Toad Tree Lodge, in the Kuleni Game Park, is a wilderness haven – not only for the teeming game and birdlife but also for discerning tourists who want a self-catering South African bush experience within close proximity to KwaZulu-Natal’s King Shaka International Airport. By Tourism Tattler correspondent Jeannie Burns.
What makes Toad Tree Lodge special, and the Kuleni Game Park within which it is located special, is the feeling of intimacy, where the serene presence of wildlife and natural quietness of the bush embrace you.
Here you can enjoy solitude in 4-Star self-catering accommodation, which combine to create an ambiance for both relaxation and independence.
The province of KwaZulu-Natal has numerous, exciting and varied places of interest to visit, and the Elephant Coast provides all three destination attractions in one area; Berg, Beach and Bush. Stunning beaches, majestic mountains and ever inspiring bushlands.
The Hluhluwe and Imfolozi Game Reserves and the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park (a World Heritage site), are within close proximity to Toad Tree Lodge − an easy drive for a day visit.
Toad Tree Lodge is located in the Kuleni Game Park, an area of 170 hectares comprising seventeen sites under Sectional Title ownership. Each site is totally private. The lodges built can be used for commercial or residential purposes. There is a maximum bed capacity of eight.
The structures have their own individual styles and are constructed with timber and glass. This makes them eco-sensitive, but offers a certain amount of luxury in the bush.
There is a security fence along the outer perimeter and a guard on duty at the entrance gate (24 hour attendance).
The area was previously a cattle farm, but now the natural vegetation has been allowed to grow back freely and return to its original natural state. This does not happen overnight, but attention and great care was taken to transform it back to a beautiful place where wildlife is preserved.
Leopard Lodge is the largest of the three and has two bedrooms, a main-en-suite with spa bath and a private outside shower. A comfortable living area, satellite TV and a well equipped kitchen. Large glass sliding doors open out onto a raised wooden deck with plunge pool and braai facilities. Wild Dog Lodge, has one bedroom and an en-suite bathroom, and a deck with boma / braai. It is situated across the lawn from Leopard Lodge. A natural wooden partition in the garden separates these two lodges from Cheetah Lodge.
We stayed in Cheetah Lodge. The lodge is comprised of a bedroom with ample space, cupboards for clothing and a full bathroom with outside shower. The large glass sliding doors offer one the opportunity to lie in bed and observe animals that frequently wander in the lodge surrounds. The open plan living area with comfortable couches, satellite TV and a fully equipped kitchen, also opens out onto a wooden deck with swimming pool, outdoor furniture and boma / braai facility. The raised deck is an ideal place to sit quietly, listen to the twittering of birds and game watch with drink, camera and binoculars in hand.
The lodge is clean and all equipment is in good condition. It has been well planned, well managed, is wheel-chair friendly and serviced daily. This malaria-free area is ideal for families as there are no dangerous animals.
The park retains the peace and tranquillity of the bush, as motorised traversing of the property is prohibited − no noisy game-drive vehicles or quad bikes − pure bliss!
Self-guided walking trails have been laid out, which traverse the indigenous bush and have been colour coded. There are starting and finishing points and route markers along all paths. The trails include the Central Park Meander, Owl, Guinea Fowl, Eagle and Heron Trail. These trails can be linked for longer walks. The terrain is fairly flat, which makes walking along them suitable for the young and elderly.
Kuleni game park is predominantly coastal sand forest interspersed with grasslands, wetlands and waterholes. There is a wealth of different tree species, some have tags to assist in identifying them.
Toad Tree Lodge is named after a species of tree − the Tabernaemontana, or commonly known as the Forest Toad Tree (english) Bospaddaboom (afrikaans) or uKhamamasane (zulu). It is a beautiful evergreen with white sweet smelling flowers and fruit that has a dark green wrinkled skin with light green speckles almost resembling a toad! This is a valuable food source for small animals and birds, and it also attracts insects. Noting the indigenous trees, we also came across bush willow, various species of acacia, fever trees and the African mahogany to name a few, that grow in the forest.
There is a fair amount of game in the park, excluding the Big 5. The species include giraffe, wildebeest, warthog, zebra and a variety of antelope . During our walks we saw several nyala, in fact they often grazed in the garden at the lodge. Impala, kudu and red duiker were also spotted. A family of warthogs paid a visit to Cheetah Lodge, where they enjoyed a Sunday lunch − eating the grass and berries that had fallen to the ground.
This is a bird lovers paradise with more than 120 species recorded in the park. We saw robins, brownhooded kingfishers , bulbuls and weavers, but the distinct calls of the African and Emerald cuckoos with their respective “hoop- hoop” and “teeu-tu-tui” make one appreciate the magic of the African bush.
From King Shaka International Airport, take the N2 North freeway on-ramp towards Stanger. After passing through three toll gates where fees can be paid by cash or card (oThongathi – ZAR8.00; Mvoti – ZAR10.00; and Mtunzini – ZAR33.00) take the Hluhluwe off ramp (a distance of approximately 236km or 2h39min). After passing through the town, follow the sign boards to the R22 road towards Sodwana. After the railway crossing, travel for approximately 15kms and turn off at Kuleni Game Park (the gates close at 22h00).
For Bookings contact the Lodge Manager, Lizelle Visser on +27 (0)83 290 4559 or the owner, Stuart Mathe-Pike on +27 (0)11 678 0972 or +27 (0)83 601 2233 or visit: www.toadtreelodge.co.za