Thonga Beach Lodge: Kick off your shoes & “nethezeka”!

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Posted on:October 4, 2022

By Janine Gous | March 31, 2021 | Rhino Africa

Now that I have your attention, and before you tire of your inquisition, the Zulu word “nethezeka” translates to “relax” and more importantly, it is a verb: a word that implies action. Obligately the only action required at Thonga Beach Lodge, is to relax.

“Clear the mind, nourish the body, soothe the soul”

These are the first string of words you will see on your arrival at Thonga Beach Lodge. The kind of action words you look forward to when you are descending down a dune towards a private stretch of beach. Mine for the next couple of days. Before reaching these words though, we needed to navigate our way through the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Lucky for us, we had the trusty and professional Ambula Tours transfer us right to the start and a Thonga representative to meet us for the rest of the journey.

Beautiful Kwa-Zulu-Natal, Photo credit: Katharina Riebesel

Covering over 1,328,000 hectares of protected wilderness, this is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s prized jewels and there is no guessing why. This World Heritage Site encompasses one of the most unspoilt wilderness beaches left on the African continent, as well as the largest natural freshwater lake in South Africa. Not to mention, one of the criteria to become part of the UNESCO list was for “superlative natural phenomena and scenic beauty”.

Travelling along the roads, only accessible by off-road vehicles, through the coastal forests is unlike anything else I have experienced in South Africa before. Flickers of light transcend the forest into a dance while catching glimpses of Lake Sibaya, home to the second largest population of hippo in South Africa. From big to the smallest of animals, after a few bends in, I witnessed my first true kaleidoscope of butterflies! With five species of butterflies being endemic to this part of the country, the sacred atmosphere of this area is echoed by the delicate flutter of these creatures.

Endless views of coastal forest and sandy beach, Photo credit: Katharina Riebesel

Then there are those words, almost like an instruction manual for your stay at Thonga. Time to switch off, kick those shoes off your feet, put your toes in the sand and… “nethezeka”.

“A civilized distance… from civilization!”

On our final day at Thonga Beach Lodge, we were informed of the Zulu king’s passing earlier that morning. The feeling of despair could be felt in the heartbeat of the ground beneath us. The power that the Zulu culture holds is incredibly fascinating to behold; a nation which enforces their traditions and beliefs which date back to the 1700s. 

Thonga Beach Lodge is found in the national park named “iSimangaliso” which means “miracle and wonder”. The culture embedded in the very ground the lodge is built on, is “heaven” or “iZulu”. So there is no wondering why one feels a sense of peace when staying here. 

This land has been intertwined with history and its people who know the essence of giving back to their land and their future. 

Magical sunset at Lake Sibaya, Photo credit: Katharina Riebesel

The day before we left, we were treated to drinks at sunset, overlooking the mighty Lake Sibaya – one of the activities offered at Thonga Beach Lodge. On the way to the lake, which is less than 30 minutes from the lodge, we passed the local village of Mabibi, where most of the staff live with their families. We traded ocean waves and coastal jungle for green rolling hills, bright yellow mallow (or pavonia praemorsa) thriving in the chalky soil and glowing smiles from the locals emerging from their iQukwane (traditional huts) made up from the very stones found in Lake Sibaya mixed with cement. 

During the Covid-19 lockdown, Thonga Beach Lodge along with the Isibindi Foundation, supported the village with food parcels and heroically renovated the roof of Mabibi Primary School. With the reopening of the school post-pandemic, the return of handmade souvenirs has been widely welcomed by guests (including us) and made Thonga’s gift shop the perfect stop on our way out of paradise. 

Looking for a barefoot paradise in South Africa?

“A civilized distance… from civilization” are the last words you will read as you are leaving Thonga Beach Lodge. I cannot wait to escape civilization again.

Unwind at Thonga Beach Lodge, Photo credit: Katharina Riebesel

Undoubtedly there are many beach destinations around the world to choose from, but when you are travelling to a destination like KwaZulu-Natal you have the perfect opportunity to combine ‘bush & beach’ from safari to white sandy shores without having to cross borders or spend valuable time on long flights. The only question left to ask yourself is: what am I waiting for?


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