You’re surrounded by lush, riverine forest as the early morning sun fingers between the trees, and birdsong filters through the forest to welcome the new day. Beyond are savannah plains where cheetah and antelope roam, amidst the Big Five and endangered wild dogs. Now imagine this enchanting safari experience built on the ethos of ‘do no harm’ and practised with conscience. It makes for a truly authentic, magnificently memorable and sustainable green safari, sans any rough edges. Rhino Sands in the Manyoni Private Game Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal is this place: gentle, ethical, thoroughly beautiful and truly unforgettable.
Small and deeply personal, Rhino Sands is special on so many levels. Here the pace is purposefully slower and days are unfettered to encourage immersion with the surrounding environment. It’s entirely about enjoying the bush and making good memories with loved ones; an ideal chance to disconnect from the harried life, and reconnect with yourself. It’s just so easy when you’re here.
Rhino Sands is also built on metaphorical rock. It’s family owned and run by passionate conservationists, who have personally worked with rhino for decades. You could say they had a rhino romance, since it’s exactly how they met and married. But their passion is for all wild creatures and balanced ecosystems, and this is lived daily through their ongoing work in the reserve. It’s precisely because of this that on game drives guests see cheetah regularly, along with both black and white rhino.
This coveted bush escape is only available to eight guests, then it’s full house. Your stay will be personal and exclusive, also refreshingly unpretentious and with sublime service. The Meru-style tented accommodation is nostalgically romantic and reminiscent of East African safaris of yesteryear. Touches from around the African continent are used in new ways through decor, and so a canvas stretcher becomes a coffee table. There’s the classic safari feel throughout, with a nod to contemporary elements, making for a luxury stay, closely connected to nature. Each tented suite also has a private deck for chill time and a cool plunge pool for balmy summer days.
Dinner may be under the stars in the riverbed, around a roaring fire in the boma or even on the deck – depending on the weather and the season. Cuisine is South African inspired, but chef Jason has great latitude to create whatever his guests are keen to taste. So the menu is seasonal, ever changing and tailor made for guests’ preferences. One more thing that’s possible in this small, personal, passionately run safari lodge.
What we love
- the eclectic décor that showcases Africa – from Zimbabwean Batonga stools to Kenyan Maasai blankets as knee rugs
- everything being under canvas and on wooden decks to ensure minimal environmental impact
- that the lodge treads so lightly on the environment and also serves organic tea and coffee and wine produced using biodynamic methods. Amenities are also biodegradable and organic
- the relaxed, personal, unpretentious atmosphere coupled with exquisite luxury and attention to detail
- that you are surrounded by lush forest with the river running past close by
- the sense of balance from a reserve that is harmonious and well managed
- a device-free zone to encourage guests to live in the moment and make memories.
Need to know:
- Children over 13 are most welcome, children of all ages are welcome with exclusive use of the lodge
- Tents are designed for optimal air flow and there are also fans
- The lodge is solar powered
- There are energy-efficient electric blankets for use in winter
- Summers are hot and winters have mild days with cold nights
- It’s 3 hours’ drive from Durban airport; 90 minutes from Richard’s Bay or 30 minutes from the private airstrip
- Malaria risk is low
Reviewed by Keri Harvey