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REVIEW: Thula Thula Private Game Reserve

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About 2 hours and some change North of Durban lies Thula Thula Private Game Reserve. The 4500 ha of sprawling Zululand bush is said to be the oldest game reserve in Kwazulu Natal. Having read The Elephant Whisperer, I was beyond thrilled to be visiting Thula Thula, to meet Francoise Malby Anthony and the herd. To make the trip even more exciting was the fact that it was my boyfriend’s birthday and his first encounter with elephants!

We arrived at the reception where we left our car and jumped into a game vehicle with two rangers. They loaded up our bags and we took off along the bumpy, bush road. The rangers didn’t waste any time imparting their knowledge, pointing out critters and creatures of the bush as we made our way to our accommodation
The Luxury Tented Camp was our home for the first night, it was ‘glamping’ on a whole new level! We were greeted with welcome drinks and shown to our mini mansion tent where our luggage had been delivered for us. The king sized bed draped in beautiful netting was the room’s centrepiece. To the left was the bathroom featuring an open air shower and ball and claw bath tub overlooking the bush.

After a delicious lunch by the bar, we cheered our first G&T of the weekend and got ready for an afternoon game drive. Our party was made up of a great mix of people, Swiss, German and a French, which made for great meet and greet conversation. The reserve is home to the big four: Rhino, Buffalo, Leopard, and of course the famous Elephants which accepted Thula Thula as their home and Lawrence Anthony as their friend. Thula is also one of the largest natural breeding grounds for the White-backed Vulture, which were circling the sky. I couldn’t put my camera down as there was so much to see and capture as we trundled along the dirt road.

Our game rangers stopped the vehicle next to the watering hole where we watched a family of hippos with the cutest little new born calf, Chocolat. A cooler box was brought out and each person was offered their drink of choice without having to be asked. I wondered how they knew that G&T’s were my favorite and then I remembered that’s what I had ordered at lunch. The attention to detail from the staff was outstanding!

All visitors sat under the stars that night and dined together, the mix of traditional South African flavor and French cuisine brought in by Francoise, was marvelous. Francoise mingled with the guests at the bar and to my delight brought with her a signed copy of “The Elephant Whisperer” for me to keep. We chatted about the reserve and the antics that went on, some of which she has detailed in her new book “An Elephant in my Kitchen” which will be released in SA in September. Dinner was served and we were treated to exquisite lamb curry and mouth watering side dishes accompanied by Spotted Dog red wine. We were excited to sleep under canvas and really feel at one with nature. With only 8 tents we felt isolated in the bush, it was the best sleep I’d had in ages!

The next morning we were up with the sun and off on a bush walk with our rangers, leaving the security of the tented camp behind, I felt safe in the knowledge that our guides were experts. We learned to identify animals by their spoor or scat and were challenged to a Bokdrol Spoeg kompetise which literally translates into dung spitting competition! We laughed till our tummies hurt at the faces everyone made trying to spit dried dung across the road into a hat – I don’t think it’s a sport I’m ever going to excel at!

Later in the day, we moved from the tented camp to the Luxury Elephant Safari Lodge, where we had our own private chalet and veranda overlooking the bush. We embarked on our second game drive of the trip and were absolutely spoilt at the sight of the herd of elephants playing and swimming in the watering hole. Their shenanigans were blissful to watch, play fighting and trumpeting like children, it was a truly magical experience!

 

As if that wasn’t enough, we were invited to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to watch the release of Lucy, the little Duiker. The team from Four Paws Austria including the CEO were also in attendance at the auspicious occasion. Francoise addressed the crowd and mentioned that the volunteers camp attached to the rehabilitation center is due to open mid April and will be called Thula Thula Volunteers Academy. Such exciting times for Thula Thula!

That evening we dined around the boma, the Elephant Safari Lodge served fine dining in the bush, it was quite something to experience. After the meal, the staff came out with a beautifully decorated cake singing happy birthday to my boyfriend. We were truly blown away by the attention to detail and care that had gone into our trip, and couldn’t have asked for a better ending.

Thank you for having us!
You can find out more about the reserve at www.thulathula.com and book a bush weekend away for yourselves through info@thulathula.com

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REVIEW: The Beverly Hills Hotel, Umhlanga

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WE MADE OUR WAY DOWN UMHLANGA ROCKS DRIVE WITH THE WINDOWS DOWN AND THE WIND IN OUR HAIR, MY BOYFRIEND AND I WERE GIDDY WITH EXCITEMENT ABOUT OUR STAY AT THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL. THE MUSIC WAS BLARING AND WE SANG ALONG AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS:

“Beverly Hills

That’s where I want to be

Livin’ in Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills

Rollin’ like a celebrity” – Weezer

This became the soundtrack for the rest of the weekend, firstly because it’s catchy as anything and secondly because we really were treated like celebrities. That’s not to say that we were given special treatment, everyone received the same standard of genuine, attentive care from the Beverly Hills staff.

Turning the volume down we pulled into the drive of the hotel, the valet greeted us and ushers unloaded our bags. We were shown to the check in desk where we chatted about where we came from and what we could look forward to this weekend while we waited for a room key. Check in was quick and painless and with a glass of champagne in hand we were given the grand tour of South Africa’s first 5 star hotel.

The opulent decor is reminiscent of old world charm with tasteful modern touches, the array of orchids in the lobby below the spiral staircase are something to marvel at, I’m not sure if anyone struggles to keep those things alive but I take my hat off to anyone who can. The layout flows through the lobby to the landing with the lounge to your left and the Sugar Club restaurant to your right, which opens up to a beautiful 180 degree wrap around deck where you can enjoy your meals in the sunshine overlooking the pool and Indian ocean.

THE TOUR OF THE HOTEL CONCLUDED AT OUR TASTEFULLY DECORATED, SPACIOUS ROOM. EACH OF THE 89 BEAUTIFULLY APPOINTED ROOMS HAS A PRIVATE BALCONY AND UNINTERRUPTED VIEWS OF THE OCEAN. WE SAT ON THE BALCONY TAKING IT ALL IN, MY BOYFRIEND, LEWIS, OPENED OUR COMPLIMENTARY BOTTLE OF WINE AND WE CHEERSED TO A GREAT WEEKEND.

With Durban on the brink of winter we were thrilled about the heated pool, despite the sunny days the water can be a tad chilly. Before our trip my grandpa told us a story of the time his company, Sprite Caravans put a GT fiberglass caravan in the pool back in the 1960’s. I tried to image a mobile holiday home with a motor on the back floating around the pool with Miss Universe on the top while we paddled around.

The pool area is the perfect spot to lounge around, order cocktails and just enjoy the sunshine all day long, and guests can indulge in spa treatments when not in the pool.

THE BEVERLY HILLS HAS TWO RESTAURANTS, ONE BEING ELEMENTS CAFÉ BAR WHICH OFFERS ECLECTIC INFORMAL DINING, LIGHT SNACKS, AND A SELECTION OF COCKTAILS AND THE OTHER, THE SUGAR CLUB RESTAURANT THAT BOASTS A DISTINGUISHED AND ELEGANT DINING EXPERIENCE.

Lewis and I enjoyed a romantic dinner for two at the Sugar Club. Every course wowed us but dessert took the cake! We ordered crepe suzette to share and were thoroughly entertained when presented with the task of flambeing our own crepes on a trolley brought to the table.

We practically floated back to our rooms perfectly content with the evening, the door opened and to our surprise room service had done up our bed with swan towels and rose petals, it’s the little extra efforts that really leave an impression on you.

The next morning we took a stroll to the mall in Pearls of Umhlanga. The hotel’s location is perfect for those wanting to go out and explore Umhlanga, as there is so much within walking distance. Upon our return to the hotel we were greeted with a warm “welcome home” from the doorman, and to our delight we were invited to High Tea. I almost ran upstairs dragging Lewis behind me to find the perfect outfit, I decided to go with my favorite off the shoulder dress from Zip Code for the occasion.

High Tea was everything I was hoping for and more! We walked into the room and didn’t know where to start. There were two sections, a savory and a sweet, both piled high with delectable homemade treats. The waiters were attentive and chatty, offering tea, champagne or beverages and letting us in on their favorite items on the menu.

Each month there is a new theme for guests to enjoy and even dress up to. While sipping our tea we chatted with the waiter about which celebrities and royals had stayed in the hotel over the years since the Beverly Hills opened its doors in 1964, it was amazing to think about the history and the heritage of the hotel.

We were blown away from the minute we walked through the doors, and the experience exceeded our expectations. Even though I live in the Durban area, staying at The Beverly Hills Hotel still felt like we were on holiday, I can highly recommend booking your next getaway here.

Address: 1 Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga, Durban, 4320

Cell: 031 561 2211

Email: tsogosunhotels.contactus@tsogosun.com

www.tsogosun.com/beverly-hills

 



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