Zululand Marine & Big 5 Adventure


10 Nights

Starting from

51335.00 p.p.

A spectacular tour of the unspoilt marine and wildlife of the Zulu Kingdom.

South Africa is probably best recognised for scenic Cape Town and the wildlife treasure trove that is the Kruger Park. This trip is, however, focused on exploring the KwaZulu Natal province, a gem of unspoilt ecosystems, nature reserves and the home to the Zulu and Tsonga tribes. This tour of the Zulu Kingdom has been designed to offer an intoxicating mix of luxury lodges, rich cultural immersion in Zulu heritage, active participation in rhino conservation and pristinely preserved UNESCO listed wetlands, marine parks and wildlife sanctuaries.  

Ticks for your bucket list:

  • Visit a UNESCO listed wetland park
  • Visit traditional Zulu villages
  • Swim with dolphins and whale sharks
  • Snorkel with manta rays
  • Visit a Zulu witch doctor
  • Watch hatching turtles run to the see
  • Go on big five game drives
  • Take part in rhino conservation
  • Visit the Dolphin Coast
  • Visit the home of King Shaka Zulu

The Zulu people are probably South Africa’s best-known tribe and with good reason. Under Shaka Zulu the tribe became a notorious warrior nation which fiercely resisted the colonial advances with great success. Even during the apartheid years, the Zulu Kingdom retained its rich cultural heritage and managed to live lives true to its traditions and customs in close harmony with nature. 
As a result, much of KwaZulu Natal remains a tropical wonderland with undisturbed ecosystems. This includes the Wild Coast in the south of the province, but the focus of this trip is on the North coast of the province which is home to the UNESCO listed iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This spectacular park stretches along more than 280km of shoreline and encompasses no less than 16 marine, wetland, and game reserves, sanctuaries and parks. 

This trip has been designed to take visitors across the entire length of this park down to Umhlanga Rocks, a resort town at the edge of the vibrant port city of Durban. En-route, guests will stay at three of the best luxury lodges in the region each with a distinct flavour and set of activities to enjoy. 

Thonga Beach Lodge is set on one of Africa’s most unspoilt wilderness beaches, and its crystal clear warm water offers South Africa’s best snorkelling and scuba experiences. Here you will have the chance to swim along with dolphins, whale sharks, manta rays and a spectacular explosion of life amongst the reefs.  

Phinda Lodge is situated on an impressive private reserve which offers big 5 game viewing experiences, as well as a rhino conservation activities. And your final stop, Oyster Box is situated in Umhlanga Rocks on the Dolphin Coast. Given the name, it should come as no surprise that the area is renowned for the large pods of dolphins who frolic in the ocean just beyond the break. 

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Day 1.  Head to the UNESCO listed iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Thonga Beach Lodge


Bed & Breakfast

Your first day sees you heading for Thonga Beach Lodge in the Maputuland Marine Protected Area, in the northern part of the iSimangalo Wetland Park. The park extends almost 280km down the coast starting from the Mozambique border in the north. Thonga Beach Lodge is set on the pristine stretch of the Maputuland Coast. This area of outstanding natural beauty encompasses coastal forests, grasslands, bush, shimmering lakes and crystal-clear warm ocean. Thonga Beach Lodge is a small and exclusive haven consisting of only 12 thatched bush suites with either ocean or forest views. Deluxe Ocean View suites also come with private plunge pools. On your first day, we suggest settling in, exploring the spectacular natural setting or relax with a massage at the spa to unwind from your journey.

Included: Bed and breakfast​
Optional extra: Spa treatments

Day 2.  Swim with dolphins, whale sharks and manta rays.

Thonga Beach Lodge

Ocean Experience

Bed & Breakfast

Thonga Beach Lodge offers a vast choice in activities to immerse yourself in pristine wilderness and marine conservation areas. The Open Ocean Experience is a firm favourite amongst guests. The starting point is an exciting launch through the surf right in front of the lodge and takes you beyond the breakers to a world of dolphins, whales, whale sharks and the many other creatures that are supported by the warm ocean water. Adventurous guests sometimes have the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins, whale sharks, or snorkel above manta rays and giant turtles. In the afternoon guests can go on a guided forest walk and learn more about the fauna and flora of the forest dunes from an expert guide. In the evening guests can enjoy dinner on the al fresco dining deck or the beach deck. With the lodge far removed from big towns and cities, dinner also provides an excellent stargazing opportunity. 

Included: Bed and breakfast, guided forest walk
Optional extra: Open Ocean Experience

Day 3.  Snorkel the local pools or scuba in the deep

Thonga Beach Lodge

Cultural Tour

Bed & Breakfast

Scuba diving in this area is most often described as phenomenal, with reefs located just a short distance from the lodge. There is a professional diving team in residence at the lodge who can accommodate anyone from the absolute novice to expert divers. More than 1,250 fish species can be found in the warm water around these reefs. To put that in context the entire Great Barrier Reef is home to 1,500 species. Dives take place in a protected marine area and are exclusively available to Thonga guests. Those wishing to keep their feet firmly planted on terra firma can go on a cultural tour of the local Mabibi community with a visit to school, clinic, a local homestead, and a visit to a Sangoma or witch doctor as they are known locally.  

Included: Bed and breakfast, guided snorkelling
Optional extras: Scuba diving, cultural tour

Day 4.  See hatchlings dash for the ocean

Thonga Beach Lodge

Turtle tracking

Bed & Breakfast

Between November and February each year the area becomes home to one of nature’s greatest spectacles when pre-historic Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles arrive in the area to lay their eggs, and of course the magnificent sight of tens of thousands of hatchlings emerging from their eggs and making a dangerous dash for the ocean. Nocturnal walks and drives are taken with great care to ensure that these activities do not disturb these magnificent creatures. All data collected on walks and drives are shared with the Ezemvelo Turtle Monitoring program. Turtle walks are available three days a week, and nightly turtle tracking by 4x4 take place every evening. 

