotted ground thrush and eastern bronze-naped pigeon can be seen. Further west is the beautiful Nkandla Forest, also a birding hotspot.
Explore the 750-hectare Ntumeni Forest on horseback, keeping an eye open for birds, bushbuck and blue duiker.
The Bambatha Rebellion is one of the uglier moments in South Africa’s history, and it all came to an end in the Mome Gorge, not far from Eshowe. This is also where King Cetshwayo is buried. A visit to the gorge needs to be organised in advance and a good guide is vital.
Pop in for a Zulu Blonde Export Ale at The Happy George Bar in The George Hotel. A success story of note, the Zululand Brewery has won international awards for its beer and is definitely a great way to end off a day of history and culture.