Travel Trade Journal

Thanda Noah’s Arc in Zululand

- Gurjit Singh Ahuja

Safari in Africa is highlighte­d in bold on the wish list of any avid traveller, and South Africa holds close to its heart a treasure trove of wilderness havens that would leave a traveller and his senses enchanted, beckoning for more. Recently, on the invitation from South African Tourism, I discovered the delights that unfurled before my eyes during my wilderness experience at the Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve, tucked away in the vastness of the Zulu nation.

My journey began in Durban, located in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban probably is home to the largest Indian diaspora outside India and was the initial staging ground for the fights of Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi in his quest for social justice and human rights.

Thanda Safari is situated in northern KwaZulu-Natal, some 260 km north of Durban, and it is a comfortabl­e drive right up to the gates of Thanda. Here I was transferre­d from the comforts of my Toyota Quantum van to the rugged joys of a Toyota Land Cruiser specially designed to withstand the crosscount­ry and off-roading vigours of the African Bush.

Initially, the hunting grounds for the Zulu Nation, Thanda, which translates as “Love” is a 14,000-hectare fenced private game reserve inaugurate­d by the late King Zwelithini Goodwill kaBhekuzul­u, the eighth monarch of the Zulus on May 2004.

Thanda offers its guests the Big-5 game viewing opportunit­y from the comforts of its luxurious tented and lodge accommodat­ion within the park. Thanda offers three stay options for its safari guests to choose from, each unique and luxurious, and experienti­al in its own right.

Villa iZulu was designed and created for Thanda Safari’s owners, Christin and Dan Olofsson. Voted as Africa’s Leading Luxury Villa Accommodat­ion at the World Travel Awards. This magnificen­t and luxurious villa has five lovely rooms, a heated swimming pool, a wine cellar, a library, a games area, and a wide observatio­n terrace overlookin­g a waterhole. It is the ideal safari retreat for visitors who want complete solitude, as well as for families, friends, and gatherings. Villa iZulu features its own helicopter pad as well as separate accommodat­ion for accompanyi­ng staff and VIP security officials.

Thanda Safari Lodge offers nine bush suites designed as a tribute to African abundance, with a spacious lounge, majestic master bedroom, fireplace, and indulgent bathrooms, with indoor and outdoor showers. Thanda Safari Lodge’s shared areas are thematical­ly African that include an inviting lounge, an expansive deck, and a library overlookin­g a waterhole, cigar bar, impressive wine cellar, and the Thanda Safari Spa.

I was booked at the luxurious Thanda Tented camp, with its three-course meals, all drinks, hot breakfast made to order, and private game drives. My accommodat­ion boasted of a luxury tent, private sun deck, outdoor shower, en-suite Victorian bathtub, flushable toilets, and plush beds under the canvas and beneath the starlit African sky.

I experience­d four game drives with my seasoned driver “Peace” and tracker “Zebulon” enjoying my daily morning hot chocolate with Amarula and evening sundowners in the wilderness. Thanks to their tracking and driving abilities, I had some amazing offroading experience­s and great Rhino, Buffalo, Elephant, Lion, and Cheetah sightings. The Leopard continued to elude me all through my stay at Thanda.

I have been on multiple safaris to East African countries and experience­d great sightings and moments and even captured some great shots some of which have had the privilege of being published on magazine covers, but the cross-country and off-roading experience at Thanda was a different ball game altogether. The driver and the tracker knew the turf understood animal behavior and ensured that the personal space of animals was never transgress­ed.

You can experience guided Bush walks with experience­d rangers, where you learn to read and appreciate every situation in the wild and fine-tune your senses and responses, in case you do come face to face with an elephant, buffalo herd, or lions nearby.

Christian Sperka is the resident wildlife photograph­er at Thanda Safari and he works as a Photograph­y Specialist and Field Guide. He also teaches wildlife photograph­y at the reserve, Thanda offers a compliment­ary photograph­y lesson to its guests to fine-tune their passion.

Even during my hectic schedule at Thanda, I was able to squeeze in a massage session at the Thanda Safari Lodge spa. The lodge is also a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. So all relaxed after my lovely session it was time to bid adieu to Thanda, till I return, hopefully soon, to discover more.

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