More than just a safari


Georgina Lockwood headed to Thanda Safari for a traditional game-viewing experience combined with a cultural exchange

Know before you go

Malaria: the reserve borders on a low-risk malaria area. Medication is not required but mosquito repellent is recommended.
Where to stay: Thanda Tented Camp or Thanda Safari Lodge.
Travelling with kids: Little ones can enjoy the Bucks & Bugs Club while adults relax at the spa.
Airport and landing strips close by: Phinda Airstrip, Richards Bay or King Shaka International Airport in Durban.

Game drives deliver a variety of wildlife. Photo: Stina Petri

Our guide Ephrahim Mathe had his hands full with a game-viewing vehicle of mostly Swedish women and a few South Africans, all of us chatting away like green wood hoopoes – in isiZulu the birds are known as iNhlekabafazi, which means ‘cackling women’.

This is the beauty of an African safari – you make friends with your fellow safari-goers. Our conversation drifted from the rise of Swedish stars like Academy Award-winning actress Alicia Vikander from The Danish Girl and Tarzan actor Alexander Skarsgård to the celebrated children from Star for Life.

Star for Life is a Swedish-based NGO that works with schools to focus on developing children’s life skills, creativity and wellbeing, while also teaching them about sexual and reproductive health, HIV/Aids and other relevant health issues. Anki Elken, the newly appointed secretary general of Star for Life, joined the safari-goers at Thanda.

Stars for Life. Photo: Stina Petri

As part of the cultural exchange between Sweden and South Africa, we learnt Swedes are extremely punctual, while South Africans prefer to do things in ‘African time’, according to Mathe. During the safari we referred to sundowners as fika, the Swedish word for a tea break with biscuits. The word also applied to ‘tea breaks’ that involved gin and tonic.

In between the discussions and debate, we enjoyed superb game-viewing. While watching a female cheetah stalk impala, two male cheetahs gave chase to a herd of giraffe across a distant plain, ruining the female’s hunt and causing utter chaos as the giraffe stampeded. Irate zebras arrived on the scene, which in turn led to the question: why do zebras have stripes? Interestingly, it was a Swedish study that confirmed zebra stripes confuse flies.


Stopping for a traditional Swedish fika during the game drive. Photo: Stina Petri

Mathe showed us the most useful tree in Zululand when it comes to outdoor hygiene: the isifice, otherwise known as the white raisin bush (Grewia bicolor). The sap from the tree makes excellent chewing gum to freshen the breath, as well as a scrumptious-smelling soap.

On the accommodation front, Thanda Safari ticked every box. The camp is spread out and spacious, and honeycomb-shaped tents are light and airy, perfect for an afternoon nap. A key feature of the rooms is the Narnia-like wardrobe that leads to the bathroom.

When you are not stopping for a fika on a game drive, there are three Thanda-licious meals a day in the main area. Visit for more information.

Where in the world?

Thanda Safari is a privately owned Big Five game reserve about 50 minutes from Hluhluwe in northern KwaZulu-Natal.


Written by Georgina Lockwood

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