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“A unique and moving historical experience”

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Fugitive's Drift Lodge and Guest House
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed February 11, 2014

Having just returned from a three day stay at Fugitive’s Drift, I was naturally interested to see whether others had shared our experience. The headlines are encouraging: such a high proportion of excellents suggests that most share our views. I chased after those that recorded anything less than splendid, and was amused by the reasons. More of that later – but first our own impressions. Our lodge was capacious, with plenty of lounging space, both inside and outside (early morning tea on the verandah overlooking the Buffalo gorge was epic). The bathroom sported a particularly bracing shower, as well as a goodly sized bath and the range of enticing soaps one has come to expect of such superior accommodation.
But it was in the common parts (although rather uncommon) that Fugitive’s Drift particularly excelled. Breakfast and dinner were taken in a large room hung with curios of the Zulu Wars, outside which was a circle of chairs around an open fire. The emphasis here was on good cheer and good fellowship. Everyone mingles and chats, and good stories abound. Lunch, by contrast, is taken on the immense verandah of an airy library with a spectacular view of the Buffalo River. Inside, sofas and comfy chairs beckon the interested reader – and the breadth and range of books is impressive.
And so to the food: we found the lunches hit the spot spectacularly: chicken pie, quiches and salads never failed to delight. Breakfasts were as huge and varied as you wanted. Dinners were delicious. None of the fare had Michelin pretensions – but we had had our fill of frilly food elsewhere in this wonderful country, and were gasping for some honest home fare – and that is precisely what we got.
But now to the real reason for choosing this particular lodge: the tours. In retrospect, we were wrong to limit our stay to two days. Although that is just about sufficient to take in the two principal tours of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, as well as the fascinating story of the fate of Captains Neville and Coghill at Fugitive’s Drift itself, it left us wishing for more time to sit and reflect – and to ride or bike around the estate. The tours are so very interesting and emotional that downtime is needed just to pause and think about the enormity of what was happening only four generations ago. Here it is worth making special mention of Mpiwa, whose eloquent and moving guiding is elevated by the fact that his great grandfather was in one of the Zulu regiments at Islandwana. Andrew Rattray needs no introduction – but his word-perfect description of how the VCs were won as hospital patients were dragged through holes in walls from one hospital room to another was as moving as it was informative.
Was our stay in Fugitive’s Drift the best part of our two weeks in South Africa? Undoubtedly. Would I return? Will I return? I hope so. Would I do anything different? Yes – stay for very much longer next time.
And to those very few who did not share our views, all I can say is – if your standard hotel room requirement is freezing aircon (as opposed to valley breezes) and a television that will feed you CNN and bad films, then no, don’t stay here. Ditto if you want very fine dining. But for those who want a really interesting experience of being treated like a proper guest in one of the most interesting places in the world – book now.

  • Stayed: February 2014, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Fethers53
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed February 7, 2014

One week into my South African vacation was now about to turn from mainly cuisine and wine which I gorged myself on in Cape Town, to the history of South Africa. Now I wasn’t crazy, I still intended to enjoy some great food, and get some good wine. I flew from Cape Town to Durban on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The city was known as the Beverly Hills of Africa. It also has the largest Indian population per capita outside of India. This part of the tour, my full intention was to immerse myself in Zulu history. As I kid, I had seen the movie Zulu with Michael Caine, and how the British Army massively outnumbered, won the battle. Later on I fell in love with the television miniseries Shaka Zulu, which went into great detail about the life of the Zulu people and the Napoleon of Africa as he was known. As I planned my trip for South Africa months before, I set aside several days for the Zulu. I could not imagine anything better than what I had found. A lodge with all the comforts of a five star hotel, on a reserve with wild animals, great food and wine, sitting right next to two battlefields which were the pivotal points in colonial Africa that brought about the beginning of the end for the Zulu Empire, and the reign of the British and Boers in Africa. This location was called Fugitives Lodge.

It was a long drive from Durban almost five hours with my stops and getting lost along the way. I had taken a route different from the instructions on the Fugitive Drift webpage. I saw a sign saying Rorke’s Drift, and I remembered from the Zulu movie and the articles I read through the years that the famous battle and British victory was Rorke’s Drift. So I turned onto that road, and ended up on another dirt road, wondering if my rental was going to take much more punishment. When I arrived at the lodge a group of folks welcomed me, took the luggage to my room, and parked my car. They escorted me to the main dining room and offered me a beverage of my choice.
The rooms patio looked out into the open reserve with green grass, tree’s, and hills in the distance, to include a view of Isandlwana Hill, where the British were defeated by the Zulu’s at the start of the Anglo-Zulu War, and one of the two battle sites I would see while staying at this lodge.
For dinner each night, we would have three courses, and the menu was written on a chalk board, being displayed near the tables. For wines they had a large selection to choose from, and gave recommendations or house wines that came complimentary with the meal. Alastair Lamont, our tour guide met us for coffee, and went over in detail how we would spend the day, then escorted us to the land rovers to begin our drive to the Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift Battlefields.

An overall wonderful experience that I highly recommend. To read my full review, visit the Wine, Dine, and Play Blog, and under the blog archive for January 2014 you will find the link to Fugitives Drift Lodge.

