Isandlwana Lodge was made possible as a result of the efforts of many people and owned by two American partners and the surrounding Zulu community with proceeds partly benefiting the community itself.

Overall Impression We arrived at Isandlwana, named for nearby Mount Isandlwana, after a morning drive through the green and rocky hills of KwaZulu Natal, an area of South Africa known for its natural beauty and battle scars. The first thing that struck me on arrival at the lodge was the discreet way it was constructed on the side of a hill. Not surprisingly one of our favorite features at this small lodge was the view of the neighboring Zulu village and surrounding countryside from the common areas and our rooms.

The sound of cattle mooing in the early morning reminded me we were in a rural area. Soon, with the aid of Dalton Lindizwe Ngobese, our Zulu guide (when he wasn’t conducting tours he was the lodge’s friendly barkeep), we explored a corner of the small Zulu community that was adjacent to and part owner of the lodge. As we walked around observing the native housing structures and kraals I remembered that cattle are the Zulu’s most prized possessions.

We dedicated the following day, morning and afternoon, to Robert “Rob” Gerrard, FRGS, a South African born retired British Army officer cum resident historian at the lodge specializing in Anglo Zulu and Anglo Boer Wars. While we sat in the sunshine of the lodge terrace, he shared vivid descriptions and highlighted the leaders and main participants of the Battle of Isandlwana. As we faced the site of the famous battle he painstakingly brought to life the events that led to the devastating British loss. The location of the lodge is significant as the place where the Zulu commander stood during the tribe’s victory against the British in 1879.

After a break for a midmorning snack he concluded his narrative on the grass at the actual location of the battle, a short drive from the lodge and visible from the lodge terrace. We gave that part of the tour a miss to avoid the necessary strong insect repellent spray and the pesky ticks that are abundant in the Zululand grass that time of year. In the afternoon, our enthusiastic and well informed guide escorted us in a lodge vehicle to Rorke’s Drift (a 20-minute drive) for the second major battle site which he revived for us while we walked around and later settled in portable canvas chairs under the shade of a tree. Although I am not a fan of battles his telling of the Anglo Zulu encounters near Isandlwana Lodge captured my interest and brought the famed battles to life. It made the visit to Isandlwana worthwhile and memorable.

The 15-room hillside lodge was ideal for battle buffs, especially those interested in the Zulu British battles of the area, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. In addition to the picturesque view, home style meals, cozy and comfortable accommodations and friendly staff, we liked the property’s community orientation. Isandlwana Lodge was made possible as a result of the efforts of many people and owned by two American partners and the surrounding Zulu community with proceeds partly benefiting the community itself.

Children The lodge welcomed children seven years of age and older. Battlefield tours were open to children 14 and older unless prior arrangements were made.

Class Of Accommodation A four star luxury lodge

Connectivity There was satellite Internet access via a lodge computer in the library (40 rand for 30 minutes, 75 rand for 60 minutes and 150 rand for daily use).

General Manager Andre Broerse

Handicapped Access The lodge was able to accommodate people who are “not seriously handicapped.” According to hotel staff some of the rooms are large enough to accommodate a wheel chair. The staff were able to add a shower seat and a flexible shower head to the bathroom as long as guests are able to step over a small rise into the shower.

Length Of Stay Two nights

Location The lodge is located in the iNyoni Rocks escarpment in the heart of South Africa’s Zululand.

Owned-Managed The property was co-owned by Magalen O. Bryant, Mary Pat Stubbs, Howard N. Parks, and Isandlwana Community Development Trust.

Pets Allowed No

Size Twenty-seven employees worked at the four hectare property that housed 15 guest rooms.

Year Opened-Renovated The lodge was established in 1999 with the help of 80 local people. In 2008 and 2009, the management re-did the soft furnishings in all the bedrooms and recovered media room chairs and bar stools.

Lobby And Common Areas The lodge was designed with environmentally sensitive architecture to look as a part of the rocks on which it stands. Shield shaped, it has a thatched roof and was made with local materials including rocks to make it resemble Zulu kraals or cattle pens. The furniture was made in nearby Durban from indigenous woods; the columns that support the roof were made from materials from the Old West Pier in Durban, each named for a Zulu commander or important person during the Anglo Zulu War; and the slasto tiles are South African. The interior design, African rustic with modern touches, was by Roy Farren, a Durban architect, and the owners. Most of the wall hangings were historical and ethnic pieces.

Bathroom This area was a mixture of rustic African and modern features. Stone walls and floors predominated in the bathroom. To the left of the entrance there was a black ceramic sink set on a wood base. There were silver color bathroom fixtures and a round mirror that hung over the sink. There was a dark round stone shower with a curtain and a narrow skylight and, across from it, in the corner, a toilet.

Room We stayed in Rooms 1 and 12, each with a fine view of the area, a private balcony and about 24 square meters of bedroom space. Room One, Cetshwayo, was named for the Zulu king of that name (Cetshway kaMpande), and Room Twelve Ndabuko, named for another Zulu, faced the neighboring Zulu village. Room One was noteworthy at the lodge as the room where President Jimmy Carter stayed when he visited the area. Once inside the room, a small foyer area led to the bathroom on the right and a wood closet with a safe on the left set against the wall. The rooms, almost identical except for their location and view, had simple putty colored carpeting, somewhat worn, as well as white walls, high ceilings, white shades over the windows and framed African motif artwork.

