Going to South Africa and not visiting Zululand is like going to Southern California and not visiting Disneyland. It would be like going to Memphis and not visiting Graceland. I do not understand how anyone could miss it when you have the chance.
The Kwazulu Natal Province is probably the gem of South Africa. It ranges from the warm white sand beaches on the Indian Ocean to the peaks of the Drakensberg mountains. In between is the homeland of a great culture, which by the way still exists today, the Zulu Nation.
The Zulu Nation can arguably be called the creation of Shaka. Shaka was the illegitimate son of a king. His rise to power was ruthless with murder and fratricide. One legend has him tossing the mother of a rival into a hut with a few hyenas, who of course ate her, then burning the hut to the ground.
He was also a politician of sorts. He managed to integrate rival tribes under the banner of the Zulu nation. In an act of gratitude he undoubtedly later regretted, he allowed British settlers on his territory in thanks for a British doctor who saved the king after an assassination attempt.
During his rule he would fight both the British and the Boers. His first major battle against Europeans was against the Voortrekkers. These were Boers who decided that their manifest destiny was northward from the cape and into what they considered virgin territory. But the Zulu considered the area their homeland. He also fought epic battles against British forces. One of these is immortalized in a movie called Zulu starring Micheal Caine. This was the Battle of Rorke’s Drift which the Zulus actually lost, but it was preceded by the battle of Isandlwana a day before, where the Zulu kicked some serious butt.
Shaka is remembered as a great innovator of warfare. He went up against the modern european weapons with swords. He had his warriors abandon the long throwing spear, mainly because you only got one chance with it. Instead he developed a short spear for up close and personal warfare. He also changed the tip of this spear so that when you stabbed someone with it, the results were almost always fatal.
His other innovation was the formation of the famous “bull horn” formation. It was composed of three elements:
- The main force, the “chest,” closed with the enemy and held it in position. The warriors who comprised the “chest” were senior veterans.
- The “horns. While the enemy was pinned by the “chest,” the horns would flank the enemy from both sides and encircle it; in conjunction with the “chest” they would then destroy the trapped force. The warriors who comprised the “horns” were young and fast juniors.
- The “loins,” a large reserve, was placed, seated, behind the “chest” with their backs to the battle. The “loins” would be committed wherever the enemy threatened to break out of the encirclement.
The scheme was elegant in its simplicity, and well understood by the warriors assigned to each echelon. It was almost always successful. Shaka has been compared to Napoleon for his understanding and development of tactics.
But enough history. This is a travel blog, right?
Shakaland is is an authentically recreated Zulu village. It is more than a tourist attraction. You get a good feeling for the people and their timeless customs.
Once again I owe thanks to Southern Eagle Travel and Tours for finding Shakaland for us. And no, they do not pay me to do this even in authentically recreated Rands.
Please share this with someone. Anyone. Please make a comment, or at least an authentically recreated comment.