South Africa Bush & Beach Vacation: Durban, KwaZulu Natal & Thanda Private Game Reserve

A magestic lion gazes across the land.
A 8 day trip to South Africa 
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This is the ideal bush and beach vacation - paired with awe-inspiring seascapes, face-to-face encounters with popular marine mammals and the ultimate South Africa safari with wildlife’s renowned Big Five. Delight in unforgettable bush dinners enjoying majestic sunsets, and experience unique walks led by expert guides through the bushveld’s untouched spaces. Stay in award-winning hotels, taste ethnically inspired dishes, uncover the traditions of the Zulu culture, and hear harrowing stories of bravery and survival from South Africa’s past. 

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Leapords are one of Africa's big five game animals.
A small pack of African wild dogs looking attentively at the photographer
Zebras crossing the river in Africa.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Umhlanga Beach, Rorke's Drift & Isandlwana Battlefields and a Big Five safari at Thanda Private Game Reserve

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Arrive in Durban, South Africa

Today, you arrive in the multi-cultural, seaside city of Durban. Sit back as we transfer you to the five-star Oyster Box Hotel, in the nearby town of Umhlanga. This multi-award-winning luxury hotel is perfectly positioned on the beachfront and offers staggering views over the ocean and the iconic Umhlanga lighthouse. You can either hop into your rental car, conveniently parked at the hotel, or instead pamper yourself with a personalized individual treatment at the Oyster Box’s prize-winning spa. If a good movie is what you’re after, then visit the Oyster Box’s intimate cinema for your favorite Hollywood classic, complete with a box of complementary popcorn. Tonight, tantalize your taste buds at The Grill Room, a fine dining restaurant that offers seafood cuisine paired with local wines. After dinner, climb the 1950s wooden staircase onto the hotel’s roof to The Lighthouse Bar, which offers magnificent panoramic scenes. The very location was used by Monaco’s Prince Albert and South African-born Princess Charlene for a private party during their visit to Umhlanga. The sublime setting offers the perfect way to end your day. 

Day 2: Discover Durban’s Spellbinding Sites

Rouse to the sound of crashing waves. Today, you are free to discover the essence of Durban. There are various options available. You could relax on the golden sands feeling the sun’s warm touch on your skin and enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants that line the beachfront. With Durban’s sub-tropical climate and the Indian Ocean’s warm, inviting waters (77 ºF in summer and 64 ºF in winter), you can swim and suntan all year round. The adventurous can opt for a range of activities - from diving into the deep blue to scenic microlight flights over the coastline, or thrillingly searching the ocean for dolphins, whales (seasonal) and whale sharks (seasonal). Adrenaline junkies can ascend the world’s highest indoor climbing wall (known as The Rock) at the Gateway Shopping Centre, while golfing enthusiasts can play on championship golf courses at the Mount Edgecombe Country Club. No amateur marine biologist would want to miss out on the opportunity to learn more about our ocean’s top predator on a unique outing to the Natal Sharks Board, where you’ll experience a fascinating live dissection of a dead shark. 

The entire day can also be spent at uShaka Marine World, where water slides, shark tanks, and ocean shows will provide countless hours of fun. The adventurous can ride the highest water slide in Africa, dive with sharks, snorkel amongst a myriad of sea-creatures, or don a specialized underwater suit to get up-close-and-personal with rays and sand sharks in the Open Ocean Exhibit. For an unforgettable experience, get the opportunity to touch and feed dolphins and seals, or if you’re fascinated by stingrays, enter waist-deep water to witness spotted eagle rays close-up. Tonight, opt to dine at the Ocean Terrace for ocean views paired with authentic Indian cuisine, made popular by Durban’s large Indian community. Here the restaurant’s curry buffet offers an impressive variety, including the famous traditional Durban lamb curry. After dinner, stop in at the hotel’s Oyster Bar and enjoy fresh oysters with chilled champagne. 

Day 3: Ride Horses on Fugitives Drift Game Reserve

Awaken, and breathe in the fresh, salty sea air. Try to squeeze in one last swim before you have to bid farewell to Umhlanga and travel to Fugitives Drift Lodge, located on the 5,000-acre Fugitives Drift Game Reserve in the heart of the KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields Region.

Arrive at the lodge in time for lunch, which you’ll enjoy on the deck of Harford library. This vantage point offers spectacular views over the Buffalo River Gorge and showcases rolling hills and a seemingly endless horizon. Gaze through the telescope on the deck and take in the surrounding splendor. After lunch, spend the rest of your day exploring this picturesque reserve. Game and birdlife flourish here. Opt to walk to the Great Ledge for further sweeping views of the area. Be on the lookout for wildebeest, zebra, and giraffe, as well as the purple-crested lourie or any of the other 250+ bird species that call the reserve home. Local guides are also available for hikers. The afternoon can also be spent fishing along the Buffalo River. Afterwards, ensure you enjoy a refreshing swim in the bounty of pools and rapids. Yet surely, the most exciting means to discover the surrounding area is on horseback. Horses allow you to get closer to the reserve’s game than you ever could on foot, as the wildlife is naturally more relaxed around them. 

Day 4: Relive Famous Anglo-Zulu Battles

Today, you’ll travel back in time on a thought-provoking tour of two famous historic battle sites: Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, immortalized in the Hollywood movies Zulu Dawn, starring Burt Lancaster, and Zulu, featuring Michael Caine. Listen as your guide shares the stories that made history. On the 22nd of January 1879, 20,000 Zulu warriors, armed with only spears and antiquated firearms, attacked the British camp at Isandlwana. Despite being heavily defended by 1,750 men, the British suffered a resounding defeat and the aftermath saw 1,350 lying dead on the blood-soaked hillside. The battle marked the British’s biggest loss in colonial times. The haunting and nostalgic battlefield is dotted with white cairns marking the resting place of the dead. Return to the lodge for lunch before setting off for Rorke’s Drift. 

The battle of Rorke’s Drift was waged on the very day British forces were crushed at Isandlwana. Visit the battle site: a Swedish Mission Station where 140 British men – most of whom were unwell – fought off 3,000 attacking Zulu warriors. The British defended assault after assault over 12 hours, losing only 16 men, until the Zulus finally retreated. Eleven Victoria Crosses were bestowed upon the defenders – the largest number to date ever awarded for a single battle. The Rorke’s Drift Museum and Interpretation Centre has a variety of attractions and audio-visual media on display that bring the region’s Anglo-Zulu battles to life. Opt to visit the nearby Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) Art and Craft Centre for a wide range of curios, from tapestries to silkscreen fabrics and ceramics. Work by the ELC has won both local and international acclaim and been exhibited in galleries worldwide. Return to the lodge to enjoy drinks around the fire then head to the dining room, decorated in Zulu artifacts, to tuck into a delectable dinner. 

Day 5: Photograph the Big Five in Thanda Private Game Reserve

Your African safari begins today. Travel to the multiple-award-winning Thanda Private Game Reserve, where 14,000 hectares of Big Five country awaits you. Arrive to delicious lunch, and afterwards, why not take the 90-minute photography class offered by skilled wildlife photographer Christian Sperka. Learn the art of motion photography and glean insider-insights on how to shoot breathtaking wildlife images. Then, put your new knowledge into action on an afternoon game drive. Thanda, which means ‘love’ in the local Zulu language, is a big seven reserve, so make sure you scout the bush for resident cheetah and wild dog in addition to your search for lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. As the sun begins to descend, your ranger will park the vehicle in a prime location to showcase Mother Nature painting the evening sky in streaks of reds and purples. Enjoy complimentary snacks and sundowners taking in the awe-inspiring sight. Tonight, under hundreds of twinkling stars, you’ll dine in a boma – an enclosure customarily used to protect cattle–and enjoy the local specialty potjiekos (pot food). This Afrikaans traditional dish involves cooking stew in a three-legged metal pot on the fire. The result is a sublime, mouth-watering meal.  

Day 6: Enjoy a Mouth-Watering Breakfast in the African Bush

If the smell of pancakes puts a smile on your face, then you’ll love this morning’s treat: breakfast in the bush surrounded entirely by nature. Birdsong and the fresh morning air promise an unforgettable dining experience, which promises to be a highlight of your trip. The reserve is located in the heart of Zululand. If you’re eager to learn more about the area’s Zulu customs opt for Thanda’s ‘In the footsteps of Zulu’ cultural tour for an immersive experience with these so-called ‘people of heaven.’ This personalized tour can, depending on your preferences, include a visit to a Zulu village and homestead, interaction with a local sangoma (medicine man) or participation in upcoming community celebrations. Alternatively, elect to enjoy a unique personal interaction with African’s gentle giant – the elephant. Not only will you learn more about these magnificent animals you’ll actually get to relate to them one-on-one. Which of the elephants – Rambo, Rachel or Jabulani – will be your favorite?

Day 7: Help Conserve Africa’s Wildlife

Today’s, bush walk will get you closer than you could ever have imagined to Thanda’s wildlife. Mornings, before the heat of the day sets in, are an ideal time to view game. On foot, your knowledgeable ranger will safely guide you through the African bush, pointing out interesting facts on various fauna and flora. Take a closer look at animal tracks or witness Africa’s master of camouflage the chameleon in action. Stare in wonder as he uses his lighting quick tongue to catch insects. Then, if you’re curious to see conservation in action, opt to join Thanda’s researchers by joining a team whose duties ensure the very well-being of the reserve. Activities vary and on any given day you could track down the Big Five, count game, assist with the moving of animals (seasonal) or even maintain fences. Tonight, request to enjoy a romantic dinner for two under the vast African sky. Fine dining will be paired with the sounds of the African bush. Be sure to listen for the mighty roar of lions, the giggling laugh of a hyena, or the wistful howl of a jackal. 

Day 8: Leave Thanda Private Game Reserve to Return Home

Enjoy one last game drive, before leaving for King Shaka International Airport and your flight home. As you return the rental vehicle and reflect on your vacation – with the perfect combination of beach and bush – which destination was your favorite?


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

What's Not Included 

All accommodation not mentioned
Meals and drinks other than specified
Activities other than specified
Car rental additional charges
Items of a personal nature
All flights
Park Fees