Included: Bed and breakfast, guided turtle walks
Optional extra: Nigh time turtle tracking

Day 5.  Go on a big 5 game drive

Phinda Mountain Lodge

Game Drive

Full Board

Today you will depart Thonga Beach Lodge and head to Phinda Mountain Lodge. This stunning property from andBeyond has wraparound views of the ancient Ubombo mountain range and is situated on a private nature reserve covering more than 28,000 hectares. Phinda is a big 5 reserve and is renowned for regular sighting of the elusive Cheetah and the rare black rhino, and guides take great care to focus on tracking the animals which are of most interest to guests. The guides also share a wealth of knowledge not only about the behaviour of the animals, but about their history and habitats. The lodge itself consists of 24 rooms scattered along the mountainside with spacious verandas and private plunge pools. Delicious Pan African meals are enjoyed in the dramatic stone and reed boma, lit by the warm glow of dozens of candles and lanterns. With early morning, late afternoon and evening game drives guests are spoilt for choice as far as the opportunity to see wildlife in their natural habitat goes.  

Included: Full board and all game drives

Day 6.  Take part in a rhino conservation activity

Phinda Mountian Lodge

Rhino Conservation

Full Board

On your 6th day, you will take part in what is truly a once in a lifetime experience; tracking and tagging the endangered black rhino. Guests get to play an active role in the conservation of this endangered species. This adventure allows guests to witness the capture and darting of either a black or a white rhino. A wildlife vet will locate and dart the rhino from the vantage point of a helicopter, while the guests and ground crew will follow in open 4x4 safari vehicles. Once darted, the veterinary team will notch the sleeping animal’s ear for research and security monitoring, as well as insert a microchip into the horn, enabling researchers to identify different rhino on the reserve correctly. Groups of up to eight guests can participate in this conservation initiative and have the never-to-be-repeated opportunity of touching the anaesthetised giant during the notching procedure.

Included: Full board and all activities

Day 7.  Tour an authentic Zulu Village

Phinda Mountain Lodge

Cultural Tour

Full Board

Guests will be taken on a tour of a local Zulu community to meet and interact with the friendly Zulu people. A guide will escort you through the community providing a prime opportunity to learn more about the fascinating Zulu culture, their customs, beliefs and traditions. You will have the chance to enter a traditional homestead and observe the daily routines and lifestyle of a rural Zulu family. You will also get the opportunity to visit a highly respected local Sangoma (witch doctor/traditional healer) who will explain the wonders of Zulu ancestry which forms the basis of their spiritual belief. The tour ends with a stop the Mbhedula Craft Market, where the beautiful handiwork of 43 Zulu crafters is showcased. It’s a great place to find that perfect souvenir of your time spent with the Zulu people.

Included: Full board and all activities

Day 8.  Track black rhino on a walking safari

Phinda Mountain Lodge

Rhino Tracking

On the final day at Phinda, guests can choose between a photographic safari, where an expert photographic guide takes you out on a specially equipped vehicle which ensures that you will get the shot of a lifetime. Alternatively, guests can go on a walking safari to track the black rhino with an expert ranger who will teach you to follow rhino tracks, recognise rhino middens and scratching posts, and read the signs of the bush in search of these magnificent creatures. 

Included: Full board and all activities

Day 9.  Head to the Oyster Box for a feast of dining

Oyster Box


Oyster Bar

Today you will leave for The Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, a coastal resort town on the outskirts of Durban. Standing proud on Umhlanga’s beachfront, overlooking the historical Umhlanga lighthouse, The Oyster Box has long been one of South Africa’s best-loved and most distinguished hotels. This 86-room hotel is renowned for its generous hospitality, attentive service and exceptional cuisine. The elegant rooms, decorated with antiques, feature private balconies (many with sea views). Located on the dolphin coast, this hotel is ideally positioned to observe the pods of dolphins playing just on the other side of the breakers. The hotel is a foodie’s dream and promises a day of out of the ordinary culinary experiences starting with the Chef’s Table for lunch, an unmissable opportunity to take a front-row seat with Executive Chef, Kevin Joseph. Here you can enjoy the drama of the kitchen as the full-service mode unfolds and the chefs prepare a delicious 5 course paired menu before your eyes. In the evening we suggest you dine at the Oyster Bar in the hotel which specialises in champagne and oysters freshly harvested from the hotel’s own oyster beds. 

Included: Bed and breakfast
Optional extras: Chef’s Table, Oyster Bar

Day 10.  Spend the day at Shaka Zulu’s home

Oyster Box

Cultural Tour

Zulu Feast

On your final day, you will have the opportunity to drive to Eshowe in the Nkwalini Valley to visit Shakaland, the original site which was home to Shaka and the Zulu Kingdom during this reign. The drive will take you up the dolphin coast and inland to Zululand. Here you will be able to participate in and experience a cultural programme of Zulu traditions which includes spear making, hut building, pottery and weaving. You will be enthralled and dazzled by a spectacular dance show and enjoy a taste of Zulu beer before sitting down to a traditional Zulu meal while being entertained by traditional singing and dancing before returning to Umhlanga. 

Included: Bed and breakfast
Optional extra: Tour of Shakaland

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382 Jan Smuts Avenue, Randburg, 2196, Johannesburg
+27 10 900 4323 | +27 82 652 1513

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