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South Africa Tourism Awards

Type: Accommodation – Lodge
Category: Unique Experience

Motivation for award: INCREDIBLE SPION KOP LODGE – LINKING PAST AND PRESENT AND TOMORROW! “Life is not counted by the amount of breaths we take, but of the moments that leave us breathless.” One solitary fir tree juts out like an accusing finger from the middle of the rounded crest of Spion Kop / Spioenkop – just south of the N3 toll road in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands near the Tugela Toll Plaza and close to Spion Kop Lodge. The tree’s actual significance is lost upon most travellers – yet it was there during the South African War – earlier also known as the Anglo Boer War – that South Africa’s Spion Kop /Spioenkop for a brief period, and two days in particular, could have influenced much of the world’s later history. Britain marched into the South African war in the spring of 1899, confident that it “would all be over by Christmas!” The war lasted three years and was to become the costliest Britain had ever fought, not only from a financial point of view but also from the number of men she was to lose. Spion Kop Lodge’s Battlefield Specialist extraordinaire, the raconteur Raymond Heron, brings the strategies, failures and drama of the Battle of Spion Kop/ Spioenkop to life. It is safe to state that after having enjoyed a supremely spectacular tour with Raymond nobody would ever again say that history is boring! The most futile and probably bloodiest battle of the war was fought on Spioenkop on January 24, 1900. Some 700 soldiers died in the trenches on the crest of Spioenkop – still the most devastating massacre per square metre in all of the world’s wartime killing fields. Which brings us back to that solitary tree on top of the mountain: After the war, the family of one of the fallen soldiers visited the battlefield and planted a fir tree in memory of their fallen son. “For over a hundred years that tree survived countless lightning strikes, devastating veld fires and droughts and still survived the endless ordeals it was subjected to. That really is a living monument to the fallen,” said Raymond. To this day historians and students still shake their heads and shudder when considering the impact that one stray bullet or one artillery shell could have had on the world’s history…. For astoundingly, there were three men on Spioenkop that day, all of whom were to significantly influence the course of world history – they were General Louis Botha, later to become South Africa’s first Prime Minister, a young 23-year old Winston Churchill, then a journalist but later the Prime Minister who would lead Great Britain to victory during the Second World War and the third was the revered Mahatma Gandhi. A fit young man, he was a stretcher-bearer for the British Army. He was so profoundly influenced by the bloodshed and horrors of the war on Spioenkop that he was driven to express his first profound feelings and philosophies of pacifism there. A fourth influential man was Gen Deneys Reitz who led the Boer commandos and later wrote three significant books on the war – Outspan, Kommando and Trekking On. Reitz continued to play a leading role in the country’s post-war history. Raymond points out that 300 metre high Spioenkop is really the “Table Mountain” of KwaZulu-Natal. Its dominant position and regal elevations provide 360-degree views of the entire countryside for up to 280 km on a clear day. At night the lights of towns like Harrismith, Winterton and Ladysmith and further away are clearly visible. He explained that the early Dutch-speaking Voortrekker settlers had dubbed the mountain Spion Kop – literally meaning ‘scouting’ or ‘reconnoitring’. Later the name was changed by the Boer commandos to Spioenkop – again a subtle change to indicate its significance for ‘spying’. “We decided to stick to the original name for the lodge in honour of those scouts who first discovered its phenomenal vistas and strategic importance.” Nowadays the spectacular Spioenkop Dam damming the Tugela River in its foothills enhances the scenery and its nature and game reserve links with the Lodge’s own eco and nature reserve. Spion Kop Lodge is situated on the original Spearman farm in what is today a 750 hectare eco reserve, with some 278 bird species, an abundance of antelope, indigenous bush, and in June and July, a concentration of flowering Aloes whose beauty leaves one breathless. Interestingly, the approach road exactly follows the ancient ox wagon route to Ladysmith, weaving its way among the bush and following the contours of the land. On the farm is Mount Alice, the site on which General Buller established his headquarters and from where he followed the battle of Spioenkop. Winston Churchill’s camp at the original farmhouse, set in secure, park like grounds, has been splendidly restored. It has eight double en suite rooms, all opening onto a cool veranda. A lounge with television and a library with an extraordinary collection of war books simply beckon the visitor to become lost in the marvels of time. Where indeed would anyone be able to sleep in the same room that Churchill kept? The 108 year old barn houses the Churchill pub, reception lounge and dining- room with spectacular views overlooking Spioenkop and during the hot summers guests cool down in the rock pool. The lodge itself is immaculately run by Lynette Heron whose delicate touch provides a subtle yet gracious hospitality. The friendly and well-trained staff is all local people bubbling with enthusiasm. Actually the entire local community proudly embraces Spion Kop Lodge which has the local primary school as one of its important beneficiaries and where new horizons have opened for the kids. Spion Kop Lodge is magnificently situated. There are few views as impressive as the million-dollar horizon of the Drakensberg Mountain range and the Amphitheatre – rising crystal clear over the dense indigenous bush teeming with bird and wildlife