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It’s rare that we uncover a contemporary bushveld hideaway that is so perfectly positioned in a Big Five game reserve, and this one’s in the heart of historic Zululand. Just over three hours’ drive from King Shaka airport and six hours from Joburg, it’s set in iconic Acacia bushveld on a 23 000ha reserve. Designed by award-winning architect Richard Stretton who was chosen by the owners for his touch-the-earth-lightly philosophy, every aspect is intended to make you feel close to the bush. And it succeeds.

Floor-to-ceiling glass affords views over the deck and pool to the waterhole below and even Ghost Mountain can be seen through the canopy of trees from your bed in the main suite. Part of the Lebombo mountain range in the distance, it’s a mesmerizing horizon in the late-afternoon light as dusk begins to fall. At dawn, sunlight steams into the living areas, making it a wonderfully cocooning space in winter. ‘I wanted to feel like I was sleeping under the stars in the bush so that’s why the whole place can open up,’ says the owner, who used to sleep with the doors open before the lion population increased! Stretton calls it ‘formalised camping’ but we can assure you that it’s nothing of the sort – this is the most comfortable bush home. We love the fact that local artisans crafted the stone walls, and even the Tamboti pillars were upcycled from a dairy farm in Bela Bela.

Manyoni Private Game Reserve is one of the largest privately owned reserves in KwaZulu-Natal with 17 dedicated landowners who dropped their fences in 2004 to create one protected wildlife reserve which then became the focus of the World Wildlife Fund Black Rhino Range Expansion Project. All passionate conservationists, the reserve has seen historic species return and thrive. Today, if you sit quietly on the deck for long enough, the waterhole is likely to be visited by impala, nyala, wildebeest, kudu, zebra, buffalo, and giraffe… and if you’re really lucky, you will be visited by lion, white rhino, black rhino, elephant, cheetah, and leopard.

Expect to find extraordinary diversity here, with a mix of riverine woodland and savannah interspersed with hilly regions. Distinctive Umbrella Thorn Acacias, striking candelabra Euphorbias, massive Marulas, Weeping Boer Bean, Bush Willow, and Tamboti trees dot the reserve along with Knobthorn Acacia forest, all of which is home to over 455 bird species at last count – it’s no surprise then that Manyoni means ‘Place of Birds’ in Zulu.

What we love:

  • Thuleni House is unfenced (apart from a single-strand elephant fence), making this an authentic game experience – even lion and cheetah have been seen near the deck
  • It’s an easy drive from Joburg and Durban, but also close enough to the coast to do a beach and bush combo holiday – especially in July when the coastal temperatures are so much warmer than the chilly Cape
  • That this is a home-away-from-home with all the comforts – good signal but no wifi … but there is DSTV for those who want it on extended stays
  • The fact that King Shaka International Airport is now a non-stop, direct flight away from London Heathrow (Terminal 5) on the new British Airways flights to Durban, starting 29 October 2018. This is the first time Durban has had a non-stop flight to Europe in more than 20 years and there are three flights weekly

Need to know:

  • The Manyoni Private Game Reserve gate is opposite Mkuze and it’s a half hour game drive to the house
  • Ideally, the house sleeps 8 adults and 2 children, or 6 adults and 4 children. There are more beds, but they are there to serve configurations of different families and ages (and especially small children who need to sleep with parents)
  • One game drive is included per day but additional game drives may be booked. Game vehicles seat 10 guests
  • Conservation levy is additional. It is currently R130 per person per night and R65 for children under 12 per child per night

Reviewed by Michelle Snaddon

Facilities

  • 1 x Bedroom (2 bunks & single)
  • 1 x Bedroom (king & single)
  • 2 x Bedrooms (king)
  • 4 x Bathrooms (ensuite)
  • BBQ (Built in)
  • Dishwasher
  • DSTV
  • Fireplace
  • Microwave
  • Nespresso machine
  • No Wifi
  • Pool (not heated & no net)
  • Serviced (daily)
  • Tumble dryer
  • TV
  • Washing machine

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Rates

R12 750 per day off peak (including one three-hour game drive a day)

R15 000 per day peak (Easter, July holidays and Christmas/New Year)

R1 200 per additional game drive

Conservation levy excluded:

R130 per person per night

R65 per child per night for children under 12