South Africa : KwaZulu Natal
Inland from the local capital of Durban are the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains with peaks soaring over 12,000 feet and a huge area for walking, horseriding and fishing. The area is also renowned for the sites of Rorkes Drift and Isandlwana, the battlefields marked as a reminder of the bloody Anglo-Zulu Wars. Everything that South Africa is famous for can be found in this province, the area is exciting and diverse, within miles you can view wildlife, meet the Zulu King, learn about the battlefields, walk in the Drakensburg Mountains and go scuba diving. It is possible to spend weeks in KwaZulu Natal and still find new things to see and do.
Thonga Beach Lodge is a romantic luxury hideaway just 20km south of Rocktail Bay, a magical area of coastal forests, grasslands, bush, shimmering lakes and exquisite sandy beaches. It has just 12 round thatched bush suites, some of which are right on the beach so you look straight out to the aquamarine ocean. Although luxury, the lodge has a great, informal atmosphere. It is the ideal place to enjoy South Africa’s best snorkelling and off-shore scuba diving, and between December and February turtles come to lay their eggs on the sand. You can also enjoy gentle strolls along the deserted beach, or relax by the swimming pool or in the small spa.
"Outstanding in every way. Excellent attention to detail."
Sid and Patricia, Edinburgh
"A beautiful location and very relaxing. Though the staff were a bit too keen to get you doing the activities!"
Grant and Sally, Edinburgh
From December to February turtles lay their eggs on the beach. It's an amazing experience to watch a huge leatherhead turtle heave herself up the beach, laboriously dig the perfect hole to lay her eggs, cover them up, make dummy nests to confuse any predators and then drag herself exhausted back to the ocean. If you are lucky you can see the eggs hatching and hundreds of tiny turtles racing to the sea.
Fugitives Drift Lodge is set on a hillside above the Buffalo River Gorge, and has eight spacious, luxury cottages set in a lovely, well-established garden. Each cottage has a private veranda with great views over the plains flanking the Buffalo River Gorge, and there is a swimming pool overlooking the river valley. As well as the Lodge, there is the Guest House, which has six large en-suite bedrooms, all with private verandas. The rooms and swimming pool have sweeping views over the reserve to the surrounding battlefields, and the sitting room and dining room are in the original farmhouse. There are also two self-catering options at Umzinyathi House, in the north of the Reserve.
Before his death in January 2007, the owner David Rattray gained an international reputation for his battlefield tours and overseas lectures. The team he put in place now continues this great tradition, and Fugitives Drift is renowned for its excellent Battlefield Tours to all the Zulu War and Anglo-Boer War battle sites in the region. The dining room is a museum of Zulu War memorabilia.
Fugutives Drift serves great food, and is an ideal base for battlefield tours as well as walking, fishing and horseriding.
"The battlefield tour guides where well informed, passionate, enthusiastic and pleasant to listen to."
Ron and Jenny, Peebles
"A wonderful place and people."
Edward and Jane, Perthshire
"Fantastic and really interesting! All the meals were group meals so it was a lovely chance to meet some new and interesting people."
Craig and Sophie, Cheltenham
Phinda Private Game Reserve is 23,000 hectares of prime conservation land in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Located between the Indian Ocean and the lush waterways of the Greater Saint Lucia Wetland Park, it spans seven unique ecosystems and is home to a huge diversity of wildlife, from the Big Five to over 380 bird species, while the marine diversity off the nearby coast of Sodwana is said to rival the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Activities at Phinda include game-drives in open 4x4 safari vehicles, nature walks, boat and canoe trips on the river and white rhino tracking. Further afield you can enjoy a low-level flight up the coast, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, turtle watching (in season), horse riding and cultural visits.
Phinda has six different properties, each catering to different needs and aspirations. Vlei Lodge and Rock Lodge are the most intimate with just six suites each. Vlei Lodge’s stunningly decorated suites overlook a meadow, while Rock Lodge’s six romantic suites are suspended from a rock face. In both lodges, the suites have a plunge pool on the veranda and incredible views. Mountain Lodge is the largest of the seven, a stylish retreat with 25 chalets boasting dramatic mountain views, and Forest Lodge has 16 glass suites quirkily set among dwarf forest. Zuka Lodge and Getty Lodge, each of which has four rooms, are Phinda’s beautiful exclusive use properties, perfect for family gatherings and special occasion safaris. All the properties, except Rock Lodge, welcome children and have an entertaining children’s programme.
Rocktail Beach Camp is a family-friendly lodge in the proclaimed World Heritage Site of the Maputaland Coastal Forest. Set in the forest itself above a huge and pristine beach where your footprints are likely to be the only ones, it has 17 tented suites including family suites and a honeymoon suite. It is a 15-20 minute walk to the beach where you can enjoy excellent diving and snorkelling. The Maputaland Marine Reserve just offshore provides sanctuary for huge shoals of fish, dolphins and whales. Being in a Reserve and World Heritage Site, you can enjoy unspoiled reefs as well as the luxury of knowing you are the only ones with access to these sites.