A three-hour drive from Durban will land you in 14 000 hectares that I now like to call a small paradise in KwaZulu-Natal.
Thanda Safari, situated North of KZN in Hluhluwe, is the perfect escape if you’re looking for five-star luxury accommodation, service, food, nature and the Big Five experience all rolled into one.
“Thanda” in Zulu means “love” and you will fall in love with the private game reserve. On arrival we saw elephants, giraffes and nyala roaming freely, and the friendly staff greeted guests with big smiles, iced cocktails and hand towels.
We were then escorted to our tented camps, which boasted a private viewing deck, a king-size bed, an indoor bathroom, an outdoor shower, a ceiling fan, a bar fridge fully stocked with refreshments and other amenities one would expect in a hotel room. Well, except for a TV. Not that anyone goes to the bush to watch TV anyway. It was still a bit jarring, but welcomed.
Already feeling a sense of relief, I kicked off my shoes and jumped on to a bed fit for a king. By 2pm, it was time for lunch and at 4pm, a delightful afternoon game drive.
As the sun set, we were lucky to see all of South Africa’s Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. Guide Matthew Haynes and tracker Zakes Thabethe were most knowledgeable.
By day two in the bush, my mind and body were in complete relaxation. I’m usually a stickler for time, but didn’t care for the clock. A wake-up call at 5am to leave for a game drive at 5.30am may not sound like the best idea on holiday, however, once you’re out of bed, dressed and on the drive, you’ll thank yourself for making the effort. If you’re not a morning person, then opt for the afternoon game drive.
Either way, the scenic views are beyond spectacular and the animals show off. On return you can be sure to find a great breakfast buffet or three course meal cooked freshly by the chefs. We were treated to a “bush dinner” under the stars which featured a variety of meat and veg potjies, warthog sausage, freshly made bread, soup and dessert.
It was just awesome and I am relieved that the weather played along or I would have missed this moment. On day four, Thanda Safari’s tented camp site had become my home away from home and the staff had become my family, which made leaving harder.
The experience was definitely something to remember and every detail of my stay was considered and perfectly executed by the staff. By the time I got home I had made up my mind not to be driven by the clock, but instead move at my own pace. I am stress free. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish without worrying about time limitations.
Thanda Safari offers it’s guests two game drives a day. The first starts at 5.30am. This is usually the best time to see the animals as they hunt for food or walk around. Usually, as the day progresses, the animals find shade and do very little.
The second option is to go at 4pm. You get to witness beautiful sunsets and if you’re lucky see nocturnal animals. All game drives offer a drinks and snack break in the bush before heading back to camp.