"HALLELUJAH! I was white until today morning, but the afternoon sun turned me black," joked the African Zulu ranger Buselaphi, at Thanda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. While the idea of watching the Big Five in their natural habitat was the calling card of this trip, I was also keen to indulge in African luxury with their unique experiences meticulously designed amongst unparalleled elements of comfort.
After checking in, I was led to my exclusive bush suite. The exterior is designed as a traditional circular Zulu hut; it was the interiors that held me spell-bound. A lounge with wildlife aesthetics, double-sided fireplace, large bedroom, an outdoor shower, a private pool and a deck were few of the luxuries the resort offered.
A short break later, I got into an open-air Toyota Landcruiser with a bunch of wildlife enthusiasts for our late afternoon game drive. The animals kept us busy. We stumbled on a dazzle of zebras and I started looking out for Marty from the Madagascar movie series. On the other side were the long-necked giraffes towering at seven metres.
With maximum votes in the group for the big cats and the rhino, we set off in search of them by tracking their footprints and droppings. Off-roading, Buselaphi took us to a watering hole and killed the engine. We waited for some action behind the bushes. After about ten minutes three white rhinos lumbered up on the other side. We noticed some activity to the right end of the pond. A pride of African lions had woken from their slumber and were busy quenching their thirst.
We returned to the resort for an al fresco dinner of braii or African barbecue under the stars in a boma — an African enclosure.
It was a banquet fit for a king as the Zulu men and women entertained us with folk dances. I slept like a baby and woke up at dawn for an early morning safari. This time around, in the fresh morning air of the wilderness, it was relaxing. We stopped to watch the sunrise. Buselaphi prepared a drink for his guests. It was coffee laced with the African drink Amarula. This nutty caramel-flavoured drink wins hands down against Bailey's Irish Cream. I sat on a boulder watching Mother Earth bathed in the warmth of the sun while nursing my drink. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Where: P450 Bayala Hluhluwe, KwaZulu Natal, 3915, South Africa
How to reach: Fly to Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and take Fly Airlink to Phinda airstrip. It's a 40-minute drive from here.
Wallet: Starting from Rs 20,000/night (Rates are dynamic and vary between seasons)
Call: +27 32 586 0149 https://www.thandasafari. co.za/
* You could also set out on a Zulu cultural experience and African spa through the resort