Few places on earth are as untouched as the Elephant Coast – a 190km stretch along the Eastern Coast of South Africa, from Maphelane Beach all the way to the Mozambican border. Desolate beaches and waterways unspoiled by change allow nature to run wild and free, creating a rare experience in a world overrun with concrete jungles and man-made structures.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site a decade ago, those who do reside in the unspoiled area are progressive conservationists who aim to bring a fresh brand of passionate, sustainable-driven tourism to the area. Explore the flat wetlands, dense sand forests and remote shoreline with our where-to-stay guide.
Makakatana Bay Lodge
Part of the iSimanagaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site, Makakatana Bay Lodge is set on the banks of Lake St Lucia. With wilderness beaches, vast wetlands and populated game reserves, the lodge offers all-round access to some of Africa’s most beautiful features. With a rich heritage, Makakatana Bay Lodge has been around since 1918 when it housed an old concrete blockhouse used for storing crabs (now crumbling under the grip of a strangler fig tree) explaining Makakatana’s logo of a crab. With a pared down, timber-focused aesthetic, each room reflects the simplicity of the Elephant Coast without detracting from the unfettered surrounds. The neutral colour palette is updated with touches of gold to create a luxurious feel, while plush red in some of the rooms offers a more glamorous aesthetic. With it’s four-star rating, Makakatana Bay Lodge offers an oasis of comfort in the wilderness it calls home.
Book your stay makakatana.co.za.
Phinda Forest Lodge
Phinda Private Game Reserve
In a calming atmosphere of Zulu zen and towering Torchwood trees, Phinda Forest Lodge provides a patent sense of seclusion – in spite of the floor to ceiling glass walls of each suite. Set in a rare and beautiful sand forest, these glass walls offer a sweeping view of one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. One of the world’s first eco-designed luxury lodges, the modern interiors emphasise the overgrown wildness outside, setting the stage for the main event of any visit: the wildlife. Waking up to rustling forest sounds, bird song and leaf-filtered light gives a pervading sense of peace and calm that will set the tone for your stay.
Book your stay andbeyond.com.
Thanda Safari Lodge
Owned by the same group as Villa iZulu, which has multiple luxury travel awards, Thanda Safari Lodge is known as one of the more sophisticated places to stay in this part of the world. With private plunge pools and decks, each exclusive-use bush suite provides luxury and comfort while still maintaining the feel of a secret hideaway. Each suite is a tribute to abundance – Africa-style – with a warm rustic colour palette of coppers, musty reds and burnt orange (decor lovers note the colourful African beading, artwork and furniture reflecting the burning backdrop of the African sun). With these rich colours and proud display of African decor, Thanda Safari Lodge embraces the charisma and power of Zulu culture.
Book your stay thanda.com.
Thonga Beach Lodge
Thonga Beach Lodge is in the Coastal Forest Reserve perched on the forested sand dunes, giving it panoramic views of the ocean below. In contrast to the luxury of Thanda Safari Lodge, Thonga has a more laid-back, blissful rhythm to it. A neutral palette is broken only by the blue of splash pools decorating its timber decks, while raffia-thatched roofs are reminiscent of simple living. Robinson Crusoe goes percale in the eco-sensitive huts, where minimalist spaces are given texture by natural accents and white linen.
Book your stay thongabeachlodge.co.za.
Kosi Forest Lodge
Leaving the beach and delving into the forest that borders the coastline, Kosi Forest Lodge is located in a sand forest on the shores of a series of lakes, providing calm and tranquility. Beneath a canopy of trees that boasts an impressive Zulu podberry, this secluded camp has a notably romantic and down-to-earth feel. Although small, the eco-lodge is crafted to provide luxury while still keeping as close to nature as possible, from a private outdoor bath to chalets that feature four-poster beds decorated safari-style – with traditional furnishing linking back to when Portuguese explorers first spotted this unmatched area in the 15th century.
Book your stay kosiforestlodge.co.za.