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“Fording Rorke's Drift on horseback.”

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Rorke's Drift Hotel
Certificate of Excellence
Sitges, Spain
Level Contributor
53 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
“Fording Rorke's Drift on horseback.”
Reviewed 25 November 2013

My husband and I have both had a hankering to visit the Zulu Battlefields (particularly Rorke's Drift) ever since seeing the film Zulu as youngsters. Our son (22) and daughter (18) didn't have quite the same urge but were nevertheless intrigued. Up until the time of making the booking for accommodation in the area we had always 'assumed' that we would stay at the late David Rattray's place as he (and thus by association, it) had received a lot of coverage in the British Press. However, when it came to making a booking it was to find that it was booked up for the dates we wanted, and I was loath to 'shunt' the whole holiday in order to fit in. So I started looking at other options. Rorke's Drift Hotel leapt out as it's actually smack bang by the famous 'drift' on the Buffalo River. Furthermore the architecture was reminiscent of African rondavels, rather than just another copy of an English country house. And to boot it was far more affordable for a family of four! I was intrigued and booked us in for three nights. We chose well: not only was the hotel really spacious, clean, comfortable and friendly, but our rooms (King Shaka and the twin next to it) overlooking the river meant we got to see fabulous sunrises in one direction and equally lovely sunsets in the other. The African architecture is perfect for the locale, as the hotel blends in well with its surroundings. Meals were tasty and varied; the bar was well stocked; the dining tables are such that they can be combined for communal dining or split up for groups or individuals as preferred. Charles, the part-owner and manager, is an excellent host, ever-aware of his guests' interests; as we are all keen (if out-of-practice) riders, he arranged to accompany us one day on the trail the wagon train took from the drift on the river up to Isandlwana. Five horses were duly delivered by a local friend and we set off after breakfast. The trail-ride was one of the best; there is something about riding a horse in southern Africa ... I guess a lot of it has to do with the wide open spaces and the feeling of freedom ... or maybe it was all those Wilbur Smith books I read years ago! Some of the trail was clear for trotting or cantering but a lot was over rocky ground (think small boulders) and this was where we learned that horses are amazingly sure-footed: unsure which way to 'steer' the horses on this seemingly-impossible terrain we simply gave them their heads, the result being they made light work of it and we came away with a feeling of accomplishment. We rode around and through a couple of villages too, and stopped at one for a cold coke. Back in the saddle we retraced our steps, trying to pick out the hotel in the distance (it blends in really well), and when we finally arrived back at the Buffalo River Charles suggested we wade across on our horses as the cavalry had, rather than take the bridge: great fun! After a late lunch we lazed around trying to decide whether to go and explore the part of the river below the cliffs where the ibis nest. Three of us finally decided to make the effort and when we got there were kicking ourselves for wasting valuable time as the sun was low in the sky and we could only spare half an hour there before getting back in the car and heading back. The spot is really lovely, perfect for a picnic ... and a swim in warmer weather. It would make a nice, short ride for anyone who fancies an easy ride and I'm sure the horses would love killing time in the river-pools while waiting to be rode home. It's on my to-do list for our next visit! Our other day was spent on the battlefields with Charles' recommendation of a Zulu guide, Dalton. He is great fun, he really throws himself into the story telling; one minute he's a British officer with his rifle to his shoulder, the next he's a Zulu warrior hiding in the grass ready to pounce, and then he's impersonating Queen Victoria herself with a squeaky voice. Not only was Dalton's storytelling informative and enthusiastic, it also felt like we were redressing the balance of all those films and documentaries told from a British perspective. En route to Rorke's Drift from the Southern Drakensberg (we'd gone to see the awesome amphitheatre that Stanley Baker - with artistic licence - used as his backdrop to 'Zulu') we detoured via the Blood River, Boer versus Zulu, site where we also tried to understand both sides of the conflict by visiting both Boer and Zulu museums: highly recommended. Our next stay at the Rorke's Drift Hotel will have to be in warmer weather as we fancy swimming in the river; we will combine it with a return to the amphitheatre also, allowing time to climb it. This is truly a wonderful part of the world.

  • Stayed July 2013, travelled with family
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1 Thank lifes_an_illusion
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (77)
Date | Rating
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  • English first
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English first
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
17 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed 24 November 2013

An excellent hotel to stay at, the setting is beautiful, rooms and decor in character with the setting and the food was excellent. Charles, the host owner, organised an excellent guide for us, Evan, who made the history of the place come to life, a true expert on the area. Best of all though was our host Charles, who made us feel like his personal guests, joining us for meals and regaling us with stories of the battlefields and characters involved. This made our stay one to remember and we would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area.

  • Stayed November 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Noreen856
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Camber, United Kingdom
1 review
Reviewed 20 November 2013

This hotel is like two ring doughnuts set in a beautiful landscape redolent of Anglo-Zulu War history. I went on an early morning run each day and felt quite safe, not always the case in SA. Loved my big room, particularly appreciated excellent breakfasts and wifi. Charles gently controls everything and got us an excellent guide, Dalton, who enlivened Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. It is quite a special place, you will enjoy your stay.

