Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa

The Natal Battlefields

The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Estcourt.

Agricultural town in central KwaZulu-Natal noted as the most southerly point reached by the Boer forces in 1899

The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Glencoe

Advertise Now -it's Free!   Email this page to a friend   Change text size:  Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size

  • Nearby attractions include Chieveley where Winston Churchill was captured.
  • Central for Spioenkop, Vaalkrans, Tugela Heights and Bloukrans battlefields. Wagendrift Dam and Spioenkop Dam are outdoor areas.
  • Wildlife attractions include the Weenen Game Reserve and Tugela Biosphere Reserve. Estcourt is also close to the Central Drakensberg resorts.
  • Centre for the Bushman's River Meander craft route.


The town was developed around a ford and originally named 'Bushman's River' but renamed after the British MP who sponsored the British Byrne immigration scheme.

Within the town, there are many fine old Victorian buildings. Fort Durnford, now an excellent museum overlooking the town was built overlooking the ford in 1874 after the Langalibalele rebellion, to defend the citizens against attacks by the Zulus.

It is interesting because of the number of defence mechanisms employed to defeat those attempting to gain ingress. There are underground storage tanks and two secret passages. In the early 1900s it was used as a reform school.

There is also a reconstructed Zulu kraal in the grounds and models both of the Langalibalele skirmish area on Giants Castle and the Battle of Willowgrange in the Second Boer War in which Estcourt was briefly cut off. 09.00 - 12.00 Suns 13.00 - 16.00.

Estcourt is the starting point for the Bushman's River Meander, an arts route covering the area from the Drakensberg foothills to Colenso. Contact the Information Bureau for a descriptive brochure.

Bushman's River Tourism Association PO Box 185, Estcourt, 3310 036 3526253 Fax: same.

The Langalibalele Rebellion

The depradations of both Shaka and later, Dingane, caused many of the local Hlubi people to flee their traditional land. They were resettled near the Bushman's and Bloukrans rivers to act as a buffer between white farmers and San rustlers.

The diamond diggings in Kimberley attracted many Hlubi who returned with ploughs and rifles. Further, family farming by the Hlubi proved profitable which caused resentment from the local white farmers. By 1873, the Hlubi owned more than 15,000 head of cattle.

Unsettled by the growing power of the Hlubi, the local magistrate summoned their chief, Langalibalele to register all firearms. Langalibalele had little control over his far flung tribe and didn't know who possessed firearms.

Langalibalele is Targeted

Langalibalele refused, citing a number of reasons but probably thought that the firearms would be confiscated. He was then summoned to the capital, Pietermaritzburg but the order was rescinded.

The magistrate sent out a further summons and when the messengers were searched, an excuse for military action appeared and almost 9000 native levies and regular troops marched against the Hlubi's 111 rifles.

Defeat at the Pass

The Hlubi for their part sought sanctuary across the Bushman's River Pass in the high Drakensberg and drove their cattle before them.

Moving to block the pass, the English commander, Anthony Durnford was confronted by the Hlubi and a skirmish ensued in which three white soldiers and two native levies were killed. All Hlubi cattle were confiscated, prisoners were given as local servants and Langalibalele confined to Robben Island.

In England, there was an outcry and several officials involved were recalled and self government for Natal was delayed. Langalibalele was returned to Natal in 1887 where he died two years later. Despite the outcry, there was no restitution for the Hlubi.

Other Attractions

Nearby attractions include Bloukrans where 250 Voortrekker families and their 200 servants were killed by the Zulus after the murder of Piet Retief, and the battlefield of Willow Grange, which was the most Southerly point reached by the Boer forces in the second Boer War.

Estcourt was cut off for four days in November 1899. Not far from the town between Chieveley and Frere stations is the armoured train site where Winston Churchill was captured. As a 25 year old newspaper reporter he regarded the individual Boer soldier as worth 4 or 5 regular soldiers. Churchill was later given the freedom of the town.

On the outskirts of the town is Saailaer, the site of Gerrit Maritz's laager overlooking a meander in the Bushmans River. He was unsuccessfully attacked here by Dingane on February 17 1838. An original irrigation furrow is still visible. Veglaer, which has been submerged since the construction of the Wagendrift Dam, is where the Voortrekkers scored a major victory over the Zulus after a three day battle. Nearby is Rensburg Koppie, the site of the rescue of a group of Voortrekkers by Martinus Oosthuizen.

New Formosa and Moor Park

The New Formosa Game Reserve houses a variety of game. The Moor Park Game Reserve and the Wagendrift Dam and Nature Reserve is administered by Ezemvelo Wildlife. The latter is principally a boat and recreation centre and there is a youth environmental education centre. There are two camp sites.

The adjacent Moor Park is stocked with wildebeest, impala, zebra and bushbuck, has excellent views across the dam and visitors may take advantage of a self guided trail. 036 22550

Wagendrift Public Resort

The reserve embraces the waters of the Wagendrift Dam on the Bushmans River and the surrounding veld. There are 36 campsites with ablutions.

Estcourt Nature Reserve

This 100ha reserve is stocked with zebra, blesbuck and duiker.

Estcourt Municipality PO Box 15 Estcourt 33100363 23000

The Bushman's River Meander

Estcourt is also the centre of the Bushman's Meander Experience, a network of cosy accommodation, arts and crafts outlets, game reserves and adventure activity centres.

   This website by Durban Website Designers.
Natal Accommodation Guide
Natal Accommodation Guide
Natal Accommodation Guide