Stepping down from the game vehicle and walking through the doors of mFulaWozi Wilderness’s five-star Mthembu Lodge is like being transported into a luxurious, circular-inspired bush sanctuary.
Nestled on the banks of the White iMfolozi River, Mthembu Lodge is an architectural and design masterpiece. With its entire configuration based on a circular shape, it is safari elegance at its absolute best. Just a few hours’ north of Ballito, it really is the ultimate bush spoil.
But there is more to this beautiful lodge than meets the eye and, even before arriving at the mFulaWozi Wilderness private game reserve, I somehow knew the experience, and our stay there, would be a special one. Not only because of its opulent and luxurious offering, but simply because of where it is situated.
As the original hunting ground of the great King Shaka Zulu, there is a deeply rooted history and embodiment of the Zulu nation and spirit here. And when you arrive, it is almost tangible.
Remarkably, this is also the place where iconic South African conservationist Dr Ian Player launched Operation Rhino – an initiative that ultimately saved the southern white rhino from extinction.
No expense has been spared when it comes to the furnishings and finishings of this magnificent lodge and I was fascinated to discover that Ballito-based, award-winning designer Michele Throssell was responsible for its look and feel. It’s especially fitting as Michele is the niece of the late Dr Ian Player.
An off-the-grid haven inspired by its natural surroundings, the lodge boasts seven luxury one-bedroom suites and two family suites. The attention to detail in every room is remarkable and each element of the decor is centred around the lodge’s circle-shape architectural design.
The circle, chosen to represent the unity of the Mthembu clan, has been cleverly incorporated by way of the soft curves and configurations of the furniture, circular grass mats and baskets (sourced by Michele in Zululand) and semi-circle headboards.
Most certainly living up to its five-star status, Mthembu offers everything one would expect from a lodge of this calibre, including magnificent food and incredibly friendly, engaging and helpful staff.
Sundowners around the pool are a must (with the barman, known as ‘The Doctor’ filling your glass before it’s even empty), as are after-dinner drinks alongside the roaring indoor fireplace.
Early morning wake-up calls are a treat when you know there is freshly brewed hot coffee, homemade rusks and an enthusiastic and skilled game ranger awaiting you at the main lodge area.
We were spoiled for choice with animal sightings throughout our stay, and had a particularly memorable encounter with a young male lion during one of the evening our game drives. The birdlife is prolific and the land itself is remarkable, especially given its rich history.
The mFulaWozi Wilderness private game reserve represents an incredible ‘meeting of minds’ between the owners and multiple Zulu chiefs who agreed to unlock 16 000 hectares of bushveld, expanding the footprint of the existing Hluhluwe/iMfolozi park. Both Mthembu Lodge and its sister lodge, Biyela, were also entirely built by members of the surrounding communities.
Overall, this is an incredibly beautiful and well-thought-out wilderness oasis and the perfect place to relax, indulge and reconnect with nature.