At Royal Thonga Safari Lodge there is plenty more to experience in between relaxing and game-viewing.
At Royal Thonga Safari Lodge, guests can book open game drives led by an experienced, qualified guide. These excursions depart early in the morning and in the late afternoon and give visitors an opportunity to get up close to a variety of wildlife, from Africa’s smallest antelope to its largest tuskers.
For experienced birders as well as amateurs and beginners, a guided birding tour is an ideal way to uncover the most exquisite and varied birdlife living within the sand forests, pans and wetlands. Be on the lookout for specials such as Neergaard’s Sunbird, Rudd’s Apalis, Woodward’s Batis, and the Plain-backed Sunbird. The Twinspot is also regularly seen near the lodge.
During the morning or late afternoon, when the temperatures are not too hot, stretch your legs and move with the pace of nature on a walk through the Sand Forest located near the Lodge. The route is well-marked and easy to explore on your own, but you may want to enlist the services of an experienced guide for an in-depth experience. Their expert knowledge and training are difficult to match!
The grassland that surrounds Tembe Elephant Park is rich with Illala Palm, traditionally used by local Thonga people to create palm wine (only for the brave!) and a range of baskets and mats. While you select a few souvenirs from their range of woven products, learn more about the process of weaving and ask about the local brewing method.
This seasonal festival is the most important event for the local people. Celebrated by everyone in the area, the locals enjoy the beer made from the first fruits of the season. Led by the Royal Family, this is an annual historic event.
A visit to the magical Tembe Butterfly Dome is a must for any family. Located 10 minutes by car from the lodge, a dome provides ideal conditions for the most majestic African butterflies. The facilities are used primarily for breeding and for further research on each species.
Take a day to explore the Kosi Bay estuary system, less than an hour’s reach of Royal Thonga Safari Lodge. Don a mask and snorkel to observe a brilliant array of sub-tropical fish under the water, or set up a picnic near the channels and lakes. Add a walk at the Raffia Forest to your itinerary. Giant raffia palm trees lead down to the beaches. Dolphin and whale watching boat trips are especially popular from June to September.
Magnificent beaches along the Elephant Coast are a major attraction and visited by numerous endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles, which lay their eggs in the sand between November and January. On Kosi Bay and Sodwana Bay beaches, a night-time turtle tracking tour provides a front-row seat to one of nature's greatest shows. Offered from 15 November to 15 January, these excursions include transfers to and from the beach and last between three to four hours.
Traditional fish kraals are found at the Kosi Bay river mouth. Local fishermen still use this primary and sustainable fishing system to earn a living. The system has even won the local community a Heritage Award by AMAFA, recognising conservation in KwaZulu-Natal.
For fishing enthusiasts, make your way to the Pongola River and Jozini Dam and try your hand at baiting some ‘tigerfish'. The marvellously warm, clear waters of the Pongola River is an experience that's hard to forget. Enquire at Royal Thonga to arrange a guide who will show you to the best spots and help to improve your technique. Booking in advance is essential.
In the direction of Ponta do Ouro and Ponta Malongane, enter southern Africa’s most renowned diving mecca, Sodwana Bay. Proclaimed as a Marine Reserve and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the extensive reefs are bountiful with a whopping 1,200 fish species. The Coelacanth, once thought to be extinct, has been known to swim in these waters.
While staying at Royal Thonga Safari Lodge, make your way to Kosi Lake for a paddle. Guided trips of the Sihadla channel are an ideal way to explore the spectacular forest of Raffia Palms. Birding enthusiasts will fall head over heels for this experience, with sightings of Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Finfoot and Palmnut Vulture. Booking in advance is essential.
For a taste of culture, embark on a village tour arranged through Royal Thonga. The experience will give insight into the day-to-day lives of the local community. Enjoy a hosted lunch of traditional food and drinks, and meet a local Sangoma or Inyanga (Traditional Healer).