For those of you reading this that are new to the Isibindi family, past guests or just haven’t had the time to get to or get in the know of what the activities are about at Thonga Beach Lodge this feedback will surely put you in the know and hopefully motivate you to come visit us up here on the beautiful coast of Mabibi in the Isimangeliso wetland park. This being the first issue of the guiding feedback I will give a brief description of the lodge and the activities on offer.
For those of you wondering who might be writing this here’s a little bit about myself. My name is Ashley, I hail from a leafy village nestled between the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean in the Southern-most part of the Cape called Noordhoek. It was here, as a boy, that my love for the ocean and wildlife started as we spent most of our time at the sea side or bundu bashing through the mountains. After school I got stuck in the restaurant industry until I realized that this was not all that life had to offer and decided to do what I loved! I packed up shop in the Cape and headed for Zululand to pursue a career in nature- field guiding to be exact.
At the end of the course I watched all my class mates head off to the different parks in the area to start their careers in big 5 reserves, needless to say that growing up on the coast (the Indian and the Atlantic oceans only a couple minutes drive from the house) had a major impact on my life and I felt the ocean calling me back. This is what led me to the most beautiful place in the world, Thonga Beach Lodge, Mabibi in Isimangeliso Wetland Park.
Thonga Beach Lodge is situated on the northern KZN coast between Sodwana Bay and Kosi Bay. It sits on an unspoiled beach with balmy waters that average at 24 degrees Celsius. On a busy day the endless stretch of beach will have 20 people lazing around enjoying the waves and building sand castles in the warm weathers that grace this coast all year round. It lies in the Isimangeliso wetland park which was declared South Africa’s first world heritage site in December of 99. Isimangeliso means “miracle” in Zulu and upon visiting this special place it is easy to see why. The park spans 332 000 hectares and boasts a wide variety of diverse habitats and eco – systems including the largest natural fresh water lake in South Africa, Lake Sibaya. Lake Sibaya is only 4.5 kms from the lodge and with all its hippos and crocs makes it an ideal location for the adventurous kayaker or a relaxing sundowner. In between the lodge and the lake you will experience the traditional Zulu village of Mabibi, an extremely friendly community which always makes one feel welcome!
Here at Thonga we offer a wide variety of activities and when combining your African experience with Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge are sure to get the best bush and beach experience on offer.
The activities on offer at Thonga include :
It is said that Sodwana Bay has the best diving reefs in South Africa. Thonga is situated only 25km’s north of Sodwana and where as Sodwana has around 10 dive charters making use of their reefs and launch site Thonga is privileged to be able to launch from right in front of the lodge and dive its own unspoilt reefs. The average depths on the dives is around 16 metres with the visibility ranging between 10 and 25 metres. The marine life here is very diverse with a large variety of corals, fish, rays, eels and other sea life.
Join us for a real South African surf launch! Meet at the marine centre to get all your snorkelling gear and head down to the boat awaiting you on the beach. From here the fun begins… Strap on a life jacket, jump on the boat and let the experienced skipper take you out behind back line while dodging the surf, once there take off the life jacket and enjoy. The trip entails heading out to view the whales at close quarters (in season, July – November), searching for the few species of dolphins and if you lucky enough to encounter the Indian Ocean Bottlenose Dolphin you could very well be jumping in the water and watching these playful dolphins curiously swimming around you, a snorkel at Island Rock where you will probably run into a turtle or two and the beaching of the boat which is an unforgettable experience.
Rock Pool Snorkelling
Always done on the low tide, when the rock pools are well protected from the pushing waves. Meet at the marine centre to kit up and take a stroll down the beach to the pools. There is always a lot to see, including the Devil Firefish, Electric Rays, Morey Eel’s and more. A beginners’ delight with a knowledgeable guide.
Enjoy a relaxed walk through the forest after lunch while absorbing the serenity of this pristine coast line. The walk will take app. 1 hour and is suitable for all. Meet the guide at the activities board and get in that exercise you’ve been missing out on while on your holiday. Unfortunately no elephants or lions on this walk but the guide will be sure to fill you in on the local trees and some traditional uses while pointing out some of the smaller creatures.
If you’re interested in how things operate in the local villages then this is for you. Jump on the vehicle and let the local guide take you on a trip through the community. You will visit the school and get to meet the teachers while all the kids run around with excitement of your presence. Visit the clinic and hear how the people of the area stay healthy and end off the trip by visiting a local homestead to see how the inner workings of a traditional zulu home are conducted.
Kayaking on Lake Sibaya
This adventurous trip always takes place in the morning before the wind picks up and will see you taking a drive up to the lake where the double kayaks will be waiting ready to go. Get an informative briefing from the guide which includes safety, wildlife and how to kayak if a beginner. Then you’re off! A very relaxed activity but make no mistake that after an hour and some change of paddling you will surely have worked for your bacon and eggs. Take in the sights while looking out for a variety of bird species, hippos and crocs!
Sundowner at the Sibaya Lake
Always a guest favourite!! Late afternoon, time depends on season but if you come down 10 minutes early you’ll have the opportunity to dig into some fresh cake and a cup of flavoured tea before the trip departs. While enjoying your high tea the barmen will come around and enquire as to your preference of drinks for the lake which will be packed along with snacks into the cooler box, from there we’re all set. Jump on the safari vehicle and take a scenic drive making a stop on a hill overlooking the lake where you’ll be able to get great photos and an idea of the relationship between the community and the lodge as the guide feeds you information. Next it’s down to the lake and driving along the shore gives the feeling that you’re totally free. Now it’s time to set up a table, pour a drink and relax to a beautiful sunset while chomping down on some biltong and cashew nuts from our local cashew farm.
Spider and Scorpion Walks (March – Nov)
This new addition to the lodge has been running for only 3 months and was instantly a huge success. Being a more specialised field there are not too many places offering such an activity, there for giving guests the chance to experience something unique. The walk takes place after the sun has dipped behind the horizon as almost all spiders and scorpions are nocturnal. Guests meet at the activities board and are all given headlights, the walk takes app 1hr30min and with an experienced guide are sure to absorb loads of new information. Great activity for the kids and keen photographers!
Turtle Tours (Nov – end Feb)
Always a highlight, this life changing trip will take us driving down the beach to see the majestic Leatherback and Loggerhead Turtles dragging themselves out of the ocean to lay their clutch of eggs on our beach. A must do activity will see you getting within a metre of these prehistoric animals and with great photo opportunities while she is dropping her eggs this is surely something not to miss. The trip takes place at night during the low tide and is app 3 hrs long. Half way through the trip you’ll get to sip on hot chocolate while biting down on some shortbread to the twinkling nights stars while the professional guide fills you up with information. The Leatherback is the prize and getting to see this huge turtle will definitely have you spell bound as the average weight of this massive turtle is around 500kg with a 2.5 metre flipper span!! It is also the fastest reptile on the planet.
Birding (Available on request depending on other lodge operations)
Meet at the activities board nice and early!! This trip is a very slow trip and on average spotting around 60 species in 3.5 hrs is extremely rewarding. Along the way we will make a stop and enjoy a packed breakfast of muffins, sarmies, fruit-salad with yoghurt, nuts and fresh fruit juice. Recent sightings include the Collared Pratincole, Lemon Breasted Canary and Rosy Throated Long Claw.
All and all the guiding team comprising Bheki, Thulani, Sthembiso and myself have had a super third quarter with some great reviews.
This concludes the first edition of the guiding feedback from Thonga Beach Lodge.
To book a stay at Thonga Beach Lodge, follow this link: Thonga Beach Lodge, Mabibi