Durban - If Fugitives’ Drift isn’t on your bucket list, do yourself a favour and add it – right near the top. Located in a natural heritage site on the lip of the Buffalo River gorge, Fugitives’ Drift commands magnificent views across the plains to Isandlwana, the Oskarberg, and down 1 150m to the drift which gives the reserve its name. The 20km river boundary includes the spectacular Indaweni gorge.
It is here that David and Nicky Rattray pioneered heritage tourism. From humble beginnings of a single cottage and a vehicle they built Fugitives’ Drift into what it is today: the lodge, guest house, Umzinyathi Farmhouse and KwaGeorge cottage.
In both the lodge and guest house visitors are put into spacious, attractively decorated cottages with full en suite bathrooms, lounge areas and the private verandas’ all-encompassing views.
The bathrooms are definitely a woman’s delight – all the touches from bowls of bath salts to pump pots of body lotion. The practical is not forgotten either. Every cottage comes equipped with walking sticks, umbrellas, torches, a bedside clock and even mosquito spray (Fugitives’ Drift is not in a malaria zone).
Umzinyathi is essentially self-catering but meals can be taken at the lodge or guest house by arrangement. Guests at KwaGeorge take their meals at the lodge or guest house.
Guided and trained by Anel Rattray, wife of Nicky, and David’s son Andrew, local people have developed culinary skills of a high standard.
Breakfast and dinner are served in the dining room – a fascinating room whose walls are covered in war memorabilia – with pre-dinner drinks and snacks served around the fire pit.
Lunches are served in the magnificent Harford Library on the wide veranda overlooking the Buffalo River. The library can also be used for private parties or as a conference venue and comes fully equipped with essential technology.
The main focus of Fugitives’ Drift is the history of the Anglo-Zulu Wars fought primarily at Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift but you do not have to be a history boffin to enjoy tours.
Against the background of war are the stories of ordinary people. Stories of adventure, bravery, heroism, treachery, betrayal and arrogance. Andrew Rattray is a consummate narrator and visitors sit enraptured, some visibly emotional as the stories unfold. There is no doubt that a visit to either of these sites is empty without the benefit of a commentary to bring it to life.
But you can enjoy Fugitives’ Drift on other levels as well. If you just want to relax with a book you can choose the Harford Library or the perfectly positioned pool. You can stroll through the indigenous rock garden or walk or horseback ride through the reserve – probably with Spud the black Labrador at your heels. Game is abundant, as are many species of bird. A guided walk ends with sundowners in the bush.
For the slightly more energetic there is coarse fishing in the Buffalo and for the really energetic there are trail runs and a network of single track mountain biking routes ranging from flat to steep.
Both of these are growing in popularity at the reserve. Fugitives’ Drift hosts the annual Battlefields by Bike race in June, or the less serious annual Rattrace in July which is a 30km ride or run.
A nice touch for departing guests is a washed vehicle and water and homemade crunchies to keep you going till your next destination. What is absolutely certain is that you will leave having had a deeply enriching experience. - Sunday Tribune
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