There are many options to choose from when selecting a safari in South Africa. Set on nearly 35,000 acres in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve offers year-round expeditions. Wildlife is varied and plentiful. In addition to the Big Five (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo) guests may encounter cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, and many more animals.
A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve is home to three types of accommodations. Villa Izulu has five bedrooms, a library, pool, ping pong table, outdoor fitness equipment, wine cellar, and helicopter pad. The Thanda Tented Camp offers 15 tents, each with a private bathroom that includes a shower and bathtub. Thanda Safari Lodge features nine suites, each with a private plunge pool. All accommodations offer a wildlife viewing area.
The perimeter of both the villa and tented camp are fenced to keep wildlife out. Thanda Safari Lodge is not, so from sunset to sunrise, guests must be escorted by a porter from communal areas to their rooms. Though less than convenient at night, the payoff is obvious in the daylight. While walking along paths throughout the property it’s not uncommon to find yourself remarkably close to nyala and other harmless animals.
A majority of my stay was spent at Thanda Safari Lodge. Suites are spacious and comfortable, with a dual sided wood-burning fireplace set in between the living room area and bedroom with king bed. Two sets of French doors offer access to a large deck with plunge pool, chaise loungers, and outdoor sofa.
The bathroom is larger than the average city hotel room. Along with two standalone vanities, there’s a make-up nook, soaking tub, and both an indoor and outdoor shower. You’ll wish you had more time to spend in your room.
Game drives take place twice a day, shortly after sunrise, and in the afternoon. Safari vehicles are staffed with both a guide and tracker. A private safari vehicle, called the Green Mamba, can be hired by the day for an additional fee. In addition to a long list of extras geared toward photography buffs, the converted Land Rover Defender 130 has Wi-Fi, USB ports, a Nespresso machine, and Martini bar.
The game drives are what bring many guests to Thanda, but there are a number of activities available for an additional fee that allow guests more time to view and interact with wildlife. Possibilities range from cheetah, elephant and rhino tracking, to visits to local schools and surrounding Zulu villages.
Thanda Safari Lodge is a three-hour drive from the King Shaka International Airport in Durban. Rates start at $524. Two daily game drives, meals, drinks, Wi-Fi, and laundry are included. A complimentary, 90-minute photography class is also available for interested guests. You can also book your stay through Expedia.
Review and photos, except where noted, by San Francisco Bay Area travel writer and television correspondent Dana Rebmann. Her stay was organized by Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.