A trip to KwaZulu-Natal for a Portfolio Collection consultant just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the magical Kosi Forest Lodge on the Elephant and Zululand Coast. Being part of the Isibindi Collection, you can expect quality accommodation in a beautiful setting, not to mention top-notch service. Nicole Whitehorn was lucky enough to stay over during her recent trip and we couldn’t wait to hear what her experience was like – read on to find out all about it.
I arrived at the Total garage in Kosi Bay, the designated pickup point for the 4×4 transfer to Kosi Forest Lodge, the only private accommodation in the whole of the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve. George was already waiting for me and asked me to follow him in my car to a secure car park around the corner. It is a 30-minute drive from there to the lodge and George passed the time by telling me all about the exciting activities that awaited me. Upon arrival, I was greeted warmly by the jovial manager, Blessing, and presented with an ice cold drink to quench my thirst. Blessing explained all the general lodge information and together we came up with an itinerary of activities for the duration of my stay.
This ecolodge has thatched bush rooms on raised wooden decks set deep in the forest which ensure a special experience. Each room has an outdoor reed-enclosed bathroom with a shower and a bath sunk into the white forest sand. I couldn’t wait for it to get dark so I could light the paraffin lanterns and experience a unique outdoor bath.
Unfortunately I had arrived too late for any activities that day, so after settling in and trying out that bath, it was already dinner time. Dinner is served at the main lodge beneath the stars and overhanging trees. There are lanterns on every table and around the deck which creates an inviting and magical ambience – there really is no better way to enjoy a meal. Olga served me some bread to start, followed by soup and then a simple but delicious main course of grilled kingklip, jasmine rice and vegetables.
I slept soundly that night with the forest sounds around me and woke up ready for a day filled with activities. First on the agenda after breakfast was a boat trip exploring the Kosi lakes with a guide and I was pleased to see that my guide was none other than my trusty driver from the day before, George. We took a 10-minute drive followed by a 10-minute walk through the forest to where the boat was docked and I eagerly climbed aboard. We started in the largest of the lakes, the third lake, and headed for the channel straight across from us. The channel between the third and second lake was utterly tranquil with reeds either side of us and we cruised along slowly, every now and again coming across locals busy spear fishing or using handmade rafts to get from one side to the other.
The second lake was a bit smaller than the third and George explained about the Thonga fish traps I could see all around me. The local Thonga people build them out of nothing but sticks and created an ingenious way of trapping the fish by getting them to swim along the wooden fence line into a heart-shaped fence which confuses them.
The first lake is where the sea meets the lake and I was thrilled to come across groups of hippos splashing around in the water. George had me in hysterics imitating the sounds they make and told me that it looks like they are swimming but in fact they are walking along the bottom. On the way back, we came across another boat with people snorkelling and I just couldn’t resist joining them. The water was incredibly clear and I saw hundreds of fish swimming calmly around me – a truly wonderful and memorable experience. I had opted for the half day trip but there is an option to make it a full day by taking the boat to the beach and walking over the dunes for a swim followed by a delicious picnic lunch of salads, chicken and pastries.
The guided walk through the raffia forest is something not to be missed. The indigenous trees are beautiful and the birds are both musical and colourful. I learned so much about the Thonga people and how they use the forest to collect honey, berries, medicinal plants and the raffia palm which has many uses for them such as providing the material for rafts and houses. They are such a special community and are always helping each other, be it to build houses or catch fish.
I was so excited to watch the sunset on the viewing deck next to the swimming pool later in the afternoon as it overlooks the lake, an excellent vantage point from which to spot the resident hippos. It was so peaceful up there on the sun loungers and I stayed until well after the sun had disappeared behind the horizon. Supper that evening was a tasty carrot soup, roast chicken and the most delicious potatoes, followed by some fruit skewers as I’d opted for the healthier option to the decadent chocolate brownies.
The next morning, I was up and ready by 7am to go canoeing but as soon as I left my room, I saw that it had begun to rain. Blessing said it was up to us (myself and another two guests) if we wanted to canoe in the rain. We all decided to drive the 10 minutes and brave the 1,5km walk through the forest in our ponchos to the canoes to see how much it was raining down at the water. Well, by the time we got there it was bucketing down, so unfortunately we had to give it a miss. The silver lining though was arriving back to a delicious hot breakfast and an equally hot shower which made the cold downpour a distant memory.
I would say that you need at least three nights at Kosi Forest Lodge in order to experience fully all the fantastic activities on offer. There is a bird viewing hide where you can see a variety of different species as the surrounding region has over 420 recorded species recorded as well as a day trip to the Kosi Bay Mouth where you can enjoy snorkelling in the warm waters and soaking up the sun before a scrumptious picnic lunch served in the shade of the palm trees. If you are keen on fishing, both lake and sea fishing is also on offer as well as fly fishing and dropshot fishing.
My time had now come to an end and what an amazing time it had been. I bid the gentle and kind staff farewell as I headed to the last Isibindi lodge on my itinerary: the stunning Thonga Beach Lodge.
All images by Nicole Whitehorn or from stock