Home to only 12 couples at a time, Thonga Beach Lodge situated in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park delivers beach-side luxury and an island holiday vibe, without having to leave the mainland.
- iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to Thonga Beach Lodge.
- It’s one of South Africa’s last pristine wilderness spaces, that is home to elephants, whales and coral reefs.
- The lodge is an Isibindi Africa Lodge with Andre Kruger as its General Manager.
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With the newest Toyota Starlet packed, The Sandton Times set off from Durban on a 4-hour drive, north up the KwaZulu-Natal coastline, past Sodwana Bay and Lake Sibaya. Meeting our guide at the Librodi Lodge pickup point, it’s another 1.5 hours’ drive with a Toyota Land Cruiser into the untouched dunes and forest of Mabibi, in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Thonga Beach Lodge, considered to be one of South Africa’s finest beach wilderness lodges, is also accessible by air. The Lodge is located around 25-minutes from an 800m-long asphalt airstrip. The airfield is where visitors can charter in or leave their private aircraft and 4×4 transfers to the lodge can be arranged in advance at an additional charge.
Hidden away among trees and greenery, with a front row seat on Mabibi beach, Thonga Beach Lodge is a charming boutique escape from the everyday with an undeniable sea-side vibe. Recent renovations have given the lodge a fresh new look with many pieces sourced from the surrounding area.
The refresh was overseen from concept through to installation by resident stylist Penni Korb of Isibindi Africa, who described the new appearance as “beach chic meets Africa’s contemporary cool.” In this ancient woodland on the seashore, living pods have been erected all over the lodge, creating cozy guest chill zones. As more rustic components, such locally created hand-woven basket lampshades, custom-designed and built furniture are combined with quirky visual art pieces, the serene style is given a burst of Isibindi fun and color.
Passionate surfer, former Game Ranger and now General Manager of Thonga Beach Lodge, Andre Kruger, welcomes us to the lodge and takes us on a tour of this hidden away gem. The boutique beach resort has it all, from a swimming pool to a spa, bar & restaurant area, lounge with books, board-games and a tea & coffee station, gorgeous sea-side deck with seats and loungers overlooking the beach and a marine center equipped with all ocean activity gear and fat-bikes. For those looking to switch off, take a snooze in a hammock or take an afternoon nap in your room, fully equipped with a fan and air-conditioning.
The rooms are fully equipped with a large shower, double basin vanity, amenities by Healing Earth (or in this case, Healing Ocean), extra-large bed with a mosquito net, laptop size safe, mini-bar, tea & coffee, select WiFi connectivity and thoughtfully curated comforts, wrapped up in a beautiful refurbishment. Thonga Beach Lodge stays true to one of its many slogans, found around the resort: No shoes. No news. Mobile phone connectivity is non-existent, and a limited WiFi signal will ensure, you are truly disconnected from the world, at least for a little bit.
One undeniable highlight of Thonga Beach Lodge is its kitchen. Given its remoteness, food is brought in by road and by air regularly, with dishes prepared fresh for every time of day and the bread is baked in-house. Needless to say, the team of cooks in the Thonga Beach Lodge kitchen, recruited from the surrounding communities, put on a spread that would rival even some of Sandton’s most popular dining destinations. Expect honest dishes, beautifully prepared with an abundance of flavours – in short, the food is divine!
Andre and his team also bring a variety of locations into the dining experience, with breakfast, lunch and dinner served up in different spots around the lodge. A definite highlight is an early morning breakfast on the beach deck looking onto Mabibi beach – a stones throw away from the water. Here, scanning the horizon with a monocular, we spot a pod of dolphins and whales traveling South, with the latter breaching the ocean surface more than a dozen times. It’s a magical sighting with a coffee and croissant in hand.
A walk along the kilometers of vast, empty beaches, heading North, reveals the extreme beauty of this area, inhabited by hundreds of Ghost crabs enjoying the warm Indian Ocean water washing up onto the shore. This virtually untouched stretch of coastline, with its white beaches and sand dunes, see’s very little human interference, except for the mountains of plastic that washes up on the beach, which locals in surrounding communities make the effort to collect. A local told The Sandton Times that one clean-up brought in 76 black garbage bags of trash, washed up from the ocean in a week. It’s truly atrocious and highlights the importance of recycling, waste management and environmental education.
Back at Thonga Beach Lodge, minimizing the lodges Eco-footprint remains a constant focus, with water and single use items served in reusable glassware, paper straws utilized for cocktails and reminders in all rooms of the importance of preserving natural resources. It’s luxury with a consciousness without being inconvenient.
The Leatherback Turtle nesting season kicks-off on November 1 and runs till February each year, with Thonga Beach Lodge offering guests the rare opportunity to partake in this wilderness bucket list experience. Over the next 3 to 4 months, visitors to Thonga Beach Lodge have the rare opportunity of catching a glimpse of the Leatherback Turtle, as they come to lay their eggs on the beach.
If you’re looking to escape civilization in a civilized way, Thonga Beach Lodge has it all. The hospitality team at Thonga Beach Lodge are notable, with a warm welcome, friendly smile and pride in serving. To get the full Thonga Beach Lodge experience, a minimum 3-night stay is ideal for families, solo or group travel.
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