Thanda Safari's Tented Camp
Impression on Arrival
We found ourselves heading North on the N2 from Durban on our way to Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve’s Tented Camp on a stunning Friday afternoon, after a few days of rain in KZN the sun was out and not a cloud in the sky. We had been itching to get to Thanda Safari for a while now with many reports of fantastic game sightings and as Northern Zululand is not a part of the world we are particularly familiar with, we were excited to see what the weekend had in store.
Thanda Safari is easily accessible in any vehicle and about a 3 hour drive from Durban. On arrival we were greeted by Lorraine and introduced to the staff while sipping a welcome drink in the lounge of the lodge. Having arrived a little late and wanting to take advantage of the stunning weather, we decided to skip the afternoon game drive and spend some time photographing and hanging out at the lodge.
The Lodge & Rooms
The lodge is laid out in a very traditional format with a large lounge, bar area and dining room overlooking a rim flow pool and firepit, just a short walk down a pathway to a bush boma where Friday night’s dinner was to take place and a little further down the path a large covered deck is revealed, furnished with soft comfortable leather lounge suites overlooking a waterhole where uninterrupted view of the bush and the rolling Zululand hills can be enjoyed. This is the kind of place were life can be contemplated and the hustle and bustle of the city seem very far removed. As we watched the sun set on Friday afternoon relaxing on the deck we could feel Thanda start to get under our skin.
There is some magic sleeping under canvas in the African bush. You are so much more aware of what is going on outside, from listening to the wind and rain to speculating about what animal may be outside the tent. It’s not really a tent - more of a canvas structure featuring an en suite bathroom, large cupboards, a king size bed and crisp white linen. Adding to the experience of being in the bush, the tents are quite far apart and standing on the deck looking out across the landscape there isn’t a sole in sight.
The lodge is connected to the Tents via a pathway through the trees, during the day antelope and bird species can be seen as you walk along and at night the pathways are lit by oil lanterns and a guide assists you to your Tent.
The food at Thanda Safari is an experience all on its own, if fine dining is on your agenda then you will not be disappointed. On Friday night we were escorted to the boma where tables had been beautifully laid out surrounding a large fire. Dinner was a traditional 'South African Braai' consisting of an array of braaied meats, potato salad, pap and tomato gravy. While enjoying our starter of tomato soup which was cleverly served in a miniature potjie pot and sipping a glass of wine, we were entertained by local traditional Zulu dancers before out main course was served. We cannot help feeling patriotic and so proud to be South African in situations like these, feelings that are only confirmed by the overseas guests who are overwhelmed by our beautiful country and friendly South African hospitality. On Saturday evening we were treated to pan seared wildebeest served with creamy mash and sautéed vegetables, pudding was a warm deconstructed malva pudding which went down very well on a cold rainy evening.
Our sightings at Thanda Safari were incredible and in only 3 rainy game drives we saw lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, wildebeest, giraffe and buffalo to name a few. Seeing big cats is difficult on a good day, we can testify to this having spent many days driving around Hluhluwe and iMfolozi looking for Lions to no avail.
Thanda Safari approaches radio communication in a slightly unique way - the tracker sits on the front of the vehicle and handles the radio communication and the guide focuses on driving and communicates with the tracker on where to go with a series of cryptic hand gestures, this approach makes for an unobtrusive game drive experience which we loved as the radio chatter was completely unnoticed by the guests. Thanda Safari allows off-roading for sightings of the big 5 which really aided in our amazing finding of a leopard in the dark. The reserve boasts two newly acquired cheetahs which we had the privilege of finding and following whilst they stalked their breakfast on Sunday morning. We got really close to a pride of lions which isn’t something we get to experience every day and were treated to a lazy yawn by a big male lion showing us just how large his teeth were.
After a stunning Friday afternoon and evening the weather was not so kind to us for the rest of our stay. Our games drives took place in the rain which added a little to the Thanda magic as we felt some sense of adventure as we made our way through the bush. We unfortunately didn’t make it into the pool as it was a bit chilly but instead spent Saturday after breakfast tucked up in bed with the sides of the tent rolled up watching the rain gently falling and enjoying the cold.
The spectacular game viewing definitely makes a trip to Thanda Safari worthwhile in its own right, we love the open top Land Rovers and wildness of the Zululand landscape. The rolling hills give way to the Ubombo Mountains and there is some romance in these hills. Whilst at Thanda, there is a real sense of being away from civilization and being immersed in the African Bush.
We are always taken aback by how beautiful South Africa is, especially when we have the privilege of spending time in the bush, its not just the lion and elephant sightings, it’s the sounds and smells, the small things that remind us that there is more to life than city living and that some time spent in nature is needed to restore the soul from time to time. Thanda has something unique to offer its guests and is highly recommended by our team. This bit of Zululand really seems to have gotten under our skin and now back in Durban we are already planning a trip back to this beautiful part of the world, perhaps on a slightly warmer weekend.
So will we be back to Thanda Safari, o yes we will, just as soon as we can.