Fugitive's Drift Lodge, situated within a 2,500-hectare (6,175-acre) nature reserve in the heart of battlefield country, is undoubtedly the highlight of the area. Led by the finest guides in South Africa, these famously thought-provoking and often emotionally charged tours are conducted daily to Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. Walks and horseback rides take visitors through the reserve to view abundant game and birdlife and to fish the 20km frontage on the Buffalo River (where Lts. Melvill and Coghill died on its banks defending the Queens Colour). The reserve offers a choice of accommodation in either the Lodge or the Guest House, both owned by the Rattrays, whose love of South Africa, its people, and its unique history is evident in every corner. Spacious, luxury en-suite cottages with a tasteful blend of Anglo-Zulu memorabilia and country comfort each have private verandas and broad views over the plains flanking the Buffalo River Gorge. The Lodge and Guest House both have large swimming pools, set in well-established indigenous gardens home to innumerable bird species. The hospitality is superb. (tel. 034/642-1843 or 034/271-8051; www.fugitives-drift-lodge.com; from R3,640 double in low season [May-July] to R5,180 double in high season; rates include all meals and tourism levy.) Tours are from R660 in low season to R880 per person, in addition to the accommodation rate.
If you'd like to stay in more obviously "African"-style accommodations -- very exclusive, but at a more reasonable rate -- take a look at neighboring Isibindi Zulu Lodge. "Rooms" take a traditional Zulu beehive hut as their departure point and must rate as one of the most successful blends of Western and African architecture in Zululand. It is also situated within the 1,600-hectare (4,000-acre) Isibindi Eco-Reserve, offering diverse habitats ranging from montane grassland and valley thornveld to riverine forests. The lodge runs morning and evening game drives, and the bird-watching is excellent. (tel. 035/474-1473; fax 035/474-1490; www.isibindi.co.za; high season [Sept-Apr] R2,700 double, low season [May-Aug] R2,300; includes all meals and a game drive). The lodge is a stone's throw away from the historically momentous Anglo-Zulu battlefields of Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana.
For a more hotel-like experience, there's Isandlwana Lodge (tel. 034/271-8301, -04, -05 for reservations; www.isandlwana.co.za; R3,600-R3,970 double, including meals; battlefield tours are R450): An elegant Afro-colonial lodge that enjoys a great location overlooking the historic battlefield, it offers a host of activities, including a Zulu Village "Safari," in which a licensed Zulu guide takes visitors to a local church, home, clinic, and sangoma.
The above are great places to stay when viewing Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. If you've moved on to visit Spioenkop in the Ladysmith area, Three Tree Hill Lodge is the place to stay. Brainchild of world-renowned Anglo-Zulu War historian David Rattray, his intent here was again to bring to vivid life the struggle between one of the largest empires in history and one of the smallest nations in the world, this time the Afrikaner. Proprietors Simon and Cheryl Blackburn (previously of Singita and Kwando) have continued Rattray's vision and more -- both are highly experienced safari guides and combine guided tours of Spioenkop and surrounds with a variety of activities, all conducted with their signature hospitality in this beautiful family-run lodge. From R1,990 double to R 4,630 (high season) for the Family Suite, which sleeps two adults and two kids (tel. 036/448-1171 or 082/379-1864; www.threetreehill.co.za).