My visit to Jozini Tiger Lodge was more to suss out the location of the newly launched Jozini Tiger Estate than it was to experience the adjacent four star Jozini Tiger Lodge. But, whichever way you approach it, my first thought is that it is a stunning destination to which I would like to return.
When you wind up the road towards Jozini Tiger Lodge, it is the usual rural Zululand scene – populated by rusty cars, spaza shops and tiny dwellings. Although it’s best to keep your eyes on the road to spot the cows and goats that stray there, it is almost impossible to ignore the strangely surprising vista of Lake Jozini. Who would have thought that something like this was this close to Durban?
It has been described as a mini Kariba (which my Zimbabwean born husband didn’t buy) and is apparently not only one of the largest expanses of water in the region but a spectacular failure as the agricultural irrigation scheme that it was originally meant to be. What has resulted is one of the best – and most underrated – eco-tourism destinations in KwaZulu-Natal.
I am also told that Lake Jozini is the only tiger fishing destination in South Africa. But I’m definitely not into fishing, so it was going to be about the other attractions.
It’s hard to know what to expect as you make your way to the lodge. A somewhat dilapidated entrance actually means that the surprise when you see the striking lodge that clings to the cliff face overlooking the dam is a big one.
Ours was a whistle stop visit unfortunately – but it certainly gave us a peek at some of the great facilities. The beautiful rim-flow swimming pool tops the list – and this means that the guys can be sent off to tackle the tiger fish whilst the girls languish beside this lovely pool or retire to the Mangwanani Spa.
Jozini Tiger Lodge has all the features that come with most resorts of this nature – it is a wedding and conferencing venue and offers both luxury hotel and self-catering accommodation. I was told by fellow guests that the rooms at the top of the lodge offer spectacular views. Ours at the bottom didn’t but the home comforts in the form of a big, comfy bed, lovely bathroom and well equipped kitchen, veranda and dining area were great.
All in all, Jozini Tiger Lodge has 60 bedrooms accommodating 144 people with 36 classic rooms and 21 family lofts. The restaurant provides buffet as well as a la carte meals. My own experience was a great breakfast but a disappointing dinner. For those of us who enjoy some healthy fare along with the roast and wors, a few vegetables would have been welcome. My return to take a trip on the Shayamanzi houseboat which docks below the lodge a few weeks later unfortunately confirmed that the food is probably one of the few weak points.
Because our stay was so short, we didn’t get a chance to do any kayaking or tackle any of the birding and hiking trails. Although Jozini Tiger Lodge is probably one of the most perfect weekend getaway destinations I’ve come across, it is also perfect for a longer getaway and the perfect base from which to visit the nearby Pongola, Mkuze and Ndumo Game Reserves or Sodwana Bay.
What we did get to enjoy, though, was a sunset cruise. Having tried one of these at St Lucia, I was prepared to jog out and enjoy the odd drink served in the bottle or can from the on-board cooler box. Not at Jozini. The boat was far more comfortable and came complete with its own on board bar and delicious snacks that would make any hotel proud.
As for Jozini Tiger Estate, it enjoys access to all the lodge’s amenities. It is apparently the only freehold development in the greater Jozini area and comprises 54 freehold sites, a variety of home package options and 51 sectional title apartments. It is well worth a thought if you’re trying to escape the urban rat race.