More than 1,200 species of fish are found on the reefs off Mabibi, including Moorish idols, parrot fish, blue surgeons and marble and manta rays. The warm Indian Ocean waters also attract huge schools of bottlenose dolphin as well as sharks, whale sharks and turtles. Thonga Beach Lodge is the perfect luxury beach resort with a dive centre from which to explore these pristine waters.
Thonga Beach Lodge, which is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, falls within a protected marine reserve. Because of its protected status, the reefs boast shoals of fish that don’t panic when divers approach and are ideal subjects for photographers. The reefs offer a diversity of underwater seascapes including amazing flora, branching, table and plate corals, beautiful overhangs, drop-offs and mushroom-shaped pinnacles.
Conditions are good throughout the year and on a brilliant day visibility can reach up to 25/30m. The weather is typically sub-tropical with water temperatures usually above 20C reaching 28c in summer. Thonga Beach Lodge has the exclusive right to launch a boat from its private beach – a mere 75m from the lodge. The boat is launched at low tide only, through the surf. Guests are actively involved in the launch which can be quite strenuous and adventurous at times and is subject to the normal risks of a surf launch. No children under twelve years.
Thonga Beach Lodge gives guests the opportunity to discover the incredible world beneath the waves. The lodge has a resident Instructor and offers a range of comprehensive scuba diving courses. Considered to be the premier dive site in South Africa, Mabibi is the perfect place for beginner divers. The shallow reefs, some at only 8m, are a gentle introduction to this sport. For the more advanced diver, the deeper reefs (up to 120m) provide an aquatic thrill of a lifetime. Apart from the wonderful scuba diving opportunities, there are also popular snorkeling sites at Mabibi. The lodge’s highly qualified Instructor will accompany guests on all dives and closely supervise you at all times.
Check out the tides at Thonga – boat launches take place within an hour either side of low tide.
At Thonga Beach Lodge there are so many fun activities that paradoxically, you need a strategy to mindfully appreciate each one rather than rushing from one to the next. The days follow the pleasing rhythms of the ocean, and are planned according to the tides. If there is an early low tide, we recommend the Ocean Experience which is an adventurous boat launch and ride out to Gogo’s Reef or one of the spectacular snorkelling or diving spots along the pristine coastline. You may be lucky to pass dolphin on the way, and if they are in a sociable mood, you might be able to swim with these lovely creatures of the sea. Alternatively, sign up for early morning kayaking and glide through the serene Lake Sibaya to the dawn cry of the Fish Eagle.
By the time you return, you will be ready for a buffet and hot a la carte breakfast, cooked to order, which may be eaten outside on the deck in the dappled sun. Don’t forget to book a treatment at the spa, to complement your sensory experience of seaside wellness.
A guided rock pool snorkeling activity is scheduled at low tide for beginners or you may sign up for PADI accredited scuba diving training with one of the Thonga qualified guides. Swimming in the turquoise sea, sunbathing or taking a long beach walk will build up your hunger for a buffet lunch, which you may choose to enjoy any time between 1 and 2:30pm.
In the afternoons there are cultural tours and guided forest walks and be sure to plan these around the delicious baked delicacies offered at afternoon tea. In the late afternoon or early evening you may enjoy your sundowers while watching cormorants tessellate in to roost as the sun sets over Lake Sibaya. Bar snacks and a sumptuous three course dinner may be appreciated along with the cool breeze on the deck or you may arrange a romantic candle-lit dinner by the sea. During turtle nesting and hatching season, moonlit outings on the beach are an experience to remember.
However you choose to spend your days, remember to experience each sensory activity fully, so that although your time here in this paradise will always feel too short, at least this way you will have lived fully every moment of your stay.
Tides – check out the tides at Thonga. Turtle tours take place within an hour either side of low tide in the evenings.