  • Stayed November 2013, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
Thank Mary W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Chicago
Level Contributor
157 reviews
64 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 74 helpful votes
Reviewed 19 November 2013

This is a quaint but modern hotel set along the Buffalo River and a couple of miles from the site of the Rorke's Drift battlefield of January 1879. While comfortable, the rooms and baths are not well finished so this is a more rustic experience than the rates might imply. The food was OK, but again not outstanding unlike many dinning experiences in South Africa. Likewise, the entertainment -- native dancing albeit in modern costume (tennis shoes, pants) -- adds to the feel that this is still a work in progress. That said, viewing the hotel from the low bridge across the Buffalo River, set against the side of a low mountain strewn with boulders and little vegitation, it fits in well with its surroundings and the history on which its location is based. We are glad we came to Rorke's Drift and Rorke's Drift Hotel was a suitable place to stay for our visit. Charles was, indeed, interesting and helpful. We particularly enjoyed reading the official account of the engagement (and part of the account of the prior disaster -- for the British -- at Islandwana, nearby) in the hotel's library and media room. Yes, for those with time, the hotel has both "Zulu" and the prequel "Zulu Dawn" about Islandwana.

Room Tip: Get there early. Most rooms had a balcony view of the mountain or countryside. As we were the last...
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  • Stayed October 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Reamor
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
RorkesDriftHotel, Owner at Rorke's Drift Hotel, responded to this review, 20 November 2013
We are always concerned if guests are not fully satisfied so would like to offer the following comments to this review, made by a guest that we recall. Rorke's Drift is a rural area, 45 minutes on a gravel road from the nearest supplies; so like any rural hospitality privider it is reliant on local skill and resources. In the context of modern tourism and encouragement to minimise carbon footprints and give maximum opportunities to local people, there may be some compromise to guest standards. However we are proud to offer an African experience, and if (in t the words of the reviewer) that is Work In Progres, we make no apology for our guests experiencing it. The dancers come to perform for the pleasure of an audience; they are not paid and are local boys who were showing their traditional artistic interpretation of their culture.
The appreciation of the guest may have been coloured by arriving later than expected, in the dark, and only having a half day to enjoy their destination. Managing time and distance is a real skill for travel in S A.
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Somerton, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviewed 17 November 2013

The Rorke's Drift Hotel is a one-off and a must when visiting the Zulu Battlefields. The owner, Charles, is a charming and enthusiastic host who welcomed us and other guests and skilfully blended us into a group for evening dinner. We had a delightful stay which superbly complimented our tour and Charles' stories and descriptions added atmosphere and colour. The hotel is modelled on a Rondavel design with a cavernous interior and has wonderful views over the Buffalo River. This is a hotel we would be delighted to return to. Thank you Charles.

  • Stayed November 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Cliff M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Arklow, Ireland
Level Contributor
6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 10 October 2013

Presumably the reason you are at Rorke's Drift Hotel is for the battlefields in the area. This hotel is mandatory to stay in. Accommodation, staff, meals, ambiance and bar are super. The rondavel designs are stunning with parapet views over drift itself and the Buffalo river enchanting. The proximity to Blood River, Isandlwana, Fugitives' Trail and Mission Station makes touring the sites viable over a couple of days feasible in comfort, with or without guide; we chose the latter one day and were thrilled.
However great this seems, it is the personal attention the owner, Charles, that will remain in our memory of a splendid holiday. He drew all the guests together, regaled us with anecdotes and real history of the characters (warts and all) in the Zulu War local battles. As an ex-army officer he explained the deficiencies/successes of strategy of the combatants. True entertaining at a rivetting level.
We intended a two night stop but remained for four! Best value in ZA!

Room Tip: One with a view of the Buffalo river. We had surgeon "Reynolds" room.
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  • Stayed September 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank W2N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cheltenham
Level Contributor
23 reviews
16 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 October 2013

Rorke's Drift Hotel was designed and built by Charles Aikenhead, who owns and manages the hotel. It over looks the Buffalo River, a short distance down river from where Lt John Chard of the Royal Engineers was left in charge of the pontoon allowing the centre 3rd column of Lord Chelmsford to cross from Natal into the Zulu Kingdom on 11th January 1879.

The main reception area is in a beautiful 'Rondavel' shaped building, with a thatched roof and the accommodation is in a separate Roundavel, with singles bedrooms under the main building facing the River.

The setting is stunning, the hospitality exceptional and the rooms really comfortable.

This is a place of exceptional value and an absolute 'must' to stay in

Room Tip: Ask for a room facing the Buffalo River
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  • Stayed September 2013, travelled solo
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Helpful?
Thank ShoutCheltenham
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Rorke's Drift Hotel

Property: Rorke's Drift Hotel
Address: Isandhlwana Road, Rorke's Drift, South Africa
Region: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Rorke's Drift
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 4 Speciality Lodging in Rorke's Drift
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££
Number of rooms: 12
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
At Rorke's Drift on the Buffalo River the new Rorke’s Drift Hotel stands the slopes of Shiyane Mountain (The Oscarberg), in the rolling hills of Zululand. The historic crossing that gives the area its name is within its grounds and the comfortable modern facilities are priced to meet the needs of the discerning traveller. The visitor will enjoy peaceful relaxation in the rural landscape, surrounded by iconic history and natural countryside. Phase One of the construction is now complete with 7 double and four single en-suite rooms. Phase Two will raise the capacity to 30 rooms so that coach touring parties can be accommodated, for the recommended two night stay. The hotel provides an affordable destination at this historic location. Visitors will be stunned by its position overlooking the Buffalo River and with its open views towards Isandlwana, and by its architectural design that is a modern amalgam of Zulu and Victorian cultures. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Rorke's Drift Hotel South Africa/KwaZulu-Natal

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