The aerial view of Tiger Lodge Hotel in Jozini.
The aerial view of Tiger Lodge Hotel in Jozini.
The aerial view of Tiger Lodge Hotel in Jozini.
The aerial view of Tiger Lodge Hotel in Jozini.
The deluxe rooms overlook the dam.
The deluxe rooms overlook the dam.

Jozini, far north in KwaZulu-Natal and a stone’s throw from the Swaziland border, is not much of a town. Potholes litter the streets and buildings are crying out for maintenance. But a jewel in its midst is the massive and breathtakingly beautiful Pongola Dam, stretching 45km in length and 15km wide when full, and on the banks of this magnificent man-made wonder is the Jozini Tiger Lodge Hotel.

Built in 2010 to reap the tourism benefits of the soccer World Cup, this beauty in the heart of Zululand has now, two years later, made a niche for itself in this far corner of our province, attracting top-end South African and international visitors, including President Jacob Zuma and King Goodwill Zwelithini. I am told that the king’s children and their friends have also adopted the hotel as their spot for birthday parties.

Both statesmen have experienced the luxury of the presidential suite. I spent my two-night stay in a deluxe room, which has been temporary home to the likes of Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu. The four-star hotel, part of the Three Cities group, has 70 rooms classified into family, classic, deluxe and presidential units, each with exquisite African and modern decor.

The hotel’s reputation is, of course, in no small measure due to the top-notch service dished out by the staff and management.

When I arrived at the hotel I was welcomed by a friendly security guard who directed me to the reception area where we were welcomed with thirst-quenching refreshments. Hotel general manager Gary Segal also personally welcomed us with his assurance that our stay would be memorable.

And he lived up to his promise. I had taken my seven-year-old son, Sphesihle, along as an early birthday treat for him, but the great service, incredible scenery and tranquillity of the area made it so much more than that. It ended up being a perfect weekend of bonding with my son.

The soft, luxurious linen and cool, airy rooms were welcome after the long four-hour drive from Durban. And with food to suit most palates, we were spoilt for choice. I was particularly impressed with the chef’s version of bunny chow, served in home-made bread and shaped like a three-legged potjie pot.

In terms of location, Jozini Tiger Lodge is ideally situated for travellers from and to Mpumalanga province, Swaziland or Mozambique, but is also an ideal stop-over if you want luxury after a day sweating it out in a game reserve, as the hotel is also in the vicinity of game reserves including Ndumo and Mkhuze.

The hotel offers a gym, spa and a swimming pool.

Experienced hotel staff will lend a hand if you are keen on fishing, and thanks to them and the full stock of tigerfish in the dam, my son spent an enjoyable hour fishing and managed to catch a tigerfish, which was released back into the water.

We later joined about 20 guests on a two-hour sunset cruise on the dam, which is part of the visitors’ package.

With the sun glistening on the water and the rolling hills of Zululand forming a never-ending chain around the dam, there is little to match the stress-beating power of this part of the world.

It certainly gave me a new sense of pride in Zululand’s natural beauty.

By the end of the weekend, my son was already begging to go back and take his little sister with him the next time. But, as a typical never-satisfied seven-year-old, he still wants me to throw in a skateboard as a birthday present. - The Mercury