A SANCTUARY FOR SPECIES GREAT AND SMALL
Thonga Beach Lodge is located in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, an internationally recognised World Heritage Site that is one of the most biodiverse regions in all of Africa. The 358 534ha and 220kms long reserve is a tropical paradise of crystal clear water, marshland, swamp and coastal forests. Inside the reserve is Lake Sibaya, which has 100km of untouched shoreline and is South Africa’s largest freshwater lake. Hippo and crocodile bask in and around the lakes and the reserve provides a haven for a variety of rare fish, flora and fauna.
There are a number of different turtles found off the coast of Maputuland, but only two of these lay their eggs on the Maputuland coast: the leatherback and loggerhead turtles. Their nesting sites can be found right in front of the lodge, and we are proud to protect these magnificent creatures.
Often having swum the length of the African continent, a mother turtle returns to the same beach every year. Amazingly, her eggs are laid within metres of where she herself emerged as a hatchling. Our Thonga guests can have the privilege of viewing the turtles as they are laying, although we take every precaution to ensure that the turtles are not disturbed.
Thonga Beach Lodge is a twitcher’s paradise, and the area surrounding Thonga Beach Lodge forms one of the most important refuges on the Southern African sub-continent for an array of beautiful birdlife. Estimates of the number of species of birds in the iSimangaliso park vary, but one thing we know for certain is that the different ecosystems allow for diverse birdlife, from terrestrial birds to sea birds, freshwater birds and forest species. Many species of migratory waterfowl and wetland birds also flock to our shores.
The Maputaland region is home to 77 subspecies of birds that are endemic to the area. It is also one of the principal breeding areas in South Africa - 339 bird species are known to breed in the iSimangaliso Park.
Guided birding is available at no additional cost.
HIPPOS + CROCODILES
If you’re thinking of taking a dip in Lake Sibaya, we suggest that you don’t! That “log” on the shore is likely a crocodile, and the “rock” in the water could well be a hippo. Lake Sibaya has the second-highest population of hippos and crocodile in KwaZulu-Natal and is home to around 80 hippos.
Due to their aggressive nature when threatened, hippos are often regarded as one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. They spend most of the hot day in the waters of the lake, coming out at night (often travelling long distances) to graze.
Crocodiles are the largest reptiles on earth. They are amphibious, spending part of their time in water and part on land. The species found in the iSimangaliso area is the Nile Crocodile, which has an average length of 3.5 - 5 metres long. And beware the bite - a crocodile’s bite exerts a force that is eight times stronger than that of a great white shark!
The shallow reefs and rock pools along our protected stretch of coastline are home to an array of brilliant sub-tropical fish including moorish idols, parrot fish, electric rays and blue surgeons. Due to the diversity and abundance of reef fish, Mabibi is regarded as one of the best snorkeling sites in South Africa.
Further ashore, out in the open ocean, is where the game fish are found: stumpnose, giant kingfish, giant wave garrick, pompano, bonefish, and many more.
The warm Indian Ocean supports a myriad of fish and marine life, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park is home to 32 marine mammal species, including southern right whales, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, humpback dolphins and spinner dolphins.
At Thonga Beach Lodge, guests have the chance to get up-and-close with these amazing marine mammals on an open sea adventure. Swimming with dolphins or whale sharks or snorkelling with manta rays and giant turtles is a highlight on anyone’s bucket list!