Close encounters of the natural kind


Durban is the gateway to new and exceptional wilderness experiences

Following a strategic agreement in 2018 between the Accor and Mantis groups, an exclusive new game reserve has been opened just north of Durban, South Africa, in a total wilderness area belonging to the local Zulu community.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is the oldest nature reserve area in Africa, and is one in which, thanks to its beautifully maintained private concessions, “close encounters” with the extraordinary wildlife are relatively easy. 

As a new addition, the new uMfolozi Big Five Reserve (rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards and buffalo), run by Mantis, adds to the already exceptional offering of resorts within easy reach of Durban, further increasing the attractiveness of the region for international tourists.

Elephants at uMfolozi Big Five Reserve

Zulu chiefs enabled the opening of this new parcel of land to a very select number of visitors, granting Mantis a 6,000-hectare land concession on pristine wilderness for the creation of the new reserve. The new concession has thus been added to the broader (around 100,000 hectares) state-owned Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve. Two 5-star lodges have been constructed – the Biyela Lodge and Mthembu Lodge – offering distinct experiences overlooking the White iMfolozi River.

Biyela Lodge property manager Melissa Marx explains that a key selling point is that this is a veritable wilderness area: “It was the original hunting ground of King Shaka, but no tourists have ever set foot here before.”

Zulu culture is omnipresent. “For our guests, the discovery and understanding of Zulu rites and traditions makes this place much more than just another game reserve. It’s very special,” adds Marx.

Luxury in the wild: with conservation as a mission

Already well established meanwhile as an ultra-luxury eco-resort, also in KwaZulu Natal, Thanda Safari offers guests an authentically South African wildlife experience matched with commitment to the Zulu culture and passionate conservation of the environment. Meaning “love” in isiZulu, Thanda is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World and multiple winner of World’s Leading Luxury Lodge. Its mission is to serve as a “responsible custodian of the environment, combining respect for biodiversity in partnership with wildlife conservation agencies and rural community support initiatives”.

Photo: After encountering the big five, visitors are treated to convivial refreshments © Thanda Safari