Family Visit & Review of Thonga Beach Lodge

Recently I was able to stay with my family at both Thonga Beach Lodge, a South Africa beach resort in northern KwaZulu Natal,  and then at White Pearl Resort, a Mozambique resort only 30-40km to north over the Mozambiquan border.

Firstly I must say that I enjoyed staying at both lodges but it’s important to note that they would suit quite different people.  This blog post focuses on Thonga…

Thonga Beach Lodge

Thonga is the original eco-lodge in Maputaland – a stylish relaxed lodge on the shores of the secluded Mabibi Bay. I really like the relaxed vibe  here. The staff are all friendly, competent and confident. You can see that the staff  have been there for a while and have developed a relaxed affability with guests which works really well. (For example my sons made friends with the barman who delighted them with endless card tricks and even showed them the tricks of the trade for a couple…)

South Africa beach resort - Thonga Beach LodgeThonga Beach Lodge is a small beach lodge and the Natal Parks authorities were adamant that the local bush would remain as untouched as possible. This means that when you are walking along the beach, you can hardly see the lodge at all, as it is tucked in amongst the trees. However this also means that only 5 of the 12 rooms actually have sea views from the room. The rest have more of a forest view. Personally this didn’t really hassle me as you spend much of your day at the beach, either relaxing or snorkeling but it’s worth pointing out as some people do want to be able to lie in bed and see the sea (in which case mention this to us when booking).

What I also like about Thonga is that they have a range of excursions on offer. I recommend the Ocean Experience which is a whale-watching and snorkeling excursion by boat. But you also a daily guided (or self-guided) snorkeling trip -  which is accessible from the beach – as well as sundowner drinks on Lake Sibaya,  early morning canoeing on lake Sibaya and local village visits. Most of these (except the Ocean experience), are complimentary so you feel that you get a real sense of the area and not just a beach holiday.  Additional (paid) activities include scuba diving, the Ocean experience, PADI dive courses, spa treatments and turtle tracking in season (see a later post coming soon). There is a giant chalk board at the breakfast area where you sign up for whatever activities you want to do – so it has a relaxed easy vibe…

It is fair to say that it does not feel like a ‘beach resort’ nor is it as smart as White Pearl Resorts (which I shall review next). The rooms, though very pleasant and spacious, are not as luxurious, and overall it has a more rustic ‘barefoot luxury’ feel about it, whereas White Pearl is more The Hamptons come to Mozambique…

south africa beach resort - Thonga Beach LodgeIt is also much smaller than White Pearl – if you were staying for a long period of time, like a week for example, you might feel a little claustrophobic as the main areas are quite small. Though there is an upstairs reading room that you can retreat to as well. However you do have miles upon miles of beach to roam…

The food at Thonga Beach Lodge was consistently good and they also offered a kids option for younger visitors. They are happy to accept kids and can offer babysitters for guests who wanted to have some adult time alone (or who wanted to go diving or snorkeling). These minders are happy to build sandcastles with them or take them for a walk so your children are not couped up in a room. However because it is a small lodge, it never felt overrun with kids and so would be suitable for couples, even honeymooners, or families. If you want an organized kids centre, then Thonga Beach Lodge is not right for you.

All in all – thoroughly recommended, except if you really want more of a South Africa beach resort experience, check out my next post on  White Pearl Resort

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...

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