A queen bed with two wood headboards framed by matching wood night tables and lamps occupied the center of the room. There were two sand colored armchairs, one on either side of the bed, and a built-in wood table against the wall that faced the bed. On it there was a coffeemaker and electric hot water pitcher, a cookie jar filled with cookies as well as a fruit bowl. A round framed mirror hung above the table and narrow and long windows were on either side of the mirror. The most salient feature of the room and the area where my eyes where always drawn was to a large window that took up most of the center of the room. Two doors, one on each side of the room, led to an outdoor patio with a table and two chairs. Although it was too windy and chilly to sit outside for long I ventured onto the balcony to enjoy the view.

Meals Some 32 guests could be seated in the dining area. The lodge served mostly continental food with occasional ethnic dishes. Breakfast was served buffet style including cereal, yogurt, fruit and cheeses as well as eggs and sides. Tea and a pastry was served mid morning on our second day at the lodge. Lunch (served from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.) and dinner (served at 8 p.m.) were plated meals from a set menu offering two starter dishes, two main course options, dessert, tea or coffee.

Amenities There were Moulton Brown soaps, shower gel, shower cap and shampoo. There was also French press coffee makers and tea service in the rooms, cookies and fruit. There was complimentary mosquito and insect repellent. I looked forward to news tidbits in the one sheet news roundup that was delivered to my room door in the mornings.

Facilities There was a dining room, curio shop, bar, swimming pool, media room, and library.

Pool The oblique shaped pool was 9 meters long by 3 to 5 meters wide; and 1.3 meters deep at the shallow end and 1.5m deep at deep end.

Activities The main attractions at the lodge were the in depth and lengthy discussions and site tours led by Robert Gerrard, a historian and expert on the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift among other area battles. Gerrard is the son of Brigadier BJD Gerrad DSO who was in charge of the Gordon Highlanders, and grandson of Sir John Robinson, the first prime minister of Natal. After completing his studies in Great Britain Gerrard was commissioned into the British Army. He served with The Gordons in Kenya and on secondment in Malaysia, Borneo and Thailand. In 1969, he left the army and returned to South Africa to become a commodity trader. His love of British military history led him to lecture extensively on the Anglo Zulu War of 1879 and Anglo Boer War of 1881 and 1899 to 1902. In 1998, he became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. It was his ability to weave personal notes of the protagonists of the battles and the background historical and political aspects leading to the war that made his tours stirring and vivid.

We also went on a short Zulu Village tour. On the afternoon of our arrival, Dalton Lindizwe Ngobese, a Zulu historian from a nearby village and member of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides who worked at Isandlwana, spent two hours telling us about modern day Zulu life and customs. As we walked he shared cultural insights about traditional healers (although the healer was out of town we briefly saw the local healer’s building and met the healer’s trainee, a somber young woman with a toddler at her side), Zulu society, the role of cattle, education and related issues. We also visited the smoky building of the ancestors of a nearby family who participated in the tour program.

Curio Shop The small shop near the reception desk carried branded clothing, battlefield books, local curios and related items. For sale were also Robert Gerrard’s Anglo Zulu War, Anglo Boer War and People of the Heavens and a collection of seven historical CDs of his talks on the battles of the Anglo Zulu and Anglo Boer wars.

Other The lodge is built on the side of the Nyoni Rock just under where the Zulu Commander stood during the Battle of Isandlwana on January 22,1879. It overlooks Mount Isandlwana and a plain. There was a satellite television and VCR available in the media room.

The Mangwe Buthanani Traiditional Authority worked with the two American investors, Maggie Bryant and Patt Stubbs, who built the lodge. The local Zulu community is part owner of the lodge (up to 10 percent) and receives a part of the gross revenue though the Isandlwana Community Tribal Trust for schools, clinics and community projects.

Bryant is former chairperson of the Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the United States. Projects benefiting the community, above and beyond the revenue generated by the lodge, were implemented in partnership with the Wild Foundation, a United States based conservation and sustainable development non profit organization. Some of the work going on in the village included community gardens, craft making, sewing classes, and development of a computer lab in one of the elementary schools. Past lodge guests had contributed donations for various projects and a number of them had “adopted” school children, committing to pay school fees and furnishing uniforms for a year. The Impumelelo Yesandlwana (Success for the People of Islandlawana) projects included an Adopt-a-Child, Support Our Schools, Sustainable Agriculture, Food Parcels for HIV Orphans and general donations.

Cleanliness Excellent

Date Of Review October 2009

Reviewers Article by Elena del Valle

Photographs by Juan Cooper

Service The staff were pleasant, personable, well organized and efficient. There was twice daily room service. I was surprised to discover that one of the staff cleaned my muddy boots after I commented they had gotten wet at the previous property and were still damp. They had offered to place them where they would dry easily and when they returned them they were dry and, to my delight, clean.

Would You Stay There Again? Yes

Contact Information

  • Address:
    • P O. Box 30
    • Isandlwana 3005
    • KwaZulu Natal
    • South Africa
  • Phone:
    • +27 34 271 8301/4/5
  • Fax:
    • +27 34 271 8306
  • Website:
  • Email: