Discover off-the-beaten-path wonders in luxurious style on this weeklong getaway to eastern South Africa. Part safari adventure, part beach vacation, the action takes place in the KwaZulu-Natal region, a coastal area famous for its unspoiled beaches and protected wetland parks. Start with private game drives and wildlife spotting in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve, then continue to the coast to wind down at a secluded resort—enjoying decadent spa treatments and gourmet meals amid all the beach fun.


  • Enjoy spectacular mountain views and thrilling safaris at Rhino Ridge
  • Spend the day in a Zulu village with an immersive homestay experience
  • Explore the KwaZulu-Natal coast, including the unspoiled Mabibi Beach
  • Go snorkeling, scuba diving, and witness sea turtles nesting on the beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Durban, Transfer to Hluhluwe & Rhino Ridge Hluhluwe
Day 2 Rhino Ridge Safari Excursions Hluhluwe
Day 3 Rhino Ridge Zulu Village Homestay Experience Hluhluwe
Day 4 Transfer to Mabibi Beach & Thonga Lodge Mabibi Beach
Day 5 Thonga Lodge Activities: Snorkeling, Kayaking & Hiking Mabibi Beach
Day 6 Thonga Lodge Activities: Beach Time, Sea Turtles & Spa Treatments Mabibi Beach
Day 7 Transfer to Durban, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Durban, Transfer to Hluhluwe & Rhino Ridge

Go right from the airport to your luxury safari lodge (photo courtesy of Rhino Ridge)

Welcome to South Africa! This weeklong vacation will take you to a corner of the country overlooked by many travelers despite its exotic wildlife and unspoiled coastline. The journey begins with your arrival in Durban in the beautiful east coast province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Upon arrival, you'll hop in a 4WD vehicle for the private transfer north to the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. One of the oldest and largest game reserves in the country, Hluhluwe covers 370 square miles (960 sq km) of rolling hills, ancient forests, and expansive savannas. These ecosystems are a natural habitat for diverse wildlife, including all of the Big Five: lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos.

Your accommodation is Rhino Ridge, a luxurious safari lodge in the reserve. As the name promises, it sits atop a ridge offering panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness. The best place to enjoy these vistas is from the expansive sun deck or while luxuriating in the infinity pool. Accommodations here consist of spacious and elegantly appointed chalets, each designed to blend seamlessly with the natural environment. There's a gourmet restaurant on site that serves delicious meals utilizing locally sourced ingredients, plus a bar where you can enjoy a sundowner amid grand reserve views.

Day 2: Rhino Ridge Safari Excursions

Travel into the bush at dawn and dusk to spot grazing herds and big cats (photo courtesy of Rhino Ridge)

Pack multiple safari adventures into a full-day itinerary that begins early to take advantage of Hluhluwe's wonders. Meet your expert ranger guide and leave at dawn in an open-topped 4WD vehicle. This is the best time to see the animals at their most active, as it's when they often congregate near water sources. Besides the Big Five, other creatures you'll spot in the bushveld (wilderness) include giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, and antelope.

At the end of the morning, you'll return to the lodge for a leisurely lunch, relax by the pool, and/or enjoy a rejuvenating spa treatment. Then, in the afternoon, you can embark on a guided bush walk and learn to track animals by their prints. There's also the option for an afternoon game drive to catch the safari animals as they're relaxing at the end of their day. Later, back at the lodge, imbibe in sundowner cocktails on the deck, followed by a sumptuous dinner prepared by the private chef and served under the stars.

Day 3: Rhino Ridge Zulu Village Homestay Experience

Rhino Ridge Homestays
An authentic African experience involves spending time with the locals (photo courtesy of Rhino Ridge)
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Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Rhino Ridge is more than a hub for safari adventures—it's an opportunity to discover the rich culture of the Indigenous Zulu community. After breakfast, meet your private guide for a trip to a family home in a nearby Zulu village. There, your friendly hosts will invite you in for a cultural exchange. Besides getting to know the family, you'll participate in daily tasks such as basket weaving, collecting thatching grass, and wrangling cattle. You can also visit artisans in the village, plus consult the local sangoma (traditional healer).

