Written by Marike Cronje
Our Brand Manager, Marike Cronjé, recently traveled to Thanda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal for a luxury Durban safari experience. As one of South Africa’s malaria-free safari destinations, KwaZulu-Natal is becoming increasingly appealing and offers travelers a unique wildlife safari in the heart of Zululand.
Thanda Game Reserve is located in South Africa’s southeastern province, KwaZulu-Natal. It is easily accessible by flying into King Shaka International Airport in Durban (via O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg) followed by a 3-hour drive north to reach the entrance of the reserve. Clients who are short on time can also opt in to take a direct flight from either O.R Tambo International Airport or King Shaka International Airport to the Phinda Airstrip, which is located a short drive from Thanda Private Game Reserve. On arrival at the Phinda Airstrip, a Thanda representative will welcome you and transfer you to the lodge.
If you do have the time, we suggest spending one or more nights at the iconic Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, before or after your Durban safari. This will give you a breather before embarking on your exciting safari experience at Thanda Private Game Reserve or a moment to unwind before your international journey home.
Thanda Private Game Reserve boasts 14,900-hectares of wilderness and is home to the African Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo). At least 350 bird species can be found on the reserve of which 100 – 150 of them can be spotted regularly. The reserve has three unique properties namely Thanda Safari Lodge, Thanda Tented Camp and Villa iZulu. During our 2 night stay at Thanda we stayed at the Tented Camp, spotted 4 members of the Big Five (excluding the elusive leopard) and were lucky enough to spot impressive birdlife pointed out by our safari guide, Ephraim Mathe and our dedicated tracker, Siboniso Manukuza.
As a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, you can expect the finest service and accommodation at each of the Thanda properties. Each has its own charm and appeal to different types of travelers.
During our 2 night stay at Thanda, we enjoyed 4 game drives – each of which proved to be very successful. We were lucky enough to have cheetah, lion, buffalo, elephant and rhino sightings during our visit and this was best explained by our guide Ephraim – “Right time, right place, right guide . . . right guest!”. Other sightings included giraffe, vultures, warthogs and a variety of impala. Ephraim was our dedicated safari guide for the duration of our stay and was supported by our tracker, Sibo, who could spot lion tracks from the safari vehicle when moving at 40km per hour! What we appreciated most about our guiding team was their dedication to delivering the best possible safari experience for their guests, while being respectful of nature and the personal space of the wildlife. As a keen birder, Ephraim also pointed out bird species which we had never seen before and patiently waited until everyone had captured their shots before moving along. The advantage of a Durban safari experience is also without a doubt the weather – it was a first to set out for a game drive without getting cold.
Last but not least, our safari experience would not have been what it was without the people we met along the way – Stanley, who welcomed us at the main entrance to Thanda Private Game Reserve and treated us to ice-cold water, Lungelo who showed us to our tented suite and made sure that we had everything we needed, Siboniso who manned the bar and served us refreshing drinks throughout, Siboniso with his eagle eyes who is to thank for our incredible sightings and Ephraim, who educated us on the reserve, its animals and people.