With a name meaning love, there really is so much to love at Thanda Safari Lodge – and that’s not just in my humble opinion…

A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Thanda Safari Lodge has won The World’s Leading Luxury Lodge award multiple times and Villa iZulu, Thanda’s exclusive private villa, has been voted the World’s Leading Luxury Private Villa for the past 4 years. Thanda Safari was also ranked as one of the 20 Top Resorts in South Africa in the 2020 Conde Nast Traveller Awards.

The five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal, is a 14,000 ha reserve shared by the three Thanda properties only – a nine-roomed Safari Lodge, the owners’ luxury private villa and the tented camp with its colonial safari-style tents for exclusive use bookings and special events.

The reserve was opened in May 2004 by the late King Goodwill Zwelithini, former King of the Zulu nation. The design and décor of the lodges celebrate Zulu culture, and staff are from the surrounding local communities.

The five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal
The five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal (pic by Sara Essop)
Bedroom suite at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve
Bedroom suite at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal (pic by Sara Essop)

Spacious and sumptuous

The sumptuous bush suites at Safari Lodge, where we stayed, are shaped like traditional Zulu homesteads. The spacious bedroom was adjoined by a lounge area, which had a fireplace, beverage and snack stations, and a complimentary minibar customised to our requirements. Two beds were set up for our kids, still leaving copious amounts of space. Splashes of red – the colour of love – and beaded crafts spiced up the interiors.

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The bathroom area was the size of a separate suite and featured a dressing room, an oval stand-alone bathtub with panoramic views, as well as indoor and outdoor showers.

The suite opened onto our private viewing deck which boasted its own boma, plunge pool with loungers, and a sala with a circular daybed. The endless views of the verdant bush stretched towards the horizon and we would have stayed there all day if the game drives and delicious meals weren’t equally enticing.

Lodge in the bush
The five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal (pic by Sara Essop)
Lounge at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve
Lounge at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal (pic by Sara Essop)

Incredible game drives

The game drives were rewarding, with exceptional sightings. We got close to lions, elephants, (de-horned) rhinos, buffalos, cheetahs and so much more. There are more than 400 different bird species here too. Our guide, Buselaphi, was one of the funniest we’ve ever had and he kept us in stitches with his safari humour, while Wineth, our eagle-eyed tracker, scoured the ground for tracks and the bushes for wildlife.

Meals at Thanda Safari were feasts for the eyes and the palate, and our dietary requirements were well-catered to. We enjoyed most of our food al fresco and dinner was served under the stars.

Rhino sighting at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve
Rhino sighting at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal (pic by Sara Essop)
Giraffe sighting at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve
Giraffe sighting at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal (pic by Sara Essop)
Game Drive at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve
Game Drive at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal (pic by Sara Essop)

In between meals and game drives, there are many options to occupy yourself

Thanda Safari is the first reserves I’ve visited with its own resident wildlife photographer and you can book a complimentary wildlife photography lesson with him. Other options include bush walks, rhino tracking and volunteering in wildlife conservation programmes.

For more sedentary options, you can relax in your suite, in the spa or in the public areas. The latter are open, airy spaces accessorised with warm leather, dark wood and African art. The wraparound timber decks and well-stocked library overlook the waterhole which constantly attracts the resident wildlife.

From the rangers to the servers, the service was exceptional all-round. This, combined with the stunning suites, great food and substantial expanse of wildlife-rich bushland almost all to yourself, will ensure that you fall in love with Thanda. We did.

Breakfast at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve
Breakfast at the five-star Thanda Private Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu Natal (pic by Sara Essop)

Good to know

COVID protocols include screening when you arrive and daily temperature checking. Masks are worn in public areas and sanitisers are provided.

Rates include meals, game drives, selected local beverages and even laundry.

Children are welcome at Thanda Safari Lodge and Villa iZulu and those under the age of 16 can share with adults. Children under the age of six are not allowed at Thanda Tented Camp. There are special activities, programs, menus and nannies for younger kids.

Contact:

+27 32 586 0149 OR reservations@thanda.co.za