Colenso, on the banks of the Thukela River in the foothills of the Drakensberg, was originally known as Commando Drift. On 15 December 1899, the town made headlines when British forces under General Sir Redvers Buller made a disastrous attempt to cross the Thukela River in order to relieve Ladysmith. Mistaking the position of a ford where they intended to cross, the 5th Brigade came under heavy fire from the Boers in a loop of the river, forcing Buller to order the evacuation of the troops. Meanwhile, Colonel CJ Long had moved twelve 15-pounder guns forward to within rifle range of the Boer positions across the river. The marksmanship of the Boers eventually forced the gunners to abandon the guns, ten of which subsequently fell into Boer hands. British casualties totalled 214 killed or died of wounds, 693 wounded and 199 taken prisoner or reported missing, against 8 Boers killed or died of wounds and 30 wounded. Reminders of the battle may be seen at the Clouston Garden of Remembrance and the Ambleside cemetery, where the remains of most of the 5th Brigade soldiers killed on 15 December were buried in a mass grave.
This reserve of about 100 000 ha consists of the 6 500-ha Weenen Game Reserve and several privately owned conservation areas and farms. Established in terms of the criteria laid down by UNESCO, the biosphere aims at promoting conservation and community upliftment through the sustainable development of natural resources and the development of tourism. There is a variety of accommodation facilities, ranging from tented camps to thatched stone cottages. Activities for guests on South African holidays at Thukela include wilderness walks, game-viewing and night drives, horse trails, river-rafting, mountain biking, fishing and birding.
WEENEN GAME RESERVE
...forms the core area of the Thukela Biosphere. Visitors can explore the 6 500-ha reserve along the 47-km network of roads, or follow a fairly easy 4x4 route. Game to be seen includes giraffe, black and white rhino, buffalo, zebra and a variety of antelope, including roan, eland and red hartebeest. The reserve’s bird list stands at 279 species, among them black stork, bald ibis, blue crane, whitethroated robin and redbilled oxpecker. There are three picnic sites, and overnight visitors can either camp in the campsite, opt for the tented camp or book a five-bedded cottage.