“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” John Muir
These days, travel is all about wide, open spaces - something you’ll find in abundance at Kosi Forest Lodge. Located within iSimangaliso Wetland Park, in Northern KwaZulu Natal - near the Mozambique border - the Kosi Bay area is a rich tapestry of four lakes connected by estuarine waterways, and surrounded by raffia palm groves, white sandy beaches, coastal dunes and wetlands. Within this unspoilt wonderland, you will find Kosi Forest Lodge, the only private lodge in the Kosi Bay Nature Reserve.
Your journey begins when you are transferred by Landrover from the small town of Manguzi, over sandy tracks through sparsely populated rural heartlands, where friendly residents wave to you. You feel like you’re leaving the modern world behind and entering a serene wilderness landscape, worlds away from Covid-19 and other problems. Here, you are welcomed with wet towels and chilled homemade lemonade, as you are introduced to your remote, tropical abode.
Considering its privileged location in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the lodge has been eco-consciously designed to blend in with its surroundings and minimise environmental impact. It runs off solar power and single-use plastic usage has been drastically reduced. Neighbouring communities are partnered with and supported through trade, employment, training and feeding schemes under the umbrella of the Isibindi Foundation.
The cosy thatch, wood and canvas rooms are tucked away within the sand forest, on raised wooden decks, shielded from the neighbours by the dense vegetation. There are six double rooms and two family suites - double rooms linked by a wooden walkway. The latter was ideal for our family of four. Roll-up canvas walls provided us with panoramic views of the wild beauty around us. The amazingly comfortable beds were enclosed by mosquito nets, and we slept and rose to the sounds of the teeming life within the jungle. Each room had its own private patio and we loved having our morning coffee there, as we tried to identify the myriad natural sounds we heard.
In addition to the indoor bathrooms, we also had an open-air reed-enclosed bathroom with a shower and a bathtub embedded in the white sand, where we could bathe under the stars.
Our three daily meals were served al fresco, under a canopy of ancient trees around which the main deck is built. In the evenings, our tables were illuminated by lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere.
The gourmet cuisine necessitated frequent compliments to the chef and the three course lunches and dinners were responsible for our tighter clothes when we left. Meals were accompanied by freshly-baked bread and dukkah ground at the table.
Boredom is not an option here. At the lodge, you can hike through the indigenous forest, relax in the hammock with a book from the small library, or cool down in the elevated swimming pool overlooking Lake Shengeza, home to hippos and crocodiles. The many opportunities to explore the pristine wetland environment include canoeing through the narrow lake channels, boat trips on the lakes, snorkelling in the Kosi Mouth estuary , swimming at the isolated Bhanga Nek beach, and turtle tracking (in season). The local guides have extensive knowledge about the area and will regale you with their fascinating anecdotes.
Kosi Bay is a twitchers paradise, and its rich and diverse birdlife incompasses coastal, grassland, forest and riverine birds. There is a bird hide at the lodge and birding expeditions are often held, although you can spot rare, elusive species at any time.
Our boat trip began with a 10-minute walk through the palm trees to the edge of the lake where our motor boat was moored. We cruised on the crystal clear lakes, through the meandering channels, passing pods of hippos, flamingos excavating for prawns, and many other birds. We marvelled at the traditional fish traps which have been used for over 700 years by local Thonga fishermen to make a living, and got to see how the fish are caught.
The following day we went on a guided hike through the raffia palm forest. The giant raffia palm is one of the tallest palm trees in the world and it grows prolifically in this area. It only flowers twice during its lifetime and seeds are spread by the rare Palm Nut Vulture which feeds on the fruit and nests in the tree. The kids were fascinated by the wide array of unique spiders and butterflies we saw.
Kosi Bay is one of the most spectacular areas we’ve visited in South Africa and Kosi Forest Lodge is the ultimate eco-lodge. It felt like a different world out there. We loved the lodge, the setting, the food, the activities, and the hospitality - which included thoughtful gestures like the padkos on departure. This is a bucket list destination in South Africa, and it’s the perfect place to reconnect with nature and awaken your soul.
“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir
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