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|Sarah Channing Grieboski||October 5th 2009|
If you dream of an African safari adventure, but the idea of roughing it seems a bit daunting, Thula Thula Exclusive Private Game Reserve and Safari Lodge offers the best of both worlds for people who crave nature but want to be nurtured. Located on a malaria-free reservation in Zululand forty-five minutes from Richards Bay Airport and two hours from Durban, guests of Thula Thula have the opportunity to experience the African wilderness while dining on gourmet cuisine and sleeping in luxury tents and lodges.
Once the private hunting grounds of Zulu Empire founder King Shaka, Thula Thula Private Game Reserve is home to hundreds of wild animals, including elephants, baboons, zebras, giraffes, leopards, buffaloes and hyenas. Resort guests are encouraged to participate in morning and evening game drives. Each drive is approximately two and a half hours with a break for coffee, tea or wine.
Thula Thula trackers and rangers are professional, knowledgeable and friendly and if there is a particular animal you would like to see, they will make every effort to locate it for you. Be sure to take both the morning and early evening drives, as each offers a different experience. Guests are also encouraged to participate in guided bush walks, where they will learn about native South African flora and fauna and facts about wildlife habitat and habits.
People come from all over the world to meet reservation owner and African wildlife expert Lawrence Anthony. Best known for his heroic actions during the Iraq War, Anthony saved the animals at the Baghdad Zoo from imminent death during the height of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Anthony is a native South African with an approachable demeanor and unique style of storytelling. Those fortunate enough to sit down with him will hear firsthand how he integrated a family of rogue elephants onto the reservation. Anthony writes about the elephants’ trials and tribulations in The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild. It is an amazing story and those who have read it will have an even more meaningful experience when they visit the reservation.
Thula Thula’s five-star resort is run by Anthony’s dynamic wife Françoise, who is the quintessential French hostess. From superior customer service to savory culinary delights, Françoise’s sense of style is evident in every aspect of the resort. Her staff is skilled, courteous and articulate—and all are members of the local community. And everyone goes out of their way to ensure guests are comfortable, well fed, and safe from danger.
At the Safari Lodge, each three course gourmet meal is an intricate fusion of French and South African ingredients and every dish is served to perfection. You won’t want to miss the three cheese and pesto feuilleté on tomato compote or the Nougat Glacé with strawberry sauce. Over at Luxury Tented Camp, vacationers dine on heaping trays of genuine South African cuisine. Be sure to feast on a traditional Zulu dinner and venison braai while you are visiting, where dishes are cooked in cast iron pots over a roaring pit fire.
The lodges at Safari Lodge are ecofriendly yet luxurious with large canopy beds, oversized tubs, plush towels and modern air conditioning units. Nightly turndown service includes the lowering of mosquito nets and placement of chocolates on pillows. Guests who are seeking a more traditional safari experience can choose to stay at Luxury Tented Camp, where they will experience tents like never before. Each oversized canvas shelter has a full Victorian bath, private viewing deck and outdoor shower. Both the Safari Lodge and Tented Camp have a swimming pool, bar and a lounging area. Thula Thula also offers conference facilities, which provide beautiful views of the bush and team building activities for groups. Conference packages are all-inclusive for up to 32 people.
At Thula Thula, vervet monkeys keep guests entertained with their daily turf wars. Wild elephants casually stroll the perimeter of the electrical wire surrounding the camps. Hyenas call mournfully to one another as dusk becomes dark. Those who escape to Thula Thula return home with a deeper respect for nature and their place in it. It’s not just a vacation—it’s a revelation.