As the sunset approaches, you, your guide, and the host family will all gather around the open fire and relax amid magnificent views over the hills of the Hluhluwe while listening to stories of bygone eras and enjoying cold drinks. After this, everyone will sit in the dining hut for a traditional meal. You'll overnight at the property in your own private hut, where you can fall asleep to the soothing sounds of rural Zululand.

Day 4: Transfer to Mabibi Beach & Thonga Lodge

Your luxury resort features wraparound views of the Indian Ocean (photo courtesy of Thonga Lodge)

Wake up to roosters crowing and help your host family take the cattle out to pasture, followed by a hot bucket shower. Then, say goodbye to your new friends as you meet your driver for the three-hour drive up the coast to Mabibi Beach and Thonga Lodge. That's right—you're leaving the savanna plains for a tropical beach resort.

Thong Beach is in iSimangaliso Wetland Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). This coastal region is famous for its diverse ecosystems, from pristine beaches and coastal dunes to wetlands, forests, and savannas. The postcard beaches and turquoise Indian Ocean waters make this the premier destination in South Africa for snorkeling and scuba diving.

The friendly resort staff will welcome you on arrival and show you to your expansive room, which features wraparound windows looking out to the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. This exclusive beachfront resort allows only a handful of guests at a time, so expect a tranquil stay in this windswept paradise. After settling in, feel free to take a dip in your plunge pool, relax on a lounger by the beach, or take advantage of resort amenities like the "sea spa."

Day 5: Thonga Lodge Activities: Snorkeling, Kayaking & Hiking

Spend the day on snorkeling and diving excursions, or head to the secluded beach (photo courtesy of Thonga Lodge)

The day is yours to enjoy various aquatic activities in and around the coast. Fill up on breakfast at the resort's restaurant before stepping onto the soft sands and enjoying a morning swim in the ocean. No need to worry about crowds, as Thonga Beach is remote and often deserted, meaning you'll have its wide and inviting sands mostly to yourself.

There's also the option for various private tours, including snorkeling and diving at the offshore coral reefs—an excellent opportunity to spot colorful marine life. Or, hop in a kayak and paddle along the coast. As you go, watch for mammals like dolphins and, from June-November, humpbacks and southern right whales. You can also meet a guide for a forest hike to a nearby Indigenous community.

Day 6: Thonga Lodge Activities: Beach Time, Sea Turtles & Spa Treatments

Spot sea turtles nesting on the sands of Mabibi Beach during winter months (photo courtesy of Thonga Lodge)

Your last full day in Africa will be spent on and around the beach, enjoying your choice of activities like boat tours, cultural excursions, kayaking, forest hikes, snorkeling, and diving. There's also time to enjoy another regional highlight: a sea turtle tour. iSimangaliso happens to be a critical nesting area for loggerhead and leatherback turtles. If you're visiting from Nov-Jan, you can take a nighttime beach walk to witness these animals laying their eggs. December is also a great time to visit, as the baby hatchlings emerge and make a frantic dash to the water. 

When you're ready to unwind, head to the on-site spa for some pampering, then sit down at the lodge's restaurant for elevated fusion dishes that blend traditional flavors with sustainable principles. Enjoy a celebratory dinner overlooking the ocean and toast the final evening of your South African adventure.

Day 7: Transfer to Durban, Depart

The sun sets on your weeklong South Africa adventure (photo courtesy of Thonga Lodge)
Time flies when you're enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime beach/safari holiday. After one more leisurely breakfast in South Africa, check out of the resort and hop into a 4WD vehicle for the ride back to the airport. There, you'll board your connecting flight home. Until next time!

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Map of Luxury Escape to South Africa's East Coast: Safari & Beaches in KwaZulu-Natal - 7 Days
Map of Luxury Escape to South Africa's East Coast: Safari & Beaches in KwaZulu-Natal - 7 Days