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July 24, 2020

Zulu Kindom’s own piece of Heaven on Earth – Thanda Safari

Thanda Safari, established in 2002, is a 15,000 ha (36,000 acres) private game reserve, home of the Big Five and embedded within the communities of rich Zulu culture. Thanda Safari is situated in the renowned wildlife region of northern KwaZulu Natal, approximately 260km north of Durban.

Guests can drive to Thanda directly or fly to the Phinda Airstrip, the local airport at Richards Bay or to King Shaka International Airport in Durban where the amazing guides will meet you.

Upon arrival, guests are to leave their vehicles at the entrance of Thanda Safari, where your vehicle would be safe and locked to rest until you are ready to make your way back home. Your luggage is loaded onto their game drive safari vehicles, you are greeted by the most dazzling smiles and off you go. Your official wildlife experience starts here, with your ranger and tracker who would be with you until the end, it is almost guaranteed you will spot wildlife on your drive to the lodge.

“Thanda Safari’s ethos is based on people, wildlife and the environment coming together to conserve the region’s wild, natural surroundings and to partner in socio-economic upliftment, job creation, education and skills development in the region.” Not allowing any private vehicles into the reserve ensures that animals are kept calm and approaching game drive vehicles remain familiar; this essentially increases quality interactions with the wildlife.

The lodge is so well hidden that it only becomes visible as you approach. The incredible staff compliment awaits with a warm face towel and friendly greetings. What makes this part of the journey so special is that each guest is welcomed by name, and this continues throughout your stay. A refreshing beverage awaits, and your bags are taken to your room. The most incredible part of this warm welcome is the wildlife which literally greets you at your feet.

As there isn’t much rain during winter most of the watering holes and river streams have dried up or contain little water, this unfortunate event, however, creates the opportunity for you as the guest to have a more intimate wildlife experience, as the lodge’s entrance has a big watering hole teeming with wildlife. In our case, this meant a herd of elephants less than a metre away.

The safari lodge contains only nine suites, meaning a maximum of 18 guests at a time with exclusive attention. The safari lodge is constantly surrounded by wildlife as it is not fenced in and wild animals can roam freely. There was even an exquisite show of deck breaking by a herd of elephants as they crossed after enjoying their drink of water.

Everything is taken care of, from food to drinks and every small comfort you could imagine. The all-inclusive package ensures no additional charges when ordering a drink on their “house list”.

The moment you step into the suite you are overwhelmed by what can only be described as an immersive experience. Each suite is equipped with a lounge area, indoor fire enclosure, an exquisite bathroom which contains a “bath with a view”, and an indoor shower which expands onto a private outdoor shower area. The bed overlooks a swimming pool that can be temperature adjusted from hot to cold and is set in such a way that elephants can also make their way there for a drink of water. The room is embellished with a day bed overlooking the most beautiful sunsets, and an enclosed terrace area where you can, if preferred, enjoy the outdoors with a fire to keep you warm.

When the sun has set, their hospitable staff come to your room and prepare the suite for the night. Lights are dimmed and blinds are closed, slippers are set at the bedside, bed linen is opened and sprinkled with fresh flowers, bath and shower mats are ready to use, the fire is crackling and champagne is set out to enjoy, with a Zulu prayer placed thoughtfully on your pillow.

The morning starts with a 6 am wake up call followed by a fresh cup of coffee and a medley of fruits. There is nothing quite like crisp African mornings, all your senses awaken as you feel the cold breeze hit your face, snuggling under a blanket as the sun begins to rise over the Zulu Kingdom. Your ranger and tracker teach you everything there is to know, from the reason why something has its name, to what the Zulu pronunciation may be. A quick stop in the middle of the reserve surrounded by birds chirping and leaves rustling to stretch your legs and enjoy a hot cuppa, or Amarula if you would prefer, served with freshly baked goods.

If you are not a morning person there is, of course, the option to do a later game drive, late afternoon and into the sunset. Sunsets in South Africa cannot easily be described, but to simplify, they are absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Close encounters with the Big Five (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Buffalo) makes it worthwhile sitting through crisp mornings and chilly evenings.

There are two included game drives per day, each three hours long, which includes a sunrise stop in the morning and a sunset stop in the afternoon.

The food arrived in a constant steady stream of pleasant surprises. Have you ever heard of a three to a four-course meal, three times a day? Each meal is presented to you by the specialised Chef, with a perfect wine pairing. The service at Thanda Safari lodge is impeccable, with one personal waiter serving you throughout your stay, accentuating the intimacy of the restaurant. Dietary options are taken into account in every course served, and all meals are included in your stay.

“King Zwelithini Goodwill kaBhekuzulu, ruler of the Zulu Kingdom and Head of State of the magnificent lands of KwaZulu Natal, invites you and your family to make a home within the ancient Royal Hunting Grounds of one of Africa’s most beautiful and richly endowed kingdoms.”

44 villas will be built of various sizes, ranging from 1-38 hectares, each which offers its unique view, absolute privacy and which will not be fenced in but included on the Thanda Safari grounds with King Zulu as your neighbour. One of the many benefits of owning one of these incredible villas will get you an invitation to the annual Royal Banquet and Honorary annual functions with His Majesty. Seven villas have already been purchased and this is deemed to be an incredible investment opportunity to those interested.

There is also an enclosed and fully fenced off private villa for larger families, business gatherings, etc. The Villa is a five-bedroom home and can accommodate 11 guests. It forms a completely separate part of the reserve and all your lifestyle preferences are met here, with total luxury and immense attention to detail.

Thanda Tented Camp can accommodate a maximum of 30 guests in 15 tents, it is non electrified with all the absolute luxury one can expect. It is completely off the grid and the intense feeling of being in the bush is experienced, that is with five-star service readily available to the guests.

Thanda Safari is a gem of the Zulu Kingdom, and a worthy addition to Luxuria Lifestyle’s reviewed collection.

“At the express invitation of His Majesty King Zwelithini Goodwill kaBhekuzulu, reigning King of the Zulu Nation, one will have the ability to purchase a Royal Residence and become a member of The Royal Thanda Club. As a member, you automatically become a full title owner of one of 44 Royal Villas situated in the high-security Thanda Royal Residence Estate – a 380-hectare pristine wildlife haven within the boundaries of the 14,000-hectare Thanda Safari Big Five game reserve. Perfectly suited to the surrounding bush and mountain landscape, with no internal fences or walls, each member has a choice of distinctive Royal Villa stands. The Thanda Royal Residence Estate has been created in collaboration with a leading international team of architects, planners, development and project managers. The land size of the stands ranges from 1 to 38 hectares, each offering unique and dramatic views of the bush, mountains, valleys and rivers.”

Written by Shannon Uijs for Luxuria Lifestyle South Africa