iSimangaliso Wetland Park is known for its spectacular wildlife sightings, an extensive lake system and some of the most beautiful beaches in all of South Africa.
While Sodwana Bay is the most popular of the beaches in the park, we opted to spend a few days in a more remote location – a tiny town of Mabibi Beach, located just north of Sodwana Bay.
Our home for our few nights in this beautiful destination was Thonga Beach Lodge, a luxury beach resort nestled on the edge of the forest and the beach.
About the Lodge
Tucked away at the end of a bumpy road in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the Thonga Beach Lodge is surrounded by blue waters on one side and thick forest on the other.
The lodge consists of 12 thatched eco-sensitive rooms, a restaurant and bar, as well as a pool and is located just steps away from a beautiful sandy beach.
To our delight, upon arrival, we found out that the lodge is also equipped with a marine centre and offers snorkelling and SCUBA diving on-site.
This iSimangaliso Wetland Park accommodation offers 12 rooms, made of thatch, reeds, and wood. Each room sits on a raised platform and offers ocean or forest views.
The rooms are spacious, equipped with a double bed with a mosquito net and an open plan ensuite bathroom with double vanity, separate shower and toilet. Each room also has air conditioning, overhead fans, minibars, tea & coffee making facilities, safe and hair dryers.
We found the rooms to be simple but comfortable, offering a lovely stay.
Food & Drink
We were pleasantly surprised by the meals at Thonga Beach Lodge. Most were served al fresco, either on the dining deck or the beach deck.
Breakfast was served buffet-style in the dining room, where there was also a coffee and tea station available throughout the day. The buffet had a wide selection of fresh fruits, cereals, baked goodies and a couple of hot specials.
Lunch and dinner were included in the price of the stay on a full-board basis. The menu changed daily but featured a nice selection of vegetarian dishes, as well as fish and meat options.
Our favourite part of the food and drink experience at Thonga Beach Lodge was the happy hour at the on-site bar. Every day at around 5-6pm delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks were served at the bar and guests mingled around the lounge area exchanging travel stories and making plans for the following days.
Despite being so remote, the lodge offered plenty of activities in the surrounding iSimangaliso Wetland Park, many of which were available free of charge.
Kayaking on Lake Sibaya was one of our favourites. It offered an opportunity to explore the lake on our own terms. In the afternoons, the lodge also offered lakeside sundowners, an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful sunset and a few drinks on the shore and a chance to see hippos or crocs in the water.
Turtle tracking is another popular activity, available just an hour and a half drive from the lodge. As is bird watching. The unique flora attracts birds you won’t see anywhere else in the world. You can see plenty of them on your own, or on a guided forest walk.
If you’re interested in learning more about the local culture, then a guide from the Tsonga community will take you to see a local homestead, clinic, and school to see how their day-to-day lives play out.
Mabibi Beach happens to be one of the best places for snorkelling and diving in iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Maputaland coast is one of the most popular spots for fishing. We had an opportunity to dive at the Thonga Beach house reef during our stay and were pleasantly surprised by the richness of marine life and coral reef beneath the surface.
Cementing its place as one of the best beach resorts in South Africa, the Thonga Beach Lodge is known for being not only luxurious, but also good for the environment. The lodge is built with all-natural materials and is designed to have a minimal impact on the ecosystem around it. Much of the food served on site is sourced locally, as are many other supplies found on site.
As with all Isibindi Africa Lodges, preservation and conservation are also huge concerns, with funds going to support local communities and wildlife.
The Bottom Line
Thonga Beach Lodge is a wonderful simple luxury accommodation option inside iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It offers guests an opportunity to enjoy the ocean, the Sibaya Lake, and the nearby forest – all the many reasons for a few days in the small local community of Mabibi Beach.
Disclaimer: Our stay at Thonga Beach Lodge was provided courtesy of Isibindi Africa Lodges, but as always all opinions expressed in this article are our own.