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Ondini Historical Complex

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4km from Ulundi

-28.3196, 31.4589

 

+27 35 870 2052 goo.gl/gnKRP7

About

King Cetswayo (iKhanda) was the last king of the Zulu empire before his death in 1884. He was captured by the British and imprisoned in Cape Town. Upon his release via petition to Queen Victoria, he was reinstated as a chief. Ondini was his final royal residence and the capital of the Zulu Kingdom until his demise.

A replica of Ondini has been constructed on its original site. The beehive huts on-site are constructed exactly as they would have appeared in 1879 on top of the original hut floors, which were baked when the British set fire to Ondini in 1879.

This is now the site of a museum complex aimed at giving visitors a greater understanding of the history, art and lives of the Zulu people. It includes a history of King Cetswayo and the Anglo-Zulu War. Here visitors can learn more about the excavation of the area and are given more information about Ondini as it would have appeared in the early 1800s. There are also a number of King Cetswayo’s personal belongings on display, including his famous lion’s claw, his shotgun and the Bible he received from Queen Victoria.

This museum experience is complemented by the KwaZulu Cultural Museum, which is dedicated to Zulu heritage. It takes visitors back to a time before the arrival of Europeans. There are a number of displays on Zulu culture, customs and art, and one of the most famous collections of beadwork. A number of books and curios are available – a means by which you can take your Zulu experience home with you. There is also a cafeteria where you can buy snacks and refreshments. A picnic and braai area overlooks the view that Cetswayo would have had as he looked out over his empire from Ondini.

Zululand & the Battlefields

KwaZulu Natal

About

It was from the bush and grassland of northern KwaZulu-Natal that the impis of King Shaka emerged, sweeping down onto the other tribes of the hinterland and eventually engaging the British forces and shaking the very roots of the Empire. At the height of its power, the Zulu nation covered 30 000km2, but 60 years after it was first formed, its reign was over. In those 60 years, the Zulus shaped the future of the country and were engaged in battles with the Boers and the British, but these were not the only bloody conflicts in the region. 

After the Zulu empire was broken, the English and the Boers fought for control of South Africa, with many battles taking place in Natal. While the best-known battles in the area are undoubtedly Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, as well as the siege of Ladysmith, there is fascinating history to be had at countless other ones. 

The beauty of the scenery clashes harshly with the devastating past, while the rough terrain makes one wonder how the machines of war were manhandled across the country, and how the Zulu impis managed to cover such vast distances in a single day, barefoot.

The regions of Zululand and the Battlefields merge together and are hard to separate, stretching from the northern and western KwaZulu-Natal borders to the towns of Ladysmith and Colenso in the south and towards the Elephant Coast in the east.

Zululand has managed to remain largely unaffected by industrial expansion and much of it remains farmland, timber plantations and rural wilderness, including beautiful Big-Five game reserves and grasslands. 

On the other hand there is the industrial hub of Richards Bay, the largest port in South Africa.

Tourism revolves around the natural beauty and diversity, as well as the haunting battlefields on which so many lost their lives and which are simply fascinating to visit, especially with a knowledgeable guide, of which there are a few.

Since this is the birthplace of the Zulu nation, it is also the place to come to grips with Zulu tradition, culture and history.

A number of cultural experiences exist, where tourists can become immersed in the local tradition and culture, learning a huge amount and enjoying themselves even more.

A few reserves in the region offer good game-viewing, from Weenen and Spioenkop in the south up to Ithala in the north. The diverse ecosystem means that hundreds of bird species are present, and a few notable bird-watching spots include the Dlinza and Ongoye forests, as well as the wetlands of Richards Bay.

An area as large and diverse will always have an almost endless array of attractions, and Zululand and the Battlefields are no different, from fishing in Richards Bay to horse-riding, mountain-biking, game-viewing and bird-watching. There is even a brewery to lighten the spirits when the history gets a little heavy.

Look out for

Zululand Brewery in Eshowe is a great place to pop in for a relaxing Zulu Blonde Export Ale, a beer that has won awards and rave reviews internationally. While you’re sitting at The Happy George Bar, ask around for recommendations on what’s new to do in the area.

The Dlinza and Ongoye Forests are serious birding hotspots and both are easily accessible. In fact, the Dlinza aerial boardwalk is something that even non-birders will enjoy and appreciate.

Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift are the two seminal battlefields in the Battlefields tour and are both intensely fascinating and moving. A good guide is invaluable in bringing them to life. Ulundi and Blood River are also well worth visiting, giving different insights into the bloodshed that shaped this land.

Take a hike up Majuba or Spioenkop mountains, both of which offer sensational views in addition to stirring battlefield history. The historic O’Neills cottage, where a peace treaty was signed to end the first Anglo-War, lies at the base of Majuba.

The majestic Ithala Game Reserve in the very north of KwaZulu-Natal offers good game-viewing and bird-watching, as well as epic scenery of mountains and valleys. While there is a variety of accommodation, the pick of it is undoubtedly the bush camps that can be booked out for your group.

Every year the Zulu nation holds the Reed Ceremony near the eNyokeni Royal residence in Nongoma north of Melmoth, thousands of maidens gathering to pay their respect to their king. This happens in spring and visitors from all over the world come to watch the women dance and sing to King Goodwill Zwelithini in his ceremonial regalia.

The eMakhosini Ophate Heritage Park should not be missed by anyone with a sense of history. It is the birthplace of the Zulu clan and what is known as the Valley of the Kings. The Spirit of eMakhosini memorial and an educational multimedia centre are worth a visit, and there is also game, including the rare oribi antelope and black rhino.

Immerse yourself in the Zulu culture at a place like Shakaland and watch Zulu dancing, ask a sangoma (witch doctor) for his sage advice, sample traditional Zulu beer, listen to singing and perhaps try out a few simple phrases for yourself. Arts and crafts are also on sale and make wonderful gifts and souvenirs.

When to go

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