Dancing girls at Thanda Safari Tented Camp


Caroline Hurry

CAROLINE HURRY finds her perfect pitch at Thanda Safari’s Tented Camp

Thanda Safari Tented Camp’s communal relaxation area. Picture: Caroline Hurry

Having canvassed a few options for a weekend break, we chose Thanda Safari’s Tented Camp, which offers Big Five sightings in a 14 000-hectare private game reserve. In northern KwaZulu-Natal, Thanda Safari is 23km north of Hluhluwe on the N2, towards Mkuze, approximately 260km north of Durban and an hour’s drive from Richard’s Bay.

Canvas chic: inside one of the tents at Thanda Safari

Thanda’s 15 tents bring safari chic to the savannah with polished wooden floors, private sun decks, and canvas bathrooms, yet retain that early 20th century unplugged explorer vibe with starlit showers, and solar power for a sense of full wilderness immersion.

After nearly every Thanda Safari game drive, the charming Mpilo awaited us with rolled warm towels.

We arrived at  2pm on a dry, windless day – the best weather for game viewing. The wonder of Thanda is that you’re guaranteed sightings the minute you’re inside and it wasn’t long we were sitting on our sundeck outside our tent overlooking the hilly wilderness to admire seven nyala browsing nearby, secure in the knowledge that the electric fence would protect us all.

Two early morning crows in a tree at Thanda Safari. Picture: Peter Berg-Munch

Of the “big five”, you are pretty much guaranteed sightings of elephant, lion rhino and buffalo while the leopards seemed more elusive. We also saw hyena, giraffe, warthog, zebra and plenty of antelope as well as vultures, crows, bateleur and martial eagles riding the thermals.

View from the deck of one of Thanda’s relaxation salas. Picture: Caroline Hurry

Thanda means love in Zulu and while no getaway comes more loaded with expectation than a safari, Thanda’s sensational setting really does deliver, being one of only two private game reserves in the world to hold exclusive membership with The Leading Hotels of the World.

Bar area at Thanda Safari Tented Camp

Cosseted within the dun-coloured winter bush, the slow pace allows you to appreciate the little things: scarabs glittering like dropped emeralds in rhino dung, butterflies flitting like holograms through the dappled sunlight, and the choir-like birdsong.

A typical lunch or high tea offering before the evening ge drive at Thanda Safari

Food was fantastic ­– as good as you’ll find in any top-notch restaurant – with breakfasts, late lunches and dinner served either in the boma or at the bar area, near the pool. We especially loved the Zulu maidens who came to sing and dance for us one evening, inviting intrepid guests to join in – a great ice breaker.

The bed and linen were super comfortable and I loved the dinky bottles of Amarula, which we took with us on the morning game drives to add to our coffee. I loved waking up for pre-dawn and sunset drives wrapped up in blankets, sipping G&Ts at sunset, metres away from elephant and lion.

Proudly Conservationist. Uniquely Zulu. Incomparably Thanda.

The combination of the birds, the wide grasslands dotted with acacia and umbrella trees, and the blooming winter aloes stunned us with their simple, elemental panache as we relaxed in the retro-styled lounge area.

The staff were a delight – clearly on top of their game – and Thanda Safari Tented Camp earns top marks for its location, superb service and awesome game sightings.