Room Tip: GPS is not entirely accurate, so read the signs, and prepare for a lot of dirt roads when you leave...
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  • Stayed: February 2014, traveled solo
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Thank Sean O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 31, 2014

We have stayed set many memorable lodges and hotels in South Africa , but this will stand out in my memory , I am sure , for its uniqueness and the genuine warmth of the staff. As other reviews have said , it is not a luxury Lodge but it has plenty of home comforts, and the food is good and plentiful – the lunches at the library with a stunning long distance view to Isandlwana are excellent. I would have been happy to stay there just for the landscape and the beautiful reserve the Lodge is situated in. You can go for both short and long walks either on your own or with one of the guides or just one of the lodge dogs to keep you company... You can walk right up to giraffes who just gaze down at you from a distance of 3 feet!
Beyond that the battlefield Tours are ,as other reviewers have said,exemplary ,very moving and thought-provoking. It is a very social place - we met some fascinating people over dinner and around the lodge. Don't miss this experience !

Stayed: January 2014, traveled as a couple
Thank j0gli
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 27, 2014

First time to South Africa and after Johannesburg, this was our first stop. The excellence of the battlefield tours is almost outshone by the warmth and consideration of the staff. Large airy rooms (we didn't need and air conditioning!) with large baths. Dinner and breakfast are family style and that made for a very interesting evening, meeting guests from other places in the world -- conversation never lagged. The food is good, solid fare with no pretense but very tasty indeed. Gracie and Nelly were so attentive (when I was ill and unable to come to dinner, Gracie brought a tray -- complete with a lovely hydrangea!). She sings (and her voice is lovely) and her smile is always ready. Alastair was our battlefield guide for Islandwana and Charl for Rorke's Drift -- and they made history come alive. A very balanced, historically accurate presentation based on the extensive research of David Rattray. The grounds are extensive, built into the hill, and were pleasant in and of themselves. In the morning I could see impala grazing in the field at the foot of the hill from our porch. This isn't a spa or world hotel, but great accommodation that I would gladly return to for the warmth of the staff, the informality of the evenings and the dedication of the staff to guest comfort.

Room Tip: I don't think there is a bad room, but if you want other than twin beds, ask when booking.
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  • Stayed: January 2014, traveled as a couple
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Thank celticantique
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 26, 2014

What a wonderful place this is. Even without the battlefield tours which are its specialty, the lodge itself is an ideal base to relax. The rooms are spacious and furnished in a very comfortable, traditional fashion, complete with Victorian-style bathroom. A warning though is that there is no A/C and it can get very warm here. The lodge is set in large grounds on the hillside overlooking Islandwana, with many game animals around and opportunities to walk, ride or just laze beside the pool. The food is pretty good, but not haute cuisine, which is fine for this setting. What makes it so special are the Rattray family and their staff. Knowledgeable and engaging, Andrew and others give tours that are not to be missed and brought the events vividly to life even for a non-history buff like me. Without exception, the rest of the staff were the friendliest and most efficient I encountered in South Africa, but special mention has to be made of Grace, who seems to be in charge of everything from morning wake up calls to running the dinner service, all with a smile and a song!

  • Stayed: January 2014, traveled solo
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Thank amm1u
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 8, 2014

I am sure other lodges in this area do a good job with the Battlefields, but I don't believe any one will do the amazing job that Fugitive's Drift does. The presentation of the history during the tours was amazing and to gain even just a little of the knowledge that the Rattray family has been able to gain over the years was perfect. We travelled with our two kids (7 and 11) and we stayed in the Guest House. Some of the reviews suggest that the Guest House is the 'poor cousin' to the lodge, but I really disagree with this. As it is smaller, it is more personal, very relaxed and very comfortable - and I think much less formal than the lodge - which for our family was just ideal. Our main contact at the guest house - Charl - went above and beyond the call of duty when he spent time with the children whilst we were on one tour, taking them on a game drive, to the river, swimming, way more than he needed to do. Thank you… We also took a private guide for one battlefield tour purely to give the children the chance to also experience this side of the trip and I would strongly recommend that. They couldn't follow all of it - but they took in enough. Accommodation was great, food delicious, service superb, staff very helpful, walking and cycling through the reserve a real pleasure and our children were very much welcomed. All in all a great trip.

  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with family
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1  Thank Ahtrm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 3, 2014

We stayed here for 3 nights while we visited the Battlefields. Our lodge was fine and was close to the reception. The staff were very attentive and we ate too well with members of the family and senior guides eating with us. The food was very good and it was relaxing to meet for a drink round the outside fire before going in "en masse" to dine.
The weather was not too brilliant while we were there, so we did not use the pool, but the views are stunning and the grounds well laid out to allow relaxation. The library and dining areas all have extensive pictures and information on the area and the Anglo-Zulu wars.
The best part are the tours - the vast expanse of Isandlwana and the tight area about Rorke;s drift contrast, but Andrew Rattray has taken on his father's mantle; he and his team of guides bring the whole story to life in an unbiased and at times emotional manner. It is so well done. If you have the time, take the Fugitive's Trail to see where Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill died trying to save the Queen's Colour.
This was a highlight of our SA holiday. Well done to the Rattray family who really love South Africa.

Room Tip: All the lodges were excellent
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  • Stayed: October 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Walkeral
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Fugitive's Drift Lodge and Guest House

Address: Rorke's Drift 3016, South Africa
Location: South Africa > KwaZulu-Natal > Rorke's Drift
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Specialty Lodging in Rorke's Drift
Price Range: $308 - $537 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 14
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Fugitives' Drift Lodge, established by David and Nicky Rattray 28 years ago, now run by Nicky and her sons Andrew and Douglas, has become world famous for the passionate stories, delivered by our resident lecturers, given on the battlefields of the Anglo-Zulu War. Our flagship tours, conducted daily, are to the battlefields of Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana. The Lodge and Guest House both feature luxury accommodation with pools, horse riding and fantastic game walks through this remarkable terrain. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Fugitive`s Drift Hotel Rorke`s Drift
Fugitive's Drift Lodge And Guest House South Africa/KwaZulu-Natal

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