Situated in between Swaziland and the wetlands of St-Lucia, you can find Thanda Safari, a private game reserve and a piece of safari heaven which is owned by Swedish billionaire Dan Olofsson. Well, he can surely plan his next investment in this amazing private reserve.
Getting there is easy, either you fly in on a private airstrip nearby, or you drive down from Durban or Richards Bay. Whatever option you take, it is all very straight forward and it doesn’t take you a full day to arrive at this beautiful game reserve which is always a bonus.
Thanda safari consists of Thanda Safari Lodge, Thanda Tented Camp and Villa iZulu. The latter is a private villa that is situated in the middle of the reserve, isolated from all the rest but with its own staff, game vehicles, guides,… The perfect getaway for VIP’s, families or small groups who are looking for an exclusive bush experience.
I first stayed at the Thanda Tented Camp and while this is the cheaper option, it surely didn’t feel like it. Staff were very friendly, and the tents have all the luxury (and more) one can ask for. They are very spacious and each have their own sundeck and large bathroom. The overall feeling you get when staying in one of the tents is one of relaxation in the middle of the bush. In the evenings they’ll light up the campfire near the bar and restaurant, making it the perfect spot to indulge in some pre-dinner drinks. During the day and in between game drives you can enjoy the comfort of your tent, or go to the viewing deck where you will regularly encounter wildlife. There are only 15 tents in total so it never gets crowded at the pool either if that would be the place where you like to take a nap or catch up on some reading.
After my first experience with Thanda Tented Camp I really looked forward to the second half of my stay at Thanda Safari Lodge. As a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, expectations were high but Thanda delivered. It consists out of 9 bush suites but you can easily call them bush villas as each one of them is 220 sqm. Decorations are beautiful, and the luxurious villas have everything that you need to experience the ultimate safari. There’s the indoor and outdoor showers, indulgent bathroom, oversized beds, massive deck with a cozy lounge area to take in the beautiful scenery and to top it off each villa has a private plunge pool. The double-sided fireplace makes sure you don’t have to worry about those colder winter nights. It was also the first room I ever stayed in which had its own boma.
But the opulence doesn’t stop there. Thanda has one of the best bush spa’s in South Africa so if that’s your thing, make sure to enjoy it. Meanwhile the main building boosts a wine cellar with some of the best South African wines, a cigar bar, a business area and even a piano for those who want to play some tunes for all the wildlife which roams around in the park.
However, for those of us that can’t play the piano to lure the wildlife, there are always the game drives. Thanda uses both a tracker and a ranger for each game vehicle, which is always a plus in my books. And the wildlife is abundant. During our stay we had some amazing encounters, like a massive pride of lions, or a hyena den where we saw a few young hyena’s testing their levels of curiosity. One evening we drove back to the lodge and found a puff adder on the road. Excuse the bad picture I took but I was too excited to look at this beautiful creature trying to get back into the grass as quickly as possible. Or that time during sunset when we were driving through some dense bush to be greeted by a massive herd of elephants.
Thanda is also very much involved in several conservation projects to make sure our grandchildren will still be given the chance to enjoy the safari experiences we have today. As the game reserve is located in prime Zulu land, it also works very closely with the local communities in order to provide jobs and a better future for the locals. Most of the staff in all the lodges at Thanda are coming from neighboring villages. Conservation and initiatives for socio-economic upliftment, education and skills development is important for Thanda and they work very hard to continue with these initiatives.
So, if you are in KZN and looking for a unique safari, Thanda should certainly be on your shortlist.
Text and Images by Kristof Eyckmans @KEyckmans