(Almost) lost on the South African coast

Luxury camping …
… at Kosi Forest Lodge
Thonga Beach Lodge …
… on the Elephant Coast

Author Ray Bradbury once said, ‘Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness’. And whilst staying at South Africa’s Isibindi Lodges, you get the sense that ‘lostness’ is just around the corner – beyond the lush forests of Kosi Bay and the pristine shores of Thonga Beach.

There’s an underlying theme in the guest book of the ‘adults-only’ Kosi Bay Forest Lodge. Flicking through the pages which bear the ghosts of guests past, the words ‘paradise’ and ‘romantic’ appear. And while romance is out of the picture for this lonely traveller, paradise is definitely not lost.   

The luxury tents at Kosi Bay ooze African charm. With no electricity, lighting in the ‘room’ comes courtesy of lanterns, which blanket the bedroom, bathroom and outdoor shower area (a real highlight) in a golden glow. The glimmer, along with a soundtrack of silence broken only by the groan of a nearby hippopotamus, provide the perfect backdrop for the classic African bush experience.

From the pool, which overlooks the adjacent lake, one can watch the distant hippos as they go about their daily routine (of admittedly not very much). Or if you’re fortunate, you’ll see the resort’s monkeys and bush babies, the latter making themselves heard during their frequent mating rituals.

Whilst the lodge’s natural setting and surroundings are the obvious drawcard, the service at the resort is what really stands out. Upon check-in, check-out and at every tour departure and arrival in between, there is somebody on hand to welcome you with a warm smile (and cold towel) or see you off with a poignant wave. And with managers Chris (a gourmet chef), Ilana and resort mainstay Blessing never too far away, there will always be someone around with an outstretched arm, ready to point you in the right direction or to recount a local anecdote.     

About an hour and a half south of Kosi Bay, lies the property of Thonga Beach Lodge. Here the grunts and groans of nearby hippos and bush babies are replaced by the moaning of the Indian Ocean, which embraces the resort’s shorelines like a warm hug.  

On the (bumpy) 4WD drive into the resort, signs remind you to ‘clear your mind, nourish your body, and soothe your soul. Situated in a World Heritage site on South Africa’s Elephant Coast, Thonga Beach is ideal for couples looking for a romantic interlude, families in search of that all-encompassing holiday or for those who simply wish to kick back with a good book and views to boot.

With the sea on its doorstep, it is small wonder watersports feature largely amongst the resort’s activities. Fishing, kayaking, snorkelling and some of South Africa’s best diving spots are all readily available to guests, whilst indigenous forest walks, coastal trails and cultural tours keep busy those who wish to keep dry. Particularly impressive is Thonga’s Sundowner tour, which overlooks mighty Lake Sibaya.   

Remarkably, 68 per cent of the lodge is community owned, with the majority of staff sourced from the nearby village of Mabibi and with profits from the resort going back to the community. Considering most of the employees here have never seen, let alone experienced another lodge or hotel, the service is very good. Friendly staff members happily mingle with visitors, each genuinely concerned for the well-being of their guests. A guide to the resort says, “when hospitality becomes an art, it loses its very soul’. And these words ring especially true at Thonga, where service is based on the glow of one’s smile and not on the shine of one’s shoes.  

Stay a night or three in Thonga, and you’ll take home a lifetime of memories. Live it now.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Mark Harada
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