The Fugitives' Trail, Isandlwana to the Buffalo River

  • Isandlwana From behind the saddle - © William Mackesy
  • The Fugitives" Drift - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy

Key information: The Fugitives' Trail, Isandlwana to the Buffalo River

  • A remarkable walk from the great rock of Isandlwana to the Fugitives' Drift on the Buffalo River.
    • Survey the scene of a famous victory of a courageous, disciplined Zulu army over a large British column. Follow the route of the few who escaped the carnage, through an area that is pregnant with history.
      • Walk through beautiful scenery, made poignant by the whitewashed rocks that mark the graves of those who died that day.

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating88
  • Beauty28
  • Natural interest13
  • Human interest15
  • Charisma32
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating88

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 8km, 3 hours
  • Maximum Altitude: Not High
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate
The Fugitives' Drift - © William Mackesy


Walk from the great rock of Isandlwana, scene of a stunning British defeat at the hands of a huge Zulu army, along the route of the fugitives from the massacre back to the Natal border at the Buffalo River.

From the poignant plain under the rock, strewn with whitewashed cairns that mark where the combatants fell, the trail winds through peaceful grassland, down a long slope dotted with cairns where the fugitives were picked off. Occasional larger clusters indicate where exhausted or trapped groups stood and fought.

The scenery is fine, the whole area pregnant with history. After crossing a beautiful stream, then scrambling up a rough hillside and winding across a broken hilltop, the trail comes suddenly to a cliff top above the drift (ford) where the desperate fugitives tried to swim the Buffalo in full spate. Many drowned or were picked off on its banks.

On the Natal bank, wind your way thorough browsing game in a little reserve to the Fugitives Drift Lodge.

of this walk

Zululand, 22 January, 1879. A column of an invading British army has been surprised by some 25,000 Zulus and its defences are disintegrating into a desperate rout. In imperial Britain's worst disaster on African soil, more than 1,300 soldiers and camp followers are to die around the base of the great sphinx-like rock of Isandlwana.

The overstretched defensive lines in front of the rock have cracked under the weight of the onslaught and are driven back, in surrounded groups, to their camp under the rock.

Colonel Durnford's Natal Native Horse, on the right, have fallen.....


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© William Mackesy

share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

© William Mackesy...

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