like rhino and giraffe. It boggles the mind that all of this is barely two to three hours away from Durban and Johannesburg on the N3! The Lodge has two private, luxury self-catering cottages with fireplaces, sleeping 4 and 6 guests. There are also eight beautifully appointed en suite (bath and shower) bedrooms, each with it’s own veranda, facing the garden. Apart from Raymond’s unique and passionate revelations of the Battlefields of Spion Kop / Spioenkop, Colenso and the siege of Ladysmith, the Anglo-Zulu Battlefields are only about two hours drive away and guided tours of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift can be arranged. A diverse number of additional activities and the ability of Raymond and Lynette to rise to any occasion have created an enviable reputation for Spion Kop Lodge. No wonder it has become a unique and preferred destination: The lodge is already known as a birder’s paradise with 278 bird species, including the White Backed Night Heron, it has Sunset & Sunrise Boat Cruises for game and bird viewing, game drives and hiking along splendid trails through virgin bush as well as canoeing and White Water Rafting. “Real African safari’s will soon also be offered,” promised Raymond mentioning that viewing game from horseback in the Reserve is already very popular among guests. A wide variety of other entertainment can be arranged such as trips to the Drakensberg Boy’s Choir Recitals, tours to Bushmen caves and paintings, trips to Falconry displays and hiking trips into the Drakensberg Mountains. Otherwise, simply relaxing at the lodge and soaking up some blissful peace and quiet could be the closest thing this side of Cloud Nine! SPION KOP LODGE Testimonies by guests in the visitor’s book and in e-mails. 1. ” An amazing mix of military history, birding, game viewing and magnificent sunsets.” 2. ” A wonderful stay. Raymond’s brilliant raconteur skills brought history to life! ” 3. ” Outstanding hospitality and surroundings. Wonderful tours (poignant and inspiring), marvellous hosts ! ” 4. ” Fabulous spot, spacious accommodation and unreal close encounters with the giraffe.” 5. ” Wonderful experience, excellent hosts and their personal touch.” 6. ” Heaven on Earth – from food to sunset & moon rises on the lake.” 7. ” Highly recommended! The boat trip and battlefield experience were awesome.” 8. ” Excellent especially the History lesson.” 9. “A heartfelt thank you goes to both of you from all of us for a superb time had by all. We certainly did achieve our aim as a team to bond as we did and with your help a great time was had. ” 10. Loved the serene environment, with staff and management who always gave a caring & genuine touch to everything. A home away from home.” 11. ” Two days became a holiday that can never be forgotten .” 12. “Memorable horse rides for both the experienced and inexperienced. We will return.” 13. ” Your hospitality was unbeatable and we will certainly be back. Raymond, thank you for making the Spioenkop battle so interesting. 14. ” Always keep in mind, the positive things make life worthwhile. Such as the experience during our stay at your lodge. We really felt home at your place, the warmth and the personnel touch you give to the people and your staff made it perfect and some day we will return. We often talk about that, because it was the highlight during our holiday. You really understand the meaning of making people feeling at home. The other part of it is the rooms and their decorations and furniture. People must feel at home! Ones more, thanks for the wonderful time we had at your place!!!! 15. “Thank you both for being such wonderful hosts for our recent visit – you have a lovely set-up and the whole setting is very special. Compliments too on the very comfy beds and pillows – always such a problem when staying away from home!…. and as for the food, simply divine! – your staff is lovely too. ” 17. The quality of the meals, professionalism of the staff and management who left no stone unturned to ensure our every need was not only catered for but exceeded our expectations, has, you may be assured, left an indelible impression on us all. The Spion Kop story was a most moving experience, a salutary lesson in the futility of conflict. ” 18. ” Once again the time spent with you was excellent .Raymond, the tours on both days were excellent and I will always have the memory of those days with me. Due to your passion and direct influence, I have discovered a new burgeoning interest in the battlefields of the Anglo-Boer War. ” 19.A big “Thank You” from all of us, for the way we were looked after at Spioenkop. We admire the effort you are putting into the Training of your Staff, and think that they are on the way to great success. Our sincere thanks again 20. Thank you for the wonderful meal last night. We had a most enjoyable evening. Spion Kop Lodge is truly a haven of peace and tranquillity. It does this area proud!

Region: Kwazulu Natal / OKHAHLAMBA , KZN



Spion Kop Lodge, with its warm hospitality, is surrounded by low hills that slope up to the towering peaks of the Drakensberg and Free State Mountains. Is on an echo-working farm , in Kwazulu-Natal. Spion Kop Lodge is the ideal place from where to explore the Battlefields, Berg and Bush, in Kwazulu-Natal. General Buller’s headquarters during the relief of the Ladysmith campaign, Mount Alice, is located on the farm. The restored, 8-bedroom colonial-style farmhouse is set in tranquil, indigenous, secure grounds with superb views. Added to this there are two cottages, offering self-catering accommodation in an out-of-Africa setting. There is a library with an excellent collection of historical books, a dining room, cozy pub and a swimming pool. The owner and registered guide, Raymond Heron, (F.R.G.S) and his son Alastair guide. Guests to the many historic, Battlefield sites.
Other activities include Battlefield Tours, Sunset cruises, Game viewing, Birding, Hiking, and Fishing.

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