Royal Thonga Safari Lodge Activities:
Besides the estimated 250-odd elephants at Tembe, including some of Africa’s biggest Tuskers, there is also a thriving population of lion, black and white rhino, leopard, African buffalo, wild dog and a host of antelope species including the secretive Suni, Africa’s second smallest antelope. This 30 000 ha “Big five” reserve, set in an area of sand forests, pans and wetlands in northern Thongaland, falls within a transition area between tropical and sub-tropical forms, and is therefore home to a great diversity of vegetation, which supports a spectacular variety of mammals, birds, butterflies and many other precious species.
Birding - Tembe Elephant Park's bird diversity is nothing short of spectacular. It is a paradise for bird-watchers with more than 340 species and considered a premier birding spot in South Africa. Many are localized residents, others are endemic to South Africa and several are tropical species at the southern limit of their range. The secret is the diversity of habitats surrounding Tembe Elephant Park and Ndumo Game Reserve.
Our field guides are extremely knowledgeable about the local birds and their habits, and a trip out with them should prove very productive.
Sand Forest Guided Walk - Enjoy early morning or late afternoon guided walks through the magnificent Sand Forest at the Lodge. Keep your ears peeled for the harmonious sounds of birds, and perhaps catch a glimpse of some rare birds. The experience of walking in a sand forest is totally different to doing the "usual" bush walk. The walk is easy to do by yourself at any time by following the sign-posted route. It takes about an hour. The walk can also be done with one of our well-informed guides.
Diving - From Sodwana Bay up to the south of Mozambique (Ponta do Ouro and Ponta Malongane) is considered a mecca for diving enthusiasts. The part of coastline is also a proclaimed Marine Reserve and forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are extensive tropical reefs here and some of the most southerly coral reefs in the world. According to the Oceanographic Research Institute the mix of hard and soft corals occurs nowhere else in the world. They are mandated with hundreds of species of corals and over 1200 species of fish and the Coelecanth, once thought to be extinct can be found in these waters. A full day trip and prior booking is essential.
Kosi Mouth Beach - The Kosi Bay estuary system consists of channels and four lakes that flow into the sandy estuary mouth before reaching the Indian Ocean. This subtropical paradise features spectacular wildlife. This trip is a full day activity and a beautiful drive. Witness how the sea and lakes interconnect in a wonderful swirl of color, sand and water. There’s great snorkeling all year round. The water is warm and almost always crystal clear. The rock pools along this protected stretch of coastline are a virtual aquarium of brilliant sub-tropical fish. Enjoy swimming in the warm waters, soak up the sun along this beautiful stretch of beach, followed by a scrumptious picnic lunch.
Day visitor permits are required to visit the mouth and accessible to 4 x 4 vehicles only. Access to the mouth is restricted by tides. Be aware of the changing as your return route will be cut off.
Plam Weavers, Palm Wine & Raffia Forest - The grassland ecosystem around Tembe is dominated by the Illala Palm which has traditionally been used by the local Thonga people to make palm wine and a range of baskets and mats. The Illala weavers are world renowned for the quality in intricate designs of their weaving. Witness the entire process of harvesting the palm leaf through to producing these fabulous products. The Raffia Forest walk is an exhilarating experience as one is dwarfed by the giant raffia palm trees leading to the shores of the Kosi Bay lake system.
Kosi Lake Walks - An activity experienced by few visitors to the region. From the banks of lake two and accompanied by a guide, guests will wade through knee high water to cross the lake towards the coastal dune and home to a local community. This trip across the lake is done by the inhabitants as part of daily life, in order to acquire provisions or to reach schools. Visitors will visit the local school located on the dunes and have the opportunity to interact with the community. The trip culminates in a sampling of local foods for lunch, before returning via the lake.
Tiger fishing - Whether you are after the big or the small, fly fishing for Tiger fish in the warm, clear waters of the Pongola River is an experience that is hard to forget. Tiger fishing can be done in the river or at the Jozini Dam. Both are excellent fishing palces. Our guides will bring you to the right places and if necessary help you out with the techniques. Prior booking is essential.
Fish Traps & Braai - Kosi Bay mouth is the location of the traditional Thonga Fish Kraals said to date back to prehistoric times. To this day, the fisherman construct the Kraals to the same design as their forefathers hundreds of years ago. This form of fishing if environmentally sustainable and the local community have recently been given a Heritage Award by AMAFA in recognition towards conservation in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Visitors will witness the workings of this unique method of fishing and may be invited by the local fisherman to attempt spearing their own fish. Guests may thereafter enjoy a sumptuous fish braai prepared on open coals on the banks of Kosi Mouth. Day visitor permits are required to visit and accessible to 4 x 4 vehicles only.
Canoe on Kosi Lake - A highlight of your KwaZulu-Natal holiday has got to be the canoe trip on the pristine Kosi Lake and channels. Guests will get the opportunity to canoe along the Sihadla channel and admire the spectacular Raffia Palms forest from the water. Birding enthusiasts will enjoy a rewarding experience. Some of the birds that can be spotted on these trips include Pels Fishing Owl, African Finfoot and Palmnut Vulture. Hippo and crocodile are also often also spotted. You are always accompanied by a guide and prior booking is essential.
Community Visit - An amazing opportunity for our guests to interact first hand with the locals in the area. Cultural tours provide an interesting and direct way for visitors to learn about the lives and daily experiences of the Tembe people. Guests will visit one of the local villages and will be hosted for lunch, sampling traditional foods and drinks. In addition, with the assistance of an interpreter the guests will obtain an in-depth knowledge of local life. Dependent upon availability, a meeting / consultation with the Inyanga (Traditional Healer) or the Sangoma (fortune teller) will provide the highlight of the trip.
Dolphin & Whale Watching - The gorgeous sandy beaches along this Marine Reserve has much to offer nature and ocean lovers. Part of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the beach lies parallel to the Kosi lakes. Launching from the beach in a rubber duck, dolphin and whale watchers will be delighted by frequent sightings, particularly during winter (June – September) when humpback whales migrate north to calve in the warmer Mozambique waters. A full day trip and prior booking is essential.
Cashew Farm - Coastal Cashews is a working farm operated by the Tembe Community and located 30 minutes from the lodge. The visit involves a first-hand experience of the labour intensive processes in producing this nut, from harvesting, drying, de-shelling, roasting and packaging ready for the retail shelves. Dependent upon the season, visitors are welcome to try their hand at participating in these processes. The trip culminates with the drive through this exquisite farm and an open-air picnic in the heart of this plantation.
Butterfly Dome - With its unique location the Tembe butterfly dome provides ideal conditions for breeding butterflies and the facilities have been dedicated to breeding and scientific research programs. The dome is situated 10 minutes from the Lodge.
Turtle Tracking - The Elephant Coast's magnificent beaches are a major attraction to hordes of endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles that lay their eggs in the dunes between November and January. On the beaches of Kosi Bay and Sodwana Bay, a night-time turtle tracking tour that provides a front row seat to one of nature's greatest shows. Guests are able to view these magnificent creatures meters from where she is laying. Utmost precaution is taken to ensure that turtles are not disturbed. It is offered from 15 November to 15 January. These excursions (including transfers to and from the beach) can last up to 3-4hrs and may return very late. Prior booking is essential.
Royal Thonga Safari Lodge Map: