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Why did we hand pick Royal Thonga?

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  • Beautiful sand forest location in the Tembe Elephant Park, a nature lover's dream
  • Meet the renowned Tusker elephants of the park, or explore the region
  • Authentic bushveld accommodation and on-site restaurant

Royal Thonga

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Price tier (pps): R200  R1500+

Child policy: All ages

37km from Manguzi


-27.0485, 32.4223


Born through a partnership between the local community, private investors and the Royal Tembe Development Foundation, Royal Thonga provides accommodation in chalets sensitively positioned in a pretty sand forest. Built out of natural materials in a style typical of the local Thonga people, the chalets have been imaginatively threaded around the trees, creating a pleasing fusion of indoor luxury and outdoor tranquillity.

The rooms are luxuriously furnished and fitted with comforts such as high-quality linen and tea/coffee facilities. The chalets are kept cool by fans and ample natural shade, and the covered verandahs and decks are great places to enjoy the serenity of the forest while looking out for the many colourful bird species flitting around in the greenery. Bathrooms are equipped with both a bath and shower, and outdoor showers allow further intimacy with the surrounding wilderness. Couples can choose to stay in standard suites with King-size or twin beds, or the particularly romantic and spacious Honeymoon Suite, also offering either King-size or twin beds. For families, the two family suites, which have two spacious bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms with indoor and outdoor showers, are comfortable refuges in which to enjoy precious time together. 

Guests have a choice between bed and breakfast, dinner bed and breakfast or full board catering, and the on-site eHlatini Restaurant serves up an innovative variety of European-African fusion food complemented by the finest South African wines from the cellar.  After a peaceful night's rest perhaps only disturbed by the sounds of nature, guests can wake up bright and early to embark on a guided game drive of the park. The reserve boasts a varied mix of tropical and sub-tropical habitats and is renowned for its huge Tusker elephants, which guests are more than likely to encounter during the drive. A vast range of other wildlife is also on show, including the other iconic Big Five mammals and a dazzling variety of birds. The knowledgeable guides will impart interesting facts about everything you see and hear.

For the rest of the day, guests can enjoy ultimate relaxation in the Mangwanani African Day Spa, go on a guided or unguided walk through the sand forest or embark on various tours of the surrounding areas. These exciting day trips include visits to the nearby unspoilt beaches and estuaries, scuba diving, tiger fishing and canoeing. The Indian Ocean is packed with marine life, providing a perfect setting for dolphin and whale watching, while you can also arrange a tour to witness the amazing site of turtles laying eggs on the beach. 

To complete a fantastic all-round experience, go on a tour of a local village to get a first-hand taste of the Thonga culture.

Rates & Summary

11 Standard Bush Suites

Each sleeps 2 in King-size/twin beds
En-suite shower and outdoor shower
Small lounge
Private deck
Bushveld views

2 Family Suites

Each sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms with King/twin beds
Each bedroom with en-suite shower and outdoor shower
Private deck
Bushveld views

Honeymoon Bush Suite

Sleeps 2 in King-size/twin beds
En-suite shower and outdoor shower
Private deck
Bushveld views


  • For pricing detail, click on CHECK AVAILABILITY & BOOK ONLINE above


B&B, DBB and Full Board options available


Children of all ages are welcome.

Why Stay Here?

Situated in the beautifully diverse Tembe Elephant Park, Royal Thonga offers private, luxurious accommodation in 14 secluded guest chalets, and organises various eco-activities to keep guests thoroughly entertained throughout their stay in the wilderness. Incorporating natural materials and indigenous wood as far as possible, the lodge has been designed to blend into the bush, offering guests an intimate connection with nature while treating them to luxury accommodation tailored to meet various catering needs. Guests will love the tranquillity of the surrounding forest and can expect fantastic game viewing on the daily drives.


  • Beautiful sand forest location in the Tembe Elephant Park, a nature lover's dream
  • Meet the renowned Tusker elephants of the park, or explore the region
  • Authentic bushveld accommodation and on-site restaurant


Set a good distance apart, the chalets are all very privately situated in the bush.

Things to consider Bringing

Sunblock, hat, walking shoes, swimming costume, swimming towels, fishing gear, binoculars for bird /whale watching and dolphin spotting.

Road Conditions

The good gravel approach roads are suitable for all vehicles.

Activities & Attractions

  • Game drives
  • Guided forest walks
  • Spa
  • Nearby: beaches, scuba diving, turtle watching, dolphin and whale watching, butterfly and bat viewing, fishing, canoeing, cultural tours.


Accommodation & Hospitality

  • Lounge
  • Verandah / patio
  • Fan included
  • Bed linen supplied
  • Bathroom towels supplied
  • Daily housekeeping
  • Self-service tea and coffee available
  • No smoking indoors

Catering & Kitchen

  • Breakfast (dinner by arrangement)
  • Restaurant
  • Licensed


  • Water supply good for drinking
  • Electric geysers
  • Eskom electricity

Business & Connectivity

  • Good cell phone reception
  • No conference facilities available

Access & Convenience

  • Child friendly
  • No pets allowed
  • Off street parking
  • Nearest shops further than 50km
  • Nearest fuel further than 50km


  • EFT accepted
  • Cash accepted




Elephant Coast

KwaZulu Natal


On the eastern seaboard of South Africa, the wild country of the Elephant Coast presses up against the Indian Ocean in the east, Mozambique in the north and Zululand to the south and west. Here, the bright lights of the city are nowhere to be seen, replaced by night skies as unpolluted as nature created them.

The area was named for the elephants that once roamed here in great numbers, hunted for their tusks until they had all but disappeared. Luckily this has been turned around and elephants can once again be seen in many of the region’s game reserves, along with the rest of the Big 5.

Made up of extensive commercial farms, private game farms and government game reserves, the Elephant Coast is still relatively untouched by modernity. It incorporates vast expanses of wilderness, including an internationally renowned World Heritage Site, the 328000ha Isimangaliso Wetland Park. It is also home to Africa’s oldest game reserve, the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, founded in 1895.

The area is a must-visit for ecologically minded tourists; there is far more to see than just the two flagship reserves. Fortunate tourists can see the Big 5, scuba dive with whale sharks or manta rays, watch turtles laying their eggs, fish for tigerfish, and ride horses on the beach or through the bush. It’s a region that is rich in diversity.

Ndumo Game Reserve and Tembe Elephant Reserve are both on the border with Mozambique and offer unique experiences for twitchers and pachyderm fans.

Tembe now boasts herds of elephants that are noted for their impressive tusks, and it’s one of the better places in South Africa to get good sightings and photographs of these animals.

Ndumo is best known for its birding. Species such as the narina trogon, palm-nut vulture and green twinspot can be seen in the forests of figs and other beautiful trees. Healthy populations of hippo and crocodile lurk in the pans and rivers.

KosiBay, a reserve protecting a series of shallow coastal lakes and all that lives in and around them, offers excellent fishing. There are also fascinating cultural and wildlife walks and birding opportunities. In season, one can watch turtles as they lay eggs or hatch from them.

Also on the coast is Sodwana Bay, yet another conservation area run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. It’s a mecca for scuba divers and snorkelers from all over the world.

Sodwana holds beneath its waters coral reefs that are home to an estimated 1 200 fish species. These include the prehistoric coelacanth, as well as sharks and other fish.

Lake Sibaya is another attraction, although one that has failed to attain the popularity it deserves. The largest fresh-water lake in South Africa, Sibaya is home to thousands of waterbirds. Game is plentiful along its shores and crocodiles stalk its clear water.

The Jozini, or Pongolapoort, Dam offers a wonderful blend of sport fishing with game viewing. The river itself is also home to healthy populations of tigerfish.

Look out for

Isimangaliso Wetland Park – this World Heritage Site is amazingly diverse and deserves at least a few days of your time. Go for a boat cruise on the estuary, a game drive through the bush, and a hike along the shores of Lake St Lucia.

Sodwana Bay – take advantage of one of the world’s top scuba diving spots. Beginners can go on courses or snorkel; while more experienced divers have a number of reefs to choose from.

Birdwatching – the entire Elephant Coast is home to bountiful birdlife, although there are a few hot spots. The pans of Mkhuze Game Reserve play host to pelicans and all sorts of other birdlife. Over 420 bird species have been recorded in the riverine forest, woodland and savannahs of the park. Ndumo Game Reserve has an even better record, with more than 430 species recorded, the most for anywhere in South Africa. Beautiful, fever tree-lined pans are home to specials such as Pel’s fishing owl, broadbill and black egret.

Fishing – the Elephant Coast’s Jozini Dam is one of the few places in South Africa where anglers can try their luck at landing the tigerfish, one of the most ferocious, toothy fish in the world. If salt-water fishing is preferred, Kosi Bay is a popular and exceptional fishery, while deep-sea charters also operate from St Lucia.

Turtle tours – St Lucia is probably the best place in the country to go on an organised turtle watching tour. While sightings can’t be guaranteed, you have a good chance of seeing leatherback and loggerhead turtles laying eggs or hatching. Community guides at Kosi Bay also offer turtle watching tours that are very worthwhile.

Game view – the Elephant Coast is still home to a healthy population of big tuskers, especially in Tembe Elephant Park. A good sighting of these animals will stay with you for the rest of your life. The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve is internationally famous for saving the white rhino from extinction, and it remains one of the best places in the world to view this docile behemoth. The rest of the Big 5 can also be seen here, along with many other interesting animals.

Hike – while some areas require a guide (especially the Big 5 parks), there are some exceptional walking trails on the Elephant Coast. Almost all game reserves will offer day trails, while a trail with a difference can be enjoyed at Kosi bay. Here you can wander around the Kosi Mouth estuary, inspecting the primitive fish traps and watching locals at work spearing their catch. 

When to go

To Do

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