Tuesday 28 May 2024

South Africa’s Premier Luxury Game Reserve: Celebrating 20 Years of Thanda Safari

On May 22, 2004, the 14,000-hectare Thanda Safari (meaning "love" in isiZulu), a premier Big Five private game reserve, opened its doors to guests. Inspired by the adventures of Ernest Hemingway, Dan Olofsson and his wife Christin traveled from Malmö, Sweden, to the rolling hills of Zululand, South Africa, where they were warmly welcomed by the local Zulu people. Dan's vision was to rewild the land with the Big Five and create a private luxury villa for his friends and family.

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The Vision Takes Shape

In March 2002, Dan met Pierre Delvaux, then a partner and head of management consulting at Hills Howard Zululand. This meeting was the catalyst for a partnership that would profoundly impact both Thanda Safari and the Star for Life International organization. The Olofssons completed the construction of their first private villa in Africa, Villa iZulu (Place of Heaven), and soon after, they began building a 9-key luxury safari lodge.

Weeks before the lodge's official opening, Pierre’s role expanded significantly. Initially consulting for Dan and handling Thanda-related matters in South Africa, Pierre was appointed Managing Director. His first task was restructuring senior management. Dan Olofsson famously said, “Just step in as Acting General Manager too, Pierre, to officially open the lodge to the public. It will only be for six months until we recruit and appoint a new General Manager.” That was 20 years ago.

From Humble Beginnings to Global Recognition

Pierre Delvaux, who grew up in Zululand and speaks fluent Zulu, fondly reflects on Thanda's journey. "My reflection on the past 20 years is one of immense pride, humility, and appreciation for the Olofsson family’s unwavering support of Africa. Thanda's journey is rooted in family values and ethos, where all staff see themselves as part of a dynamic family, deeply committed, loyal, and dedicated to the ideals and vision that have made Thanda great. Guests immediately feel the warmth and magic of our staff, appreciating extraordinary memories of a lifetime while on a Big Five African Safari. This showcases the Thanda WOW FACTOR, known around the world as THANDA-ISMS. My greatest accomplishment and sense of satisfaction is that after twenty years, we have only just begun."

About Thanda Safari

Thanda Safari is a Big Five game reserve situated on 14,000 hectares in the heart of Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal, owned by Swedish philanthropists Christin and Dan Olofsson. Thanda Safari offers an authentic South African wildlife experience with excellent game viewing year-round. The reserve is committed to Zulu culture and environmental conservation, actively involved in wildlife research, and works to uplift local communities through its ‘Star for Life’ and other projects.

A proud member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Thanda Safari has been ranked as one of the Top 20 Resorts in South Africa by Condé Nast Traveler in 2020. It is a multiple award-winner of The World’s Leading Luxury Lodge Awards and has consistently won at the annual World Travel Awards. Most recently, at the 2023 World Travel Awards (Africa & Indian Ocean), Villa iZulu at Thanda Safari was named South Africa's Leading Luxury Private Villa 2023, and Thanda Island was named Africa's Leading Luxury Island 2023. Globally, Villa iZulu was named the World’s Leading Luxury Private Villa 2023, and Thanda Island, Tanzania, was named the World’s Leading Exclusive Private Island 2023.

Accommodations at Thanda Safari

Thanda Safari offers four distinct accommodation types:

  • Thanda Safari Lodge: Nine bush suites designed like a traditional Zulu homestead, offering panoramic views of the game reserve.
  • Villa iZulu: An exclusive safari hideaway for families, holidaymakers, and wedding parties, accommodating 10 guests in five suites, surrounded by lush lawns and wild African bush.
  • Thanda Tented Camp: Featuring 15 colonial safari-style tents, each with a viewing deck and en-suite bathroom.
  • The Royal Thanda Club by Thanda Safari: Offers exclusive-use Royal Residences within a high-security, access-controlled estate in the central part of the game reserve, accommodating eight to ten guests.

Getting to Thanda Safari

Thanda Safari is located 23km north of Hluhluwe on the N2, approximately 220km north of Durban. It is easily accessible from the N2 by gravel road (no 4x4 required). Richards Bay is the closest commercial airport, with King Shaka International Airport in Durban being the nearest international airport. Road and helicopter transfers are available from and to Durban’s King Shaka and Richards Bay airports.

For more information and bookings, visit Thanda